East Bay Ray
Story and photos by Phil BonyataThe Dead Kennedys became one of the defining hardcore punk bands in the 80s by marrying politics of revolution with music that was wrought with nihilistic abandon. Taking it's cue from the English punk scene, especially The Sex Pistols and The Clash, while eschewing the somewhat softer American punks, The Kennedys paved a new path for protest American style. The Kennedys formed in 1978 in San Francisco and brokeup after the controversy of their seminal album Frankenchrist. The album included a poster by Swiss artist H.R. Giger's, a glaring illustration of penises and asses. The band and it's record label Alternative Tentacles were prosecuted under California anti-obscenity laws. The ensuing court battle (in which they were finally acquitted) took it's toll on the band and lead singer Jello Biafra left the band to start a solo career. The band hobbled back together with original members guitarist East Bay Ray, bassist Klaus Flouride, second drummer Darren H. Peligro and new singer Brandon Cruz. The band maintained much of its energy but lost the soul it once had with Biafra.
Now 27 years after the band formed The Kennedys still have a lot to say. New vocalist Jeff Penalty, at least half the age of the rest of the band, now has the strut while letting the venom and fire spew out of his lyrics. The boys ripped the veneer off of the classic from Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables - "Forward To Death" and then buried the hooks in "Winnbago Warrior" and "Police Truck."
While the originals seemed more content to settle into middle age gracefully with little stage antics - it was the young Penalty that was left to keep the energy level boiling over. Sinister sneers and lip raising snarls helped to buoy the somewhat comical side to his stage prancing. Bouncing from side to side off of imaginary walls he understood yesterdays punk ethos. Culling the raw energy of his revolutionary forfathers like Iggy Pop, The Clash's Joe Strummer, The Sex Pistols' Johnny Rotten and Biafra himself.
"Buzzbmb," "Moral Majority" and "Nazi Punks Fuck Off," all from Plastic Surgery Disasters / In God We Trust Inc. exploded with a choppy and beautifully limited chord structure. Guitarist East Bay Ray coolly led the charge while drummer Darren H. Peligro capped the assualt - all the while Penalty wickedly commanded the stage - taking some time to vault into the sweaty and manic audience.
The night blew away in furious fashion with powder kegs "Bleed For Me," "California Uber Alles," "Viva Las Vegas" and "Holiday In Cambodia." Finishing off the assualt were "Moral Majority" and "Chemical Warfare."
Battered and bruised - the next generation Dead Kennedys still know what it feels like to be a punk.
Jeff Penalty & East Bay Ray
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