Photos by Tim Griffin, Words By Black Bubblegum
My night was planned. Rival Schools at Mercury. Thats it. Then Rival Schools done had to go and muck it up... announcing that they would open for Bad Brains that same night. So I craiglist-ed my tix, and Bad Brains (their second of two shows in a row at the same venue) it was (11/6/2008).
My evening started halfway through the Trouble Andrew set, and the crowd was having none of it. The pro-snowboarder's (mostly) skatepunk was NOT a hit with the overwhelmingly straight-ahead hardcore (with a dash of reggae, natch) fan base.
"Worst Black Flag ever," said the shirtless man.
It wasn't THAT bad. And as a matter of fact (guilty pleasure alert) I kind of dug the last song ("Drink?") which DID remind me alot of Black Flag's "TV Party" without all that pesky intensity/fun. What was the "decider" that turned me to the dark side? During the "Drink" song, a guy on stage dripping in gold chains and sporting an oversized skull mask "shotgunned" (or rather, attempted to) beer after beer through the mask.
Rival Schools were reliably great, and Irving Plaza was much more forgiving on Ian Love's guitar flourishes (my main complaint from Knitting Factory). Sticking to their setlist from my last two encounters with them (the BV Day Show at Knitting Factory and Syndicate's CMJ shindig), the boys kicked off their set with with "Travel By Telephone" and closed with "Used For Glue" and their cover of The Smiths' "How Soon Is Now?". The crowd was much easier on the hardcore veterans.
Bad Brains finally blasted off after 10:30. Clad in a sportcoat with some sort of body-armor underneath, HR walked calmly to the mic with hands together (in praise of Jah?), and ripped into "Attitude" from the self-titled ROIR record. The floor shook. Over the next hour, the band ran through other selections from the self-titled record ("Sailin' On", "Pay To Cum"), I Against I ("Re-Ignition", "Sacred Love") and even Quickness (Daryl began "Soul Craft" with the album's "verbal" intro), with the audience becoming absolutely unglued. In between the hardcore mayhem (and ensuing mosh-pit antics), Bad Brains slowed it up with reggae such as "I & I Survive"... adding delay to the drums, vox, and guitar tracks for that extra dubby feel.
But it wasn't all chocolate waterfalls and rainbows: The mix for Bad Brains was extremely muddy from my vantage point, favoring Daryl Jenifer's tremendously booming basslines instead of balancing with Dr. Know's ripping fretwork. HR mumbled through lyrics and was off at times. Their set was only one hour long, including the encore, "I Against I".
But for every ounce of criticism that I could possibly lay, postive energy was returned tenfold from the electric crowd, and I just could not help but be swept up in it too.
So what did I learn? A few things:
1) It is possible to take a picture while crowdsurfing (see below) (Tim Griffin take note)
2) Old hardcore dudes still mosh.
3) Bad Brains have still got it.
4) Daryl Jenifer is the coolest motherfucker on the planet.
More pictures, and partial setlists, below...
A guy (not Tim Griffin) (obviously) attempting to take a picture while crowdsurfing...
Rival Schools Partial Setlist
Travel by TelephoneBad Brains Partial Setlist
Everything Has It's Point
Used For Glue
How Soon Is Now?
AttitudePictures from night one are HERE.
I & I Survive
Banned In DC
Pay To Cum
I Against I