While it is still legal to select your own music and video entertainment, why not seize the day? Come join me in YouTube’s deep Dead Kennedys hole. After you’ve exhausted the band’s slender official home video catalog, there’s more than enough not-so-official footage to absorb all the sleepless hours after curfew.
This video of the DKs at Portland’s Earth Tavern on November 19, 1979 captures them in between their first single, “California Über Alles,” and their second, “Holiday in Cambodia”: pre-Peligro (the drummer is Bruce Slesinger, a/k/a “Ted”), but post-6025.
It’s the second set of the night (and substantially different from the first, to the DKs’ credit), which explains Biafra’s hoarseness. Portland-area YouTube user MikeBrainfollies claims the video is his work, but doesn’t say more; in any case, it’s a two-camera job with the kind of video mixing you just can’t get these days.
If you’re a fan of the Dead Kennedys’ compilation album Give Me Convenience Or Give Me Death, “Night of the Living Rednecks,” Biafra’s spoken-word rant about getting hassled by rich dickheads on a previous visit to Portland, comes from this show. After “Chemical Warfare,” East Bay Ray exits the stage holding his guitar—a sunburst Strat?—by the neck; “Ray’s guitar broke,” Biafra complains. Klaus and Ted blow some jazz.
It’s very strange to see a performance you’ve heard on record hundreds of times. When Jello says “His fists didn’t go up so quickly this time,” you can see the person in the audience he’s talking about. You also see Jello using a cigarette as a prop, a strange sight to behold. After Ray finally returns to the stage, Jello asks the audience for a cowboy hat in which to sing “Rawhide,” but has to settle for a beanie that makes him look at once like Mike Nesmith, Bruce Springsteen, and Dumb Donald of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. I appreciate what he says about “clowndominiums.”
The set list:
“Forward to Death” (0:00)
“Back in Rhodesia” (an early version of “When Ya Get Drafted,” 1:24)
“Funland at the Beach” (3:28)
“Dreadlocks in the Suburbs” (6:02)
“Drug Me” (9:19)
“Kill The Poor” (12:36)
“Kepone Factory” (15:03)
“Police Truck” (17:09)
“The Man with the Dogs” (19:52)
“California Über Alles” (22:52)
“Holiday in Cambodia” (26:10)
“Chemical Warfare” (32:01)
“Night of the Living Rednecks” (35:10)
“I Kill Children” (46:11)