We gave it a B
Every city has its celebrated malcontents, and among San Francisco’s finest were the Dead Kennedys. Led by the articulately confrontational Jello Biafra, this surly outfit helped pioneer an intensification of punk known as ”hard-core” in the late ’70s. The group no longer exists, but Dead Kennedys Live captures its performance on June 16, 1984, closing night of On Broadway, the club that launched the band. A sense of place is crucial to appreciating the tape, since its sound is disappointingly muffled and the camera work crude. But the program’s success comes in capturing hard-core’s strong local flavor, the sense of community that arises from a crowd of familiars slam-dancing each other into happy oblivion. Also, it’s nice to see Biafra in the days before he became better known as a spokesperson for free speech, battling Tipper Gore. Here, in rants like ”Religious Vomit” or ”MTV Get Off the Air,” he makes righteousness seem like a blast.