Sunday, April 24, 2011


A friend clued me into the fact that Bad Brains was scheduled to perform at the Summit music Hall on Friday night April 22, 2011. Within minutes I had a ticket waiting for me at will call.

Wikipedia describes then as:

Bad Brains is an American hardcore punk band formed in Washington, D.C., in 1977. They are widely regarded as among the pioneers of hardcore punk, though the band's members objected to this term to describe their music. They are also an adept reggae band, while later recordings featured elements of other genres like funk, heavy metal, hip-hop and soul. Bad Brains are also notable as religious followers of the Rastafari movement.

Originally formed as a jazz fusion ensemble under the name Mind Power, Bad Brains developed a very fast and intense punk rock sound which came to be labeled "hardcore", and was often played faster and more emphatically than the music of many of their peers. The unique factor of the band's music was the fact that they played more complex rhythms than that of other hardcore punk bands, also adapting non-punk style guitar riffs and solos into their songs.

Bad Brains broke up and reformed several times over the years, sometimes with different singers and/or drummers. The band's classic and current lineup is singer H.R. (Human Rights), guitarist Dr. Know, bassist Darryl Jenifer, and drummer Earl Hudson, H.R.'s younger brother.

I arrived just as the doors were opening, wanting to grab a spot at the front rail at the edge of the stage, knowing that a mosh pit would form behind me, having something to lean against when people pushed. Members of Bad Brains roamed the music hall early on. I got Doctor Know to sign my ticket stub. H.R. turned down my offer for a drink while he was standing in the back near the bar. I spent most of the first hour waiting, standing and watching the people gather in the audience behind me.

Other Russia took the stage first followed by Frontside Five. They are a local hardcore/punk/rock band. FF put on a really good show and I hope to check them out online, intent on ordering one of their CDs. Lead vocalist, Brandon Stolz, would periodically would take in a mouthful of beer that he would then spray the audience with. I returned the favor by spraying him with tequila. The crowd was suitable warmed up when they departed the stage.

Bad Brains, a nice mix of punk and reggae. Loud and fast at times, soft and slow, respectively. A fragrant odor hung in the air all night long. I was flying throughout their show, tequila in my veins, hugging the hand rail as the wild crowd behind me surged forward.

The show ended relatively early for a Friday night, so I went over to the diner at Colfax and Speer for a late night snack. Back in bed late that night.

While Bad Brains may not have the frenetic stage energy of three decades ago, the hardcore godfathers still managed to fuel quite a few mosh pits over the course of its 45-minute set at a packed Summit Music Hall.

Early on in the set, the band drew from its 1982 self-titled debut, which Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch dubbed "the best punk/hardcore album of all time," and fired out vigorous takes on "Attitude," "Right Brigade," "Sailin' On" and "The Regulator." On these cuts frontman Paul "HR" Hudson played an Ibanez hollowbody guitar using mostly his thumb, which isn't the easiest thing to do when playing punk. Meanwhile the rest of the band, which included the original line-up of guitarist Dr. Know, bassist Darryl Jenifer and drummer Earl Hudson, all sounded quite tight.

Before slowing it down on the reggae of "Jah Love," from the band's latest effort, 1997's Yauch-produced Build a Nation, a HR put down the guitar and sang the song with his hands in his pants pockets and pretty much standing still. While the next few cuts, "Give Thanks and Praises" and "Universal Peace," also from Build a Nation, packed a lot of punch, HR essentially stood in the same place, hands in pockets. It was kind of surreal juxtaposition seeing HR hardly moving during some of the heavier cuts or the fast as hell hardcore of "F.V.K.," especially after seeing footage of the band at CBGB in 1982 when HR was a frenzied madman on stage.

Following the reggae and dub "I and I Survive," HR almost looked liked he was close to falling asleep during "At the Movies." The band closed out the short set with some powerful takes on "Re-Ignition" and "Pay to Cum" and then ended the night with the one song encore of "I Against I."

Pictures and full review here:

Download the excellent audience recording here:

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