Jello Biafra & Dead Kennedys in San Diego (SD Music Thing Sept. 9 & 10)
Former Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra has a speaking engagement at the San Diego Music Thing (September 9 & 10). His Resurgence of Indie Labels panel will be held at the Lafayette Hotel at 3:45 p.m. on Saturday.
In honor of his return to San Diego, here's the locally-created Dead Kennedys comic strip (originally published in Larry Flynt's Rip Magazine), as well as coverage of some early DKs San Diego shows, including one of the last four gigs Biafra ever did with the band.
11-10-79: On this night, the Dead Kennedys played the final concert ever staged at the city’s first punk venue, downtown’s original Skeleton Club on Fourth Avenue, across from Horton Plaza. Owner Laura Fraser was forced to close the basement level club due to problems with the hundred year-old building meeting fire codes.
In addition, plainclothes police frequently ticketed patrons for everything from public drunkenness and drug possession to weapons violations, lewd behavior, and even for spitting on the sidewalk outside the club, prompting Fraser to allege municipal harassment.
When the Dead Kennedys hit the Club’s four-inch-high stage, lead singer Jello Biafra had just recently run for Mayor of San Francisco, coming in at fourth place. Around 300 patrons paid $3.50 to see the band speed through a topical set that included the anti- totalitarianism anthem “Holiday in Cambodia,” “Kill the Poor” (concerning urban neutron bombs), and “California Über Alles,” about a world where political punching bag Jerry Brown is President.
One local paper called the mosh pit “a battleground that formed in front of, and at times on, the stage.”
The Skeleton Club reopened on December 7, 1979, at 202 West Market Street, in a locale abandoned by the previous – and ultimately doomed – tenant; Climax Limited Disco World.
(Photo: Jello at the Skeleton Club 11-10-79, courtesy http://cheunderground.com/blog/?p=904)
12-14-85: The Dead Kennedys played one of their final shows with original singer Jello Biafra, at downtown’s California Theater. As the set wrapped up, raucous fans tore up the seats and pulled curtains down from walls, causing police to call out a riot squad, though officers stayed outside the building until the crowd dispersed on its own.
The fifteen song set included tunes off their newest album Frankenchrist, as well as “Triumph of the Swill,” “Police Truck,” and the encore “Holiday in Cambodia.”
The show's promoter, future Casbah owner Tim Mays, recalls "The police were called in by the fire marshals, who were freaking out about fans not staying in their seats and clogging the aisles. Some seats got destroyed...At one point, I went outside to get some air, and there were police on all four corners surrounding the block the theatre was on. They weren't going to let me go back inside."
"Finally," says Mays, "one of my production managers convinced a female cop he happened to know that I was indeed the promoter and not just some random fan who had wandered outside."
Gary Heffern of the Penetrators posted this recollection of the show at http://cheunderground.com/blog/?p=904&cpage=3#comment-54498 : "One of the security guys keeps calling us the 'f-cking Pentrators.' The first few times I kinda let it go, but after awhile it starts to p-ss me off, so I ask him about it and he says very sincerely, and wide-eyed 'That's the name of the band, right?' I don’t now how to answer this, so I keep looking at him. Finally he blurts out nervously 'Well that's what the cops and all the security call you guys.' This was during the soundcheck."
The next night, December 15, the DKs performed at Tijuana’s Teatro Casa de la Cultura, in a show also promoted by Mays (tickets: $5). Outside the venue, Mexican police arrested several San Diegans “for no apparent reason,” according to newspaper columnist George Varga.
After the DKs, the California Theater only hosted a handful of punk shows for the remainder of its existence as a concert hall.
After TJ, the band with Biafra only played three more concerts, before quitting the concert trail a few weeks later.
More like this:
- 27 years ago this week: The Dead Kennedys at the California Theater — Dec. 14, 2012
- San Diego cartoon postcards for 2013 - what & where shall we draw? — Sept. 25, 2012
- The Rock Band Word Cloud at the Gaslamp's Hard Rock Hotel — Sept. 1, 2011
- Kill the Poor — Nov. 5, 2008
- They Never Called Him Mello Jello — Dec. 13, 2007