Dead Kennedys Centre Island, Toronto ON August 12, 2005
Published Sep 01, 2005And the award for most unenviable job in punk rock goes to Jeff Penalty, the 20-something punk rock fan who was recently bestowed the dubious honour of replacing Jello Biafra in the reformed Dead Kennedys. It was obvious from the start of the band's 45-minute headlining set at the Wakestock wakeboarding competition that Penalty was going to have an uphill battle of things. With the chords of the first song still ringing someone yelled out, "Where's Jello?" "At least wait two songs," Penalty calmly and good humouredly responded without missing a beat. With that the band tore through a set of early career highlights including "Too Drunk to Fuck," "Kill the Poor," "We've Got a Bigger Problem Now (aka California Uber Alles)" and "Holiday in Cambodia, "with "MTV Get Off the Air" serving as the lone nod to either of their last two records. The fact that almost everything he was singing was recorded before he was born didn't stop Penalty from having a good time in front of veterans DKs East Bay Ray, Klaus Flouride and D.H. Peligro. But energetic as he was, it all seemed a little too Rock Star - you know, kid plucked from obscurity to front legendary band - only without Marky Mark or the Judas Priest references. The smaller than expected faithful that stuck around after Rise Against rocked the main stage were either kids who've only ever heard "Holiday in Cambodia" or old, gizzled punks who gave the appearance of being more puzzled than enthralled with what they were witnessing. With America's right wing enjoying a renaissance, the Dead Kennedys' music and message are as vital and relevant in 2005 as in 1985. Sadly, their live performances, which always hinged on, and are now missing, Biafra's herky-jerky, frantic flailing and electric presence seem a little unnecessary.