Live Review: Dead Kennedys - Academy 2, Manchester
10th May 2023
Support: Piss Bath
Words: Dan Barnes
Photos: Rich Price Photography
Described by Stephen Blush in his seminal work on the subject as being the band who “set the ground rules for everything Hardcore since Day One.” (115); Dead Kennedys might be forty-five years into their illustrious career, but their potent messages of non-conformity and rebellion still rings as true today as they did back when they were written.
We had Black Flag in town at the end of January and tonight, Dead Kennedys have all-but sold out the Academy 2, the demographic being a fairly even split between those too young to have been alive when Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables kicked its way into the public consciousness back in 1980, to those old enough to have been profoundly affected by the band’s world view.
Before the show begins, Ray, Skip and Klaus walk to the centre of the stage and pay their tribute to DH Peligro following the drummer’s death last year. It’s a sombre moment that couldn’t have fit within the body of tonight’s performance due to the general melee and irreverence inherent in the band’s shows.
Ecstasy of Gold acts as the intro-tape and the band return, this time like sugared-up toddlers, full of insane energy that surely belies the advanced years of the members. Forward to Death, Winnebago Warrior and Police Beat open the set, with the latter built around a Sixties-era Californian surf vibe; it also sees the first of (ironically) many crowd surfers going over the top tonight, with the perpetually in motion pit spitting up body after body throughout the show.
Buzzbomb and Let’s Lynch the Landlord confirm that Skip’s fifteen year tenure at Dead Kennedys microphone means he’s not phased by the size of the shoes he’s filling; the bouncing floor of the Academy 2 suggests Landlord’s unbelievably catchy hook will be lodged in the mind all the way home.
For the intro to Jock-O-Rama, the only visit to Frankenchrist tonight, Skip goes into a series of deliberately contentious comments about Monarchy, Politics and Brexit but agrees the one thing everyone can be on the same page with is football. I mean, in Manchester, I ask you!
The Swiftian satire of Kill the Poor has almost every voice in the room at full volume, MP3 Get Off the Web is a savage rejection of modern technology and Too Drunk to Fuck sees Skip dad dancing worse than Jobo from Skids.
It’s heartening to see the torch being passed to a new generation of Punks who have turned out en masse to enjoy the show. Pink Mohawk has been going strong since support act, Piss Bath, came on and looks to be ready to carry on all night – oh, to be young again!
The post punk vibes of Moon Over Marin is at odds with their cover of Napalm Death’s Nazi Punks Fuck Off and the surf vibes return for California Über Alles, including an audience participation section which brings the set to a close.
Dead Kennedys return for an encore of Bleed for Me, Elvis’ Viva Las Vegas, with Skip adorning it neck towel to honour the King (I mean Elvis, rather than Charles) and Holiday in Cambodia before leaving the stage. A second encore of Chemical Warfare is packed full of snotty punk attitude, yet also featuring a fragment of Synyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama, sending us out into the May Manchester evening sure that we have just seen something a bit special.
There would always be a few bumps in the road of any band with as many years under their belts as Dead Kennedys, but the legacy of some of the Eighties most caustic anthems of protest shouldn’t sit on shelves gathering dust; they need to be out there and played live, reminding us why we loved them in the first place and educating the next generation as to the power of music.
Blush, Steven. American Hardcore. second edition. Port Townsend, Washington: Feral House, 2010.