Thursday, April 1, 2010

What A Weekend! (Part 3 - Always Room for More Jello!)

(This is the third of a three-part post. Read parts one and two here & here.)

The weekend finished up in Baltimore, MD, at The Ottobar, a venue that has become a regular stop among my show-going friends, to once again catch Jello Biafra &
The Guantanamo School of Medicine
. This was a Sunday night all-ages show, so we had no idea what sort of crowd to expect. About 200 showed up, mostly skewing older, to see Jello and three opening bands.

The first two bands up were local Baltimorians. 4 Footer was about halfway through their set when we got there, so I didn't get to see or hear enough of them to form an opinion, but what I did see was interesting. Their sound was kind of punky southern hard rock, not entirely unlike Nine Pound Hammer to my ears (and that would be a good thing!) But, by the time we had our first round of beers and staked out our space in the club, their set was over.

4 Footer

We had no idea what to expect when The Fishnet Stalkers took the stage, dressed like it was 1979 (the striped shirt/skinny tie look). What a pleasant surprise they turned out to be! Like a slightly harder-edged Chesterfield Kings, or Jagger and Richards filtered through The Dead Boys, they played tough without sacrificing melody. Playing for the hometown crowd helped, but this band is definitely one to watch - they have the chops to be big time if they choose.

The Fishnet Stalkers

Witch Hunt traveled along with Jello Biafra throughout this tour, and seeing them a second time only reinforced for me how good they are. I daresay they sounded better Sunday night than Friday. Their drummer is simply astounding, playing at hyper-thrash speeds and propelling the band through song after song without missing a beat - literally. They seemed to spend a little more time giving their between-song protest speeches on this night as well, but that is forgiven when the music is this good.

Witch Hunt

During Witch Hunt's set, we spotted Jello Biafra walking through the crowd. It was strange - very few people seemed to recognize him. Then again, I have to remember that the Dead Kennedys actually split up before many of the kids in the crowd were even born. Maybe they had never seen him live before? I decided to go over to Jello and shake his hand and thank him for thirty years of great music. In typical Jello fashion, he corrected me: "It's been thirty-two years!" he smiled, "I was 19 when we started Dead Kennedys." We talked a bit about the Philly show, and he mentioned how he is usually completely spent after a performance - which is very believable. I asked if he'd be willing to sign Dead Kennedys records, knowing that the band's split was less than harmonious. He said sure, as long as they were originals on Alternative Tentacles and not the represses through East Bay Ray's label. He directed me over to his roadie to be sure to catch him after the show.

Jello and the band ran through the same set in Baltimore as in Philly, with only minor changes in patter and pacing, and they were every bit as fantastic the second time around. As opposed to The Trocadero, where stage diving was commonplace, The Ottobar was plastered with signs saying "Absolutely No Stage Diving Whatsoever!" As a result, the crowd's energy was different, but no less positive than Philadelphia's. In fact, The Ottobar's set up, with a much lower stage and a loft off to the left, allowed Jello much more freedom to interact directly with the crowd.

Jello Biafra & The Guantanamo School of Medicine

About half an hour after the show, Jello came out to greet the dozen or so fans like us who had stuck around. He couldn't spend a lot of time with us - he desperately wanted to get something to eat and had to get on the road to Washington DC, but he spent about 10 - 15 minutes talking with everyone and signing records, always checking to make sure they were originals. I heard him tell one person who handed him a record, "I can't sign this one, this is a completely illegitimate pressing. East Bay Ray didn't even make any money off of this one!" Wonder what record that was? He wasn't nasty about it, though, and his stance on only signing original material is completely understandable.

As we filed out of the club, we met up with GSM bassist Andrew Weiss, who talked with us for about twenty minutes about his days in Rollins Band. We asked him about the band Scornflakes, which was the New Jersey-based improvisational punk band he had been in before joining Rollins. He seemed surprised that we knew of Scornflakes, since "about 10 of the 12 shows we played live were at City Gardens," a venue in Trenton, NJ, where we had seen many a show in the '80s. He was happy to talk about the old City Garden days, and mentioned that there was a Scornflakes record out there that they had recorded live. By now it was getting to be almost 1:00 AM and there was long drive home ahead of us, so after thanking Andrew for the show, we hit the road.

Amazing postscript: we had all taken Monday off from work, and we wandered into a used record shop Monday afternoon and found - of all things - the Scornflakes record! A buddy of mine took it; maybe he'll eventually get Andrew to sign it!

It was a fantastic weekend all around, filled with great bands, great music, great people and great memories. I was exhausted when it was over, but happily so. So when does the next weekend full of cool bands come around?

(Visit That's What I Was Going To Say's Facebook page for more pics from Sunday night's show.)

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