By: Alex Distefano
November 29, 2012
The drizzle, and typical wet weather related traffic didn't stop the crowd, both old and young, from showing up at the Observatory in Santa Ana on Thursday night, to catch the legendary Bad Brains, a seminal hardcore punk band formed over three decades ago on the streets of Washington DC. Tonight's performance included all original members – vocalist H.R., guitarist Dr. Know, bassist Darryl Jenifer and drummer Earl Hudson.
By the time the aging Rastafarians took the stage at 10:30 p.m., the crowd was just at the right level of glee and hyperactivity, and the slam dancing slowly commenced, swaying and throbbing the entire set, which lasted just over an hour, including “Jah Love,” early in the set, and “I Love I Jah,” towards the end of the night's performance.
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Endless rounds of stage divers attempted to show their skills but were quickly intercepted by massive security guards, and were forced to crowd surf or mosh instead. Despite this, the entire venue was filled with a positive energy, and urgent sense of peace and optimism that the music of the Bad Brains inevitably brings with their songs.
Dressed in an all white suit, vocalist H.R. smiled the entire night, along with his band mates, who seemed to be content, sharing songs, many of which were written before more than half of the audience was even born. The slam dance pit saw its strongest gush of bodies during the classic “Banned in D.C.,” and for the last two songs of the nigh, Pay to Cum and I Against I.
Odd as it was for a Bad Brains show, the perfume of pot smoke didn't quite saturate the air as it is known to, though the scent was faint at times. When someone light up a spliff during the Bad Brains song “Give Praise and Thanks,” flashlights and security all swarmed, like it was a fistfight.
Perhaps this was because direct supporting band H20 is known for being straight edge. H20 is among the third wave of East Coast hardcore, along the lines of Agnostic Front, Sick of It All and later Madball. Formed 18 years ago on the East Coast, the band took a hiatus in 2005, and relocated to LA.
Vocalist Todd Morse, and brother guitarist Toby Morse were joined by guitarist Rusty Pistachio, bass player Adam Blake and drummer Todd Friend, to give the crowd a sold 45-minute set of melodic hardcore, somewhere between NOFX and Hatebreed. Morse, who never let the stage barricades be a barrier between him and the fans, constantly was down, among the crowd, singing songs with kids in the front. “I'm no better than you because I am up here,” he told the crowd. “We're all in this together, no matter how old you are.”
Morse was proud of the fact that so many people from his generation were in attendance. “I'm 42, I have a 9 year old song, and I love it how parents are here with their kids. How many parents with their kids we got me the pit?” he asked, to a few loud cheers on the floor.
The band pummeled through songs about family, relationships, life and love, and promoted a positive message to the fans. “The Bad Brains taught us about always having that positive mental attitude,” Morse told the crowd, just before the band exited the stage. “I want people to know that punk rock and hardcore music can save lives. I never touched drugs or alcohol in my life because of a band called Minor Threat!”
Fortunately, the floor was not empty, many fans did get a chance to catch openers, LA's own opening LA band Year of The Dragon. This band defies classification into any genre, and was a perfect fit to open for the Bad Brains. Fans at first seemed unsure of how to move, but the motion on the floor came soon after the music started. Vocalists Rodcore, and Dirty Walt (from the band Fishbone), guitarist Marc Rey Latif Van Lowe, and drummer Kerim Imes all smashed through songs that were full of intense energy that the crowd picked up on.
Vocalist Rodcore came out barefooted and not giving a fuck, screaming, singing and even rapping through some songs, as he danced vividly and erratically on stage, often getting the crowd more into the music with each supersonic jump and spin. Equally evoking the sprits of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage against the Machine, Prince, Led Zeppelin, Rollins Band, Faith No More, and Body Count, the band did exactly what it was there to do, warm up the crowd for H20 and the Bad Brains.
Give Thanks and Praises
I & I Survived
Banned in DC
At The Movies
Pay to Cum
I Against I