Better Than: Pretty much any other concert you could have gone to last night.
In the canon of legendary punk bands, it is pretty much impossible to fuck with the furious, dred-wielding four piece that is Bad Brains. And for hoards of die-hard O.C. punks young and old, a chance to see them in action for the first time in god knows how long was an early Christmas gift. At the very least, it was a gift big enough to make fans forget that we were at Disneyland for 2 solid hours.
Monday night's Bad Brains show at House of Blues in Downtown Disney was the third in a short stint of live touring in support of their latest album “Build A Nation”. Opening acts included a blistering punk/hardcore set from Fullerton locals Death By Stereo and a surprisingly low key acoustic set by Kevin Seconds, front man for 7 Seconds, another legendary punk quartet.
The bars were buzzing with fans on the top floor of the House of Blues as the show kicked off with Seconds' solo effort in front of a stand still crowd. It was almost hard to recognize the vivacious front-man at first. Usually after the first few minutes on stage, he's out of breath from shrieking into a mic, or at least working up a descent head banging sweat. This time around, he traded punk chord chugging for acoustic sounds like some kind of punk rock John Mayer. Though it wasn't bad, it was still, well, not what most people probably came to hear. After a short set on stage, fans showed him some love as he stepped off stage to make room for something a little more hostile.
As the curtains parted to reveal Efrem Schulz and the members of Death By Stereo, fans perked up and cheered as the fury of bastardized metal and hardcore attitude erupted with songs from the band's past and present, including the time honored skater jam “Lookin' Out for #1” and “Wasted Words”. Backed by drummer Chris Dalley, bassist Jeff CLark and the blistering guitar work of Dan Palmer Schulz spit his semi-melodic punk rock shrieks and before long, fists were pumping in the air. And despite the lackluster mosh pit during their set, Schulz did the admirable thing and jumped off stage and into the crowd to mix it up himself, a definite testament to the band's determination to stir up chaos in the House of Mouse.
By the time Bad Brains emerged on stage, the crowd was jammed shoulder to shoulder in anticipation for some of the greatest balls-out punk ever created. It would have been nice if H.R. Hudson, the bands legendary frontman, had been that excited.
But as the band launched into their set, it was clear that the onstage antics would be slim to none. With stiff posture and bomba dreads safely tucked under his knit cap, it was hard to even recognize the freewheeling frontman seared in minds of fans from the early days. But that being said, it would be almost impossible to find another musician that could whip up that much frenzy in an audience by simple standing still.
Luckily, guitarist Dr. Know, bassist Daryl Jenifer and drummer Earl Hudson still came with genuine energy required to propel classics like “Pay to Cum”, “The Regulator” and “Soul Craft”. Not only were the songs hard and fast, but there wasn't much room to breathe in between them as the band rattled them off one after the other.
Half way through the set, as the crowd started to become one big sweaty swirl of aggression, the band threw off the tense vibes with some slow moving reggae jams like the dub-inspired tune “I Love I Jah”.
After ending with the frantic guitar work and semi enthusiastic vocals of “At The Movies”, the crowd was rabid for more Brains which the band promptly delivered in a one song encore. Fortunately, that song happened to be the paramount punk jam “I Against I, that had the whole venue cheering at the mention of its name. For those who have always wanted to work up a sweat at a Bad Brains show, rejoice. Now you can finally cross that off the list of things to do before you die.
Personal Bias: The record I Against I (1986) is on my top 10 list of the best punk albums of all time.
Random Detail: What was with H.R.'s crazy conductor moves up on stage?
By the Way: Stay tuned for Tom Morello as the Nightwatchman… another revolutionary that seems to have mellowed out a bit in his old age. He'll be at House of Blues on Dec. 12.