Even though it arrived a few years late in terms of my obsession meter (I kinda lost interest in anything after Plastic Surgery Disasters), this was a big deal for me. In my Grade School-to-Jr. High transition from what I thought of as “New Wave” (Devo! B-52’s!) and “Punk Rock” (Sex Pistols! Ramones!), the Dead Kennedys clearly represented the next step into my emerging sense of “Hardcore”.
On a summer trip up to New Jersey in 1982 my cousin Bobby had made me a series of punk comp tapes filled with the heavy hitters of the day: Flipper, Fear, Black Flag, D.O.A., and so on. There wasn’t a loser in the bunch really, but the band I initially found myself returning to (mostly on the strength of Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables) was the DKs.
Everything about them fell into place for where I was at: their melodies were catchy, their lyrics were intelligent & witty, the art was cool (check halfway down on this page for Winston’s Smith’s very kind response to a gushing fan letter I wrote him when I was 13), their politics jived with my already established views — the whole package just worked for me.
In June of 1983 I had been living in Oklahoma when they had played the Kansas City VFW, but since everyone I had ever talked to raved about that show my already-bound-to-be-high expectations were now jacked all the way up. Part of a memorable week, the Saturday night show was sandwiched between my first viewing of Eraserhead (Friday at SUA with my pal Doug Redding) and the grim likelihood of Ronald Reagan’s second administration (Tuesday nation-wide and mostly a foregone conclusion). The gig was obviously also pretty high on to-do lists all around the Midwest, and the Lawrence Opera House was super packed with curious first timers as well as the faithful.
After opening performances from the Micronotz and the Crucifucks (N.O.T.A. didn’t make it), the Kennedys’ set found them working through a number of tunes that would eventually turn up on their Frankenchrist LP. Sadly (as you’ll hear), though the energy was pretty high all night there were rampant microphone and mix issues throughout much of the show. With a set clocking in at about an hour and twenty minutes the band certainly delivered the goods however, and as you can tell from these killer pics snapped by Greg Blair the crowd ate it up.
I have a lot of scattered memories here, so I’ll just run over a few of them and then get to the good stuff:
• Finally getting all of the “Jello acts like a mime” references I’d read in live reviews of the band.
• Getting so excited during “A Child and His Lawnmower” that I would be able to lay claim to “first stage dive of the night” (shoe-loss averted thanks to this also being the “first night I ever wore Converse high tops”)
• Seeing more people hanging out on the sides & back of the stage than ever before (just like those photos of big LA shows from Flipside!)
• Leaving my tape recorder in the hands of my friend Gil Bavel (I was up front for the whole set) and being aghast that he decided to sully the purity of my recording by asking various people “what they thought of the show” (in retrospect: kinda funny. You’ll hear it.)
• The mic totally dropping out and Jello trying to get the crowd to sing along to Holiday in Cambodia (the results were better in the room than what you might be able to glean here.)
• Interviewing the very patient Mr. Biafra & Mr. Flouride after the gig with my chum Pete Haney (who asked the better questions by far). Unlike every other interview I’d done so far this was in a room full of people I had never seen before hanging on his every word. I guess I’d never really seen that kind of “holding court” before.
Okay! On with the show!
Photos ©2010 Greg Blair
Dead Kennedys: Live At The Lawrence Opera House in Lawrence, KS 11-04-84 (192 kbps)
01 Intro (1:18)
02 Take This Job And Shove It (David Allan Coe) (1:25)
03 Hop With The Jet Set (2:09)
04 Dear Abby (1:21)
05 Terminal Preppy (1:30)
06 When Ya Get Drafted (2:08)
07 Soup Is Good Food (4:10)
08 This Could Be Anywhere, This Could Be Everywhere (5:49)
09 Chemical Warfare (3:34)
10 Mtv Get Off The Air (3:46)
11 A Child And His Lawnmower (1:00)
12 Jock-O-Rama (6:23)
13 Kill The Poor (3:17)
14 Macho Insecurity (2:06)
15 Police Truck (2:41)
16 We’ve Got A Bigger Problem Now (8:01)
17 Forward To Death (1:11)
18 Bleed For Me (8:10)
19 Nazi Punks Fuck Off (0:59)
20 Let’s Lynch The Landlord (4:22)
21 Pipeline (Chantays) (2:36)
22 Holiday In Cambodia (6:36)
23 I Fought The Law And I Won (Bobby Fuller Four) (2:25)
24 Moon Over Marin (4:45)