8 p.m. Saturday
A band must have serious chops to be invited to a major music festival within days of a virgin tour and the release of a debut LP. If that band is fronted by one of the most notorious and polarizing figures in rock, it should be a shoo-in. Jello Biafra, former singer for the groundbreaking San Franciso punk band Dead Kennedys and founder of the longstanding independent label Alternative Tentacles, fronts this all-star punk rock ensemble, composed of players from the Butthole Surfers, Faith No More and the Rollins Band, among others. The band, still technically in its infancy, kicks off its punk rock merry-go-round in Los Angeles just a few nights before hitting Voodoo grounds and boomeranging home.
Biafra and Co. retain the Dead Kennedys' stringy, spooky surf guitars with added oomph from big slabs of meaty bass and drums. Biafra joins with his anti-global, anti-corporate, anti-anti lyrics, singing "Obey the consumer, give me convenience or give me death before I choke on myself" on "Strength Through Shopping." Other titles include "New Feudalism" and "Electronic Plantation," to give you an idea where he's leaning. The material doesn't fall far from the politically charged Dead Kennedys tree, which Biafra used as a sounding board and wake-up call to young punks. It's been almost 30 years since the Dead Kennedys released the debut Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, in which Biafra took aim at totalitarian regimes and militarism at home, abroad and in shopping malls. Now, on the School of Medicine's debut Audcacity of Hype, Biafra attacks neo-cons, urban sprawlers and warmongers.
Outside the music realm, Biafra has performed as a political spoken-word artist and remains one of only a few on the staff of his record label, helping produce albums for Tentacles' cronies. He also dabbles in politics, famously running for mayor of San Francisco in 1979 (finishing third before a runoff) and earning a Green Party nomination in New York in 2000, choosing death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal as a running mate. Ralph Nader won that contest. Maybe he'll have better luck in 2012 — as the founder of www.jello2012.com seems to think. — Alex Woodward