SONIC REDUCER What do you give a 50-year-old punk icon who has everything? A silver-studded dog collar? A reason to believe or rebel? Peace of mind?
"Boy, I can’t think of much," Jello Biafra, né Eric Boucher, says with a chuckle at the question of what to gift him for his 50th birthday June 17. "I’m already such a pack rat, the last thing I need is more stuff. The main vice is vinyl, but I archive a lot of stuff. I’m a librarian’s kid."
Instead, the exDead Kennedys vocalist, in characteristically against-the-grain fashion, will gift celebrants at his birthday-bash-to-end-all-bashes, the two-day "Biafra Five-O" at Great American Music Hall, with turns alongside the Melvins and a newly assembled band, the Axis of Merry Evildoers, which includes Victims Family’s Ralph Spight on guitar, Faith No More’s Billy Gould on bass, and Sharkbait’s Jon Weiss on drums. Oh yeah, and each punk-rock fire-/party-starter will receive a poster, or if it arrives in time, a 7-inch of Biafra and members of Zen Guerilla covering Rev. Horton Heat’s "Speed Demon" and Frankie Laine’s "Jezebel."
So what gives with the very public celebration of three decades of punky monkey-wrenching? "I saw the Stooges on Iggy’s 60th last year, and that was a great show," Biafra tells me while snacking in his San Francisco digs. "I got carried away with the moment and promised myself, if he’s that good at 60, I better be a tenth as good at 50 and get something together."
Expect Biafra’s new group to be part of a continuum: one that began with Dead Kennedys and has manifested in collaborations with the Melvins, DOA, No Means No, Al Jourgensen, Mojo Nixon, and others. "The hope is you’re still going to get a pretty sharp set of teeth," he promises. And speaking of DK, the man who would be SF’s mayor ("It was done as a prank") and who was nominated as the Green Party’s 2000 presidential bid, right on the coattails of Ralph Nader ("It kind of got dumped in my lap") is also recognizing the 30th anniversary of the Dead Kennedys, which played its first show in July 1978 opening for the Offs, DV-8, and Negative Trend, despite an extremely acrimonious lawsuit between the vocalist and his bandmates that led a jury to award control of the catalog to the rest of the group.
Despite intimations of a reunion on the part of the remaining Dead Kennedys, the bitterness of the conflict still rankles, with Biafra confessing with a wry chuckle, "I’ve had battles with suicidal depression especially after that ugly Dead Kennedys lawsuit." Further, he says, "I really resent all the times they played these so-called reunion shows advertised as reunions, and there’s my picture in the ad. I think we have a new genre of punk, and it’s called fraudcore!"
Nonetheless, he hasn’t completely ruled out a reconciliation: "Sure, if those guys were ever willing to undo every last bit of damage they’ve done, I’d consider going back on stage with them. But so far they’ve been way too greedy and way too cowardly to even consider it."
So leave it to the Melvins to convince Biafra to tackle a few DK songs in honor of his birthday. The once SF-based band in a near-original lineup including Mike Dillard also will attack early hardcore tunes culled from a 1984 demo sent to Biafra. It turns out those pack-rat tendencies, coupled with Biafra’s abiding love of music, led him to hold onto that ancient tape, which the Melvins lost long ago. "It’s a good thing I saved these things," Biafra says. "They’d forgotten those songs existed." *
With Jello Biafra and the Melvins, Biafra and the Axis of Merry Evildoers, the Melvins, and (Mon/16) Drunk Injuns and Los Olvidados, and (Tues/17) Triclops! and Akimbo
Mon/16Tues/17, 8 p.m., $22-$40
Great American Music Hall
859 O’Farrell, SF
COUNTRY TEASIN’ WITH NEIL HAMBURGER
Moanin’ and groanin’ has never been so hammily hilarious. Comedian Neil Hamburger has a brand new hat namely, a sorry-ass Stetson to go along with his new bag: the recently released Neil Hamburger Sings Country Winners (Drag City). Teaming with longtime Bay Areaite Dave Gleason on guitar, Amoeba Music co-honcho Joe Goldmark on pedal steel, and Todd Rundgren cohort Prairie Prince on drums, Hamburger, a.k.a. onetime Bay stalwart Gregg Turkington, plans to stir misery-loving odes to classic backwoods grimness ("Please Ask That Clown to Stop Crying") into his archetypal miasma of whining/joke-telling during his present tour. So why turn to C&W, which currently seems to consist of "songs about shopping," rather than tears, beer, and chicken dinners? "A lot of rock ‘n’ roll is just people screaming," groans Hamburger from Los Angeles, far from the SF storage locker he claims to have once dwelt in. "You hear enough of that in San Francisco on the streets. With those big, bushy beards and screaming what’s the difference between a contingent of homeless guys carrying signs and the Doobie Brothers?"
June 11, 9 p.m., $13<\d>$15. Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell, SF. (415) 885-0750, www.gamh.com
IT’S TIME FOR TIMES NEW VIKING
They may be pegged as part of the so-called shitgaze underground thanks to their pals in Psychedelic Horseshit who coined the term but Columbus, Ohio, trio Times New Viking are as grounded as a trio of Midwestern ex-art-schoolers can be. Keyboardist Beth Murphy met guitarist Jared Phillips and drummer Adam Elliott while attending Columbus College of Art and Design, and the three found that their education came in handy when it came to playing together nicely and noisily, particularly on their new Matador album, Rip It Off. "When you’re in art school you’re always forced to critique your work and think about everything you’re doing," Murphy, 26, explains from her hometown. "That got, like, really annoying to have to validate every mark you made. But now I think it’s kind of like ingrained in us, so we can’t help but think about every aspect of what we do." Their creative approach to music-making? "One of the first rules we set up was 300 percent creative control," she says. "We all have 100 percent say in everything, and we don’t ever tell each other what to do."
With Hank IV, Psychedelic Horseshit, and Fabulous Diamonds. Fri/13, 9 p.m., $12. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. www.bottomofthehill.com