The punk jesters
Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine came to Dublin this week and they entertained a large and receptive crowd in the Button Factory. When I say ‘they came to Dublin’ I actually mean that some promoter brought them over and make it happen….in this case, as Jello acknowledged from the stage, the promoter was one Timmo, or Paul Timmony. Jello explained to the crowd that Timmo was the only person who ever promoted shows for him in Dublin.
In which case, Dublin has a lot to thank Timmo for, Jello Biafra is one of the most articulate, thought-provoking and interesting characters from the early US punk/hardcore movement. Yet with the Dead Kennedys he always seemed to stand apart from that movement…if he was one of its leaders, he was also one of its innovators and most unorthodox figures. Maybe people like that are what stopped punk becoming so (or more) formulaic and standardised, even when commercial forces seemed to drag it in the direction of a generic identikit market segment.
So we have a lot to be grateful for to promoters like Timmo and acts like Jello B.
Seeing Jello with, what was a really cracking band, in Dublin, also brought home how funny he is. Onstage, he was almost a cartoon character, which rather than make his words feel like gimmicks, or his points silly, actually made his message sink deeper. He runaround actions drew me in, made me pay close attention…and made me smile. He would probably have been an excellent stage actor..although probably one who would not be constrained by a script. I can imagine: “To be or not to be…..hey, why don’t we think about that for a moment!”
So he is a Merry Prankster, making serious points and making us laugh by ridiculing situations and power. What an intriguing way to Fight The Power. Maybe laughter is the best medicine.
Mirroring this idea..punk frontmen as Merry Pranksters, this week Neil McCormick (former Hot Press writer/artist) printed a really good article/overview of one John Lydon, whose excellent PiL have released a new album.
I haven’t heard it yet, but the interview reminded me why I look forward to buying it. Lydon achieved the unthinkable when he formed, and maintained, PiL and became an even more fascinating front-man that he had been with the Sex Pistols. And that is not to deny what a thrilling and innovative frontman he was with them!
Funnily enough, for such a lightening rod of controversy, for such an engaging and vibrant front-man, he also professes to be a very shy individual.
In the interview, he spoke about how humour was a great weapon….and clearly in his hands, just as with Jello, it is a wonderful tool/skill to make your point, to be heard, and to be sensational!
To me, Jello and Lydon are valuable contributors to our culture, and also possess sharp minds and know how to cut through a cluttered media landscape.
Long may they entertain us.
Wild hearted outsider