Concert review: Ringing in the New Year with the Dead Kennedy's at the State Theatre, St. Petersburg

Dead Cat Lounge hit the stage next and they were awesome. These guys were so happy to be opening for the Dead Kennedys and so excited about bringing their music to a responsive crowd that that energy just blasted through the place and kept the night rolling on towards the New Year. With many “F*** Yous” sung, it could only get more and more rowdy from there, but only in the best kind of way. The bassist had "Kill Me" etched onto the frets of his guitar; the lead singer had a scowl throughout most of the set, but looked ferocious rather than ridiculous and made friends with the fans when they brought everyone up on the stage to head-bang and rock with the band.

With lyrics like “We call it the American dream, I call it shit,” you really can’t go wrong. Not to mention they rocked a song that was an ode to tattooed roller derby girls. This was the punk rock so many fans had fallen in love with all those years ago, and it was only two bands in!

The Spears hit the stage a little before 11 p.m. and the lead singer looked instantly irritated and pained. He had a mean, pouty face the entire set and just wailed, screamed, thrashed and riled up the entire room. He asked questions like “How are you?” and then resonded, “I don’t care.” He made fun of a fat guy in the crowd and really exuded the sort of punk-angst that the crowd just ate up. With songs like “Nothing’s Fun Anymore,” and a fast, unmerciful guitar riffs, rhythms, and basslines, the Spears were a hit!

The Spears finished their set around 11:20 and the scramble to ready the stage for the Dead Kennedys began. The crowd grew restless. At 11:35, it seemed like they were ready and the fans were definitely ready. It suddenly seemed to dawn on the people there that the Dead Kennedys were ringing in the New Year and therefore wouldn't take the stage until exactly midnight. The countdown began about 25 minutes later and then, there they were: The New Year and then Dead Kennedys dominating the State -- and the crowd lost it.

The mosh pit exploded, the fans not thrashing about in it stood staring in awe, and I endured a moment of mild dismay as I realized that Jello Biafra had not joined them. In sheer excitement of coming to the show, I'd utterly missed the fact that he hadn't really been playing with the band in more than 20 years; I just assumed, it being a special occasion, that maybe he'd be making an appearance, come out and scream "Happy New Year!!" with the rest of the band. Regardless, I joined the masses in the New Year’s Celebration and surrendered to the enjoyment of the punk extravaganza that had begun.

The mosh pit was a shining example of punk camaraderie from the earliest shows. No one was trampled, everyone was having fun, there were no cheap shots or mean people out to mess up fans. The old school rockers, besides those legends on stage, were amped up singing along and seemed to be reminiscing all at the same time. New Year's Eve is about saying goodbye to the old and ushering in the new but the Dead Kennedys seemed to work in the opposite way with amazing results.

Watching Klaus Flouride and East Bay Ray on those guitars was like something out of the punk hall of fame. I definitely had the Wayne and Garth moment of “We’re not worthy.” D.H. Peligro, their dreadlocked drummer, seriously commanded that drum set! He may not be a part of the original DK lineup but he has earned his stripes! And Skip is no Jello but he still brought out the vocal energy that made the DK legends to begin with. The fans seemed to agree.

They started the New Year off with a bang and ended their set in the same way. The Dead Kennedy’s love of the music pulsated through every note and the fans fed off that energy. The sweaty crowd was both rejuvenated and filled with a divine exhaustion by the end of the night. If toasting with the Dead Kennedys isn’t a badass enough way to kick off 2011, I don’t know what is!

To be honest, I can't say I can name a single song y they played. Not because I partied too hard or wasn’t paying attention, but because I was so into the show I didn’t take a single note! I spent the entire set rocking out or simply sitting back and watching it all unfold. Later, I attempted a re-cap with my husband. We argued about whether they played this or that or something else, but as he spent most of his night in the pit and I stayed at the outskirts, just taking it all in, we never discussed what was going on during the show and ended up not being able to really recall any song they played. I even looked to the internet for some help or to maybe jog my memory -- but to no avail. No setlists to be found and the buzz on the show was minimal, which leads be to believe that it was so utterly amazing that the true punkers, aside from their seriously hardcore fan base, evidently had a similar reaction to and experience. And I mean, really -- it's punk rock. Who cares what the fuck they played?

Some people make dinner reservations, buy new outfits and toast with their friends and loved ones at the stroke of midnight on December 31st. This past Saturday, a gathering of hardcore fans and punk rockers thrashed out the end of 2010 and roared in the start of 2011 with punk legends, The Dead Kennedys.

State Theatre wasn’t packed but it was pretty full on New Year's Eve, with plenty of people outfitted in their Dead Kennedys t-shirts, or rocking Operation Ivy or Casualties or some other punk band tee, and milled among the odd leather-clad fans and scattered glued mohawks. There was a clearly designated pit area and the buzz of excitement in the room was palpable as everyone waited in anticipation of the New Year and the Dead Kennedys performance.

The Pinz, a Jacksonville band made up of three lanky guys in very tight pants, opened with a sound similar to what would happen if Operation Ivy and Alkaline Trio had a baby. They were well received; they had a strong style and definitely warmed the crowd to the punk that would overtake the State for the rest of the evening.


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