Show Review: Bad Brains – Brooklyn, New York (4/18/12)

Recently the legendary Bad Brains played two sold out nights in New York City to thrilled fans. The spirit of real music was alive and well at the Brooklyn show I attended, a great reminder of why sociological rock rooted in PMA is so vital for America and the world today.  Seeing them able to tour one night with H20 and another night with GZA reminds you of the scope of their influence as pioneering black musicians and what many consider THE first hardcore band. They even still give love to younger bands as witnessed by bassist Darryl Jenifer taking the amazing act Birdhand under his wing.

I knew I had to write a review for Dying Scene.  To read it click here.

DJ Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers was spinning when we got there, but I only caught a little bit of it and didn’t hear what he was playing. Always expected to see him live for the first time doing something crazy on acid like strangling an alligator to death or something. I mean, have you ever heard PIOUGHD? But nope, there was one of my heroes kind of chilling back by the sound board nonchalantly. Cool.

I actually hadn’t been to Music Hall Of Williamsburg since it was Northsix (I know that was awhile ago). I had fond memories of meeting Deadboy & The Elephantmen, seeing a very early Greg Puciato fronted Dillinger Escape Plan show or not so fondly breaking my hand at a Candiria show there once and so was eager to see what had been done to the room. Well, it certainly was different and the sound quality and ease of movement was much better than it used to be.

In short order GZA took the stage and immediately set it off. GZA has always had a fascinating, slippery and intellectual flow when considering the styles of all Wu members, and LIQUID SWORDS still might just be the best Wu solo joint (although, you gotta give some love to FISHSCALE). Responsible for some of the iconic rap collective’s best lines, he was in great form and full party mode running through solo and group Wu bangers.

When it comes to experimental hip hop, lately I have mainly just been bummed by much current mainstream rap and digging’ instead on edgy, cool shit like Death Grips or the ridiculously skilled Azealia Banks. That said, it was really invigorating to hear GZA live rippin’ through classics and displaying to the sould out crowd that actually good rap is timeless. All these new jacks need to listen to “Living In The World Today” or see GZA still hold it up live and get a crowd in the palm of his hand shouting back the truth and maybe they will feel like they should’ve put a little more soul into their rhymes. Anyway, the moral of the story is that rap and rock CAN be friends. Who remembers Dog Eat Dog? How about the recent CATHOLIC GUILT record by Freddy Madball? Word up!

Back to the subject of timelessness, the music of the Bad Brains will always be vital.”Black Dots”. “Supertouch”. “The Big Takeover.” I mean, when your band has other bands named after numerous songs of yours, that is a good indicator you inspire.

The recent Bad Brains documentary BAD BRAINS: A BAND in D.C. is long overdue. It tells their amazing story with help from Henry Rollins and others. The film is also a good way to dispel long held inaccuracies some haters believe about the band due to decisions made when younger or just outdated trash talk. Fact is, they are veterans now and awesome, open minded musicians. Bad Brains pioneered this game! The recent death of MCA of the Beasties also made me think back on how the Brains gave the Beasties a chance and a break back in the day, yet another way they changed the game forever!

Some of the criticism dumb asses say about Brains nowadays is the same shit people say about a band like AFI, that they aren’t as wild as they used to be. Well, bands age. People age and mature or try other styles. What matters is quality of songwriting and growth of character. Plus, you can still have a great show without H.R. doing backflips! It isn’t the early days of hardcore anymore, people! Bruce Springsteen is old as hell and just wrote “Wrecking Ball”, one of the greatest and most awe inspiring songs he has ever written. It can also be argued that the very recent “Give Thanks And Praises” is one of the best Bad Brains joints ever. The song almost summarizes them as a band and stands top alongside any classic material. Live at the Music Hall show the thunderous intro shook the walls and had people stomping. “At The Movies” began with ghostly guitar and was met with cheers before the pit exploded as people high fived mid mosh.

H.R. gave shout outs to Madonna and Whitney Houston and also mentioned the band’s forthcoming record was recorded at Applehead Studios in Woodstock, NY. “I and I Survive” and much of the reggae material cooled off the crowd and showcased Dr. Know to great effect, while the crowd of course went hyper for “Banned In D.C.” and other punk rock staples. I wish there had been an emphasis on QUICKNESS or some GOD OF LOVE jams, but I can never complain about a Brains set because they always entertain or just kill it.

If you have never seen them live, it doesn’t matter that the aren’t playing CBGB’s with Murphy’s Law or some small room in D.C. with Minor Threat. Embrace the now. They still got “that attitude” in spades.

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  • Well you’re lucky you got a good show in NY. The show in DC 2 days later was highly disappointing. And based on that, the criticism for their performances nowadays is WELL deserved. Don’t get me wrong, I still think it was worth the money, just to see the hardcore legends once in my life, but I would certainly never do that again.

    HR was spaced out, sitting down and staring at the ceiling with a creepy smile on his face during some of the songs. He was so out of it that they cut their set short. Didn’t even play Banned in DC. The crowd was awesome and a lot of fun, but it had nothing to do with how good the band was. Daryl was actually laughing at HR he was so out of it. It seems like the rest of the band is just peddling around a burnt out HR for a few extra bucks.

  • Nah, man.
    HR sometimes is lucid and on the rock tip and other times does his own thing. It’s all punk rock. I opened for them once and he sat on stage and read the Bible and taught a drum lesson to the crowd and it was still an awesome,fun show and punk rock.
    These dudes still love playing music, man. I have never seen a band in my life that didn’t have some nights where crazy stuff didn’t change the whole demeanor of the show and other nights where it was just live fire.

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