The Bad Brains









The Bad Brains

Irving Place 11/13/03

Today I experienced something I have been waiting for my entire life. It started out at Mary Ann’s Mexican restaurant, it then went to the Black Star Bar followed by Bull McAbe’s, but it ended where I have waited so many years to be, at a Bad Brains show in NYC.

Elbert and Jake went to what was probably the last true Bad Brains show in NYC in the fall of 1989 and I missed that historic event. For years the Soul Brains (for legal and financial reasons they changed the name, I guess like Prince did) have toured with the full Bad Brains line up but usually with disappointing results. HR (the singer) would beat up an audience member and get thrown in jail and end the tour, or he would wig out and wear a huge papier-mâché crown and not move the entire set, and I even heard he once didn’t even sing but just talked the words to the songs.

Tonight it was a Bad Brains show. They played a handful, defined as approximately five, classic hardcore Bad Brains songs and HR was not all weird. They played a lot of reggae songs. They only played about an hour and half tops, but it was great to see them. The vibe was right, the reggae was good, but if I want to see reggae I will go to a sun-drenched park in Jamaica for Reggae Sunsplash. While the Bad Brains always played some reggae songs on their albums, it was usually at most a 75% hardcore to 25% reggae mix. Tonight the mix was easily in favor of reggae, but at least HR was performing. HR has taken to a much more reggae influence as he has taken to smoking way too much ganja. By the end of the show I had made my way up to the front right section of the stage and could get a good at look at Darryl Jennifer, the bass player. He was clearly happier playing the hardcore songs than the reggae songs. For those few of you not in the know, the Bad Brains started out as an all black Jazz Fusion/Reggae band that stumbled on to some Ramones and Sex Pistols albums and quickly became the best hardcore band ever to grace the Earth. This was also way back in the beginning of hardcore when it was a predominately white form of music. They took this music form by storm and changed it for ever. They did to hardcore music what cable TV did to TV, redefined the entire way you think about hardcore and made it 100 times better. The Bad Brains are to hardcore as Chuck Berry was to Rock and Roll – black guys who forever changed the way we look at a genre of music but seem to have been missed by the mainstream. Elvis and The Beatles got their start covering Chuck Berry songs on their first few albums. Seeing the Bad Brains tonight was the equivalent of seeing Mozart a few years after his prime.

To start the show off, one of my all time favorite bands Murphy’s Law played. I saw them only a couple weeks ago at The Continental for their annual Halloween Bash. Tonight’s show was pretty good. Much tamer, thankfully – no injuries to report tonight. They only played an hour so they missed playing many classics, but I did get some mic time and Jimmy, the singer, did give me a full beer between songs.

Whilst this is not as a good as a true Bhatt-zine, I have to use my olde age as an excuse and for God’s sake it is only 2AM versus the 7AM when most of the best Bhatt-zines were written. By the way Elbert and I did see Chuck Berry at The “New” Ritz in the spring of 1993 and while he is still a great performer, he did the famous duck walk as he played Johnny B. Goode, but he only played for 45 minutes. I guess when you are pushing 70 years old you can only do so much each night. The funniest thing about that show was that all the bald headed guys there were not bald headed by choice but by nature. Most of the shows we saw at The “New” Ritz were punk/hardcore/ska shows and so most of the bald headed people were skinheads and bald by choice.

Sudden Death Publications (c) 2003