Dead Kennedys, X at MOCA's Big Punk Show

Rebecca Smeyne

Saturday night, LA's Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) hosted a sold-out concert at their Geffen Contemporary Center, in conjunction with the current exhibition Under the Big Black Sun: 1974-1981, continuing through February 13th, featuring three seminal California punk-rock bands: X ( whose 1982 album the show is named after), Dead Kennedys, and Avengers. This was one of the culminating events of The Pacific Standard Time Performance and Public Art Festival, "an unprecedented collaboration of [over 60] cultural institutions across Southern California coming together to celebrate the birth of the L.A. art scene." Per the official press release, the exhibit at MOCA (which is now, of course, helmed by Jeffrey Deitch) "celebrates California as a turbulent, often anarchic center for artistic freedom and experimentation during the 1970s" and "examines the rise of pluralistic art practices across the state. The years 1974 and 1981 bracket  tumultuous, transitional span in United States history, beginning with Richard Nixon's resignation and ending with Ronald Reagan's inauguration."

The bands played in an outdoor courtyard, for fans young and old, many of whom seemed extremely psyched to be there, whether it was to re-live the past or embrace the present. The museum stayed open for browsing until 11pm, and though there were no photos allowed of the exhibit itself,  we at least got a few photos from the gift shop to share (we're seriously jocking those Allen Ruppersberg tote bags).

The comments on MOCA's official page for the event tended to question the concept of a museum-hosted punk concert, particularly one featuring a Jello Biafra-less Dead Kennedys (Biafra hasn't played with them since their dissolution in 1986; they reunited about 10 years ago with a replacement singer, Ron "Skip" Greer). One person wrote "Boo for the fake Dead Kennedys" while another chimed in, "'Punk' at $50 and $125 for VIP? ...LMAO: make sure they have valet parking. ...Another surreal juxtaposition of the hideously commercialized and the formerly hip." Such critiques aside, all three bands sounded fantastic, and there was indeed a small, but heavy mosh pit near the front. During X, things got so rowdy, it nearly caused
the barriers to break, prompting X's bassist to intercede, "This is beginning to concern me. We don't want anyone to get hurt." MOCA security immediately summoned reinforcements.

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