Circa 1984 The Dead Kennedys headlined a mega-show at the Beacon Theater, with opening acts No Thanks, The New York Transplants, False Prophets, and Millions Of Dead Cops. The first ten rows of orchestra seats were removed for the occasion, leaving a vast expanse of bare wooden floor for chaos. The show started promptly at 8pm with No Thanks’s girl singer screeching “Fuckthedraftdon’tregister.” The Transplants’ lead vocalist peeled off layer after layer of clothes until he was down to just pink knickers, shading his eyes the whole time while staring at the sound booth and continually monotoning “Would somebody please turn down the lights?”, even in the middle of songs. I couldn’t tell if this was part of the act or the lights were really bothering him. When No Thanks and The Transplants were done with their brief sets they signed off with “Good night” and “Fuck you,” respectively, and that was that.
False Prophets were next. Stephan donned a taxidermied moose head that him look like Bullwinkle and ranted about Jean-Paul Marat getting stabbed in the back in his bathtub. Like the deep sea diver’s helmet that rendered a Salvador Dali lecture indecipherable, the moose head muffled Stephan’s voice so heavily that it was all but impossible to hear him. A kid jumped up on stage next to Stephan, thrashed too close and inadvertently banged into him so hard his noggin rebounded audibly off the inside of the moose head, thudthudthud.
Stephan ended his set with a stiff-backed heel-clicking salute on the last note of “Blind Obedience,’ then yelled “God bless America” with what I assumed was sarcasm.
When Jello Biafra suddenly appeared onstage sans fanfare a small wax-paper packet was launched from the crowd, sailed through the air in an arc, and landed with a plop at his feet. He picked the packet up and held it out at arms’ length with as much nose-wrinkled disdain as if it were a sloppy-second trojan. “Oooooooo, how original,” Jello sneered, the same thing happening night after night after night, “a package of Jello!” I saw this same scene, with minor variations -sometimes the Jello was already prepared and set and splatted onstage blob-like- repeated every time I saw the DKs. Jello would -and did- rip his namesake packet open and sprinkle sugary red powder onto the sweaty barebacked human swell pressing against the stage. “Now you can all be sweet and sticky,” he would -and did- say, just before exploding into Life Sentence: “Used to be/A partner in crime/Now you say you ain’t got the time… Instant Jello, instant pandemonium. I got high-lowed by bodies flying in opposite directions and involuntarily somersaulted onto the base of my skull as more bodies fell on top of me like cars piling up in a multi-vehicle accident, the crushing weight gradually decreasing as they rolled off one by one. I was helped up by a guy twice my size and went back into the maelstrom for more. Bodies slipped, slid and fell as the slick of sweat on the polished hardwood deepened into a puddle, but thankfully I didn’t go down on my skull again…