By Maddie Shannon
Jello Biafra, former lead singer of the hit punk rock band the Dead Kennedys, is performing at Strummer’s in Fresno’s Tower District on Nov. 1.
Biafra’s new band, Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine, will be performing new music from their albums, the latest of which is titled The Audacity of Hype. The album, poking fun at President Barack Obama’s memoir The Audacity of Hope, contains music dripping with the same political commentary Biafra is famous for delivering. Tracks like “New Feudalism,” “Strength Through Shopping” and “Panic Land” all exude Biafra’s long-lived disdain for the mainstream political and social system, ensuring appreciation from the politically active musician’s lifelong fans.
While most of the members of the Guantanamo School of Medicine, along with Biafra, have been known to engage in political activism in conjunction with writing politically charged music, Kimo Ball, a guitarist who joined the band in 2009, provides a more relaxed approach to politics.
“I would say I fall on the progressive side of the spectrum,” said Ball about his own views. “I am not very politically active outside of the band, but I don’t necessarily shy away from a good discussion if I think there is a point to it.”
The Audacity of Hype, released four years ago, followed Biafra’s new band’s first performance at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. At the time, Biafra had just celebrated his 50th birthday and at the beginning of a new decade of his life felt compelled to start a new band in order to record and perform new music he’d spent several years writing. Inspired by Iggy Pop’s 60th birthday party in San Francisco, Biafra finally got the push he needed to form a new band.
“So I thought, ‘You know, I’m 50 years old next year and I better do something,’” Biafra said in an interview in 2009. “And if it’s a tenth as good as the Stooges, I’ll declare victory.”
The other members of Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine include Ralph Spight, formerly the guitarist for Victims Family, Freak Accident and Hellworms; Jon Weiss, the drummer for Sharkbait and Horsey; Billy Gould, the bassist for Faith No More; and Ball, the guitarist for Freak Accident, Carneyball Johnson, Mol Triffid and Griddle. Each musician, themselves political activists, joined Biafra in 2009 to give new life to the politically charged music the Dead Kennedy singer had been writing for decades.
The band’s second album, Enhanced Methods of Questioning, was released to the acclaim of fans of The Audacity of Hype. The band’s sophomore album dealt mainly with right-wing politicians and media personalities and their effects on the political and social climate of the United States.
At the Fresno performance at Strummer’s, concertgoers will likely hear the GSM’s covers of classic Dead Kennedy tracks, as well as new music from their third album, Shock-U-Py, and their fourth and latest album, White People and the Damage Done.
Maddie Shannon is a writer living in Fresno. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.