The Dead Kennedys have come a long way from their humble San Francisco, 1978 genesis. Described as ‘pioneers of hardcore punk in the 80s’ who provided ‘a haven for free thinking intellectuals and downtrodden non-conformists’, they can truly wear the often over-prescribed ‘legends’ status with unapologetic pride.
Initially fusing the experimental elements of 1970s British punk with the unabashed power of the 1980s American hardcore punk scene; their sound continued to develop and the band started to integrate more jazz musicality into their songs, after becoming disillusioned with the direction of hardcore and the violent anti-Semitic crowds their concerts were attracting.
No strangers to controversy throughout their various configurations and line-ups, the Dead Kennedys have been synonymous with legal dramas, poignant social and political commentary, provocative lyrics and satirising American mainstream media for thirty years.
With this impressive resume in hand, The Dead Kennedys arrived in Melbourne with dignity – a well oiled machine, as consummate professionals showcasing their refined talents with energy, playfulness and a sense of theatrical improvisation – particularly by their new lead singer, Ron “Skip” Greer, who did a sterling job of what is one of the hardest jobs imaginable: coming into an established, popular band and fronting it singing someone else’s lyrics.
Original members Klaus Flouride and East Bay Ray marauded the stage with their respective bass and electric guitars, never missing a beat from the powerhouse of rhythm D. H. Peligro – who chimed in nicely, mid set, with an impassioned anecdote about a racist police officer last time he was in Melbourne. Always in control and still enjoying themselves as musicians and performers, the energy was palpable, as the insatiable crowd relented to their punk rock heroes.