Over The Weekend: Bad Brains at the Granada Theater

Bad Brains, Spector 45 and Here Holy Spain
The Granada Theater
Friday, October 29, 2010

Better than:
reliving my punk rock past at home listening to actual records

bad-brainsh520.jpg
Bad Brains

Before a sizable, middle-aged horde, legendary Washington, D.C. punk act Bad Brains put on a formable display of full throttle hardcore while still managing to throw in a couple of sets of reggae on Friday night. Their crowd? Men in their 30s and 40s, who all too willingly dusted off their Black Flag and Minor Threat tees and pushed their way into the Granada Theater's crowed mosh pit.

Or, at least, that's what happened when Bad Brains hit the stage at around 10 o'clock.

Before that, the cool thing to do was to hang out in front of the venue and admire all the leather, Mohawks and spiked wristbands.

Just as the Granada started filling up nicely, Bad Brains started their set off with the rush of "Attitude." The stage diving commenced almost immediately.

It was as violent of a most pit as I have ever seen at the Granada--so much so that extra security was added, pushing people off the stage continually throughout the evening.

Of course, none of this rambunctiousness fazed any members of Bad Brains. Guitarist Dr. Know and bassist Darryl Jennifer just kept riffing along on such punk chestnuts such as "At the Movies," "Sailin' On" and "Banned in D.C." Frontman H.R. was the essence of composure, too, singing most of the songs with his hands in the prayer position. And at the end of each song, he'd simply smile and hold up two peace signs--as if that could calm the raging pit.

The set list was comprised mostly of tracks from Bad Brains' golden period between 1982 and 1986. "Regulator," "Fearless Vampire Killers" and "Right Brigade" gave the old school punks lots to smile about. Still ferocious after all these years, these songs transcend the punk rock label. Sure, they are fast and furious, but there is much more going on here than with your typical punk rock shouters.

The proof came when the band slowed things down and threw in the top notch reggae of "I and I Surivive" and "I Luv I Jah."

Not that the crowd noticed, though, all that much as the moshing continued on unabated.

Still, the quality of Bad Brains' reggae grooves is almost as remarkable as the band's more noted punk assaults.

My only complaint is with the length of the performance. The band was off the stage after just 75 minutes of playing. They played 17 songs, sure, but a lot of those songs are barely two minutes long. Ending the set with "Pay to Cum" was perfect, but why only a one-song encore? Granted, that one song was the remarkable "I Against I," but one couldn't help but feel that the band had more to give.

Earlier in the night, talented local trio Here Holy Spain kicked the evening off to a sparse early crowd; it'd be charitable to say the venue was a quarter full. Still, Wes Todd and crew played a nice set of punkish rock, displaying more power than on Manic, the band's 2009 debut. Kudos to Here Holy Spain for not being bummed by the late arriving crowd.

Same, actually, goes for Spector 45 who came out at 9 o'clock, when the venue was only at about a third of its capacity. Frankie 45 and the rest of this greasy trio demonstrated more country/rockabilly leanings since the last time I caught them. These days, Spector 45 sounds more like Tiger Army than the Ramones. And that's a good thing.

Critics Notebook
Personal Bias:
This was my fourth time to see Bad Brains over a 20-year stretch. At 54. H.R. has calmed down considerably. Back in the day, that guy would be swinging from the rafters. At one show in Austin in the '80s, the guy got gashed on the hand by a microphone stand and just kept on going for the duration. At show's end, there was as much blood on the stage as inside the singer's thin frame. This show was a little different.
 
Random Note: Good job by the venue's security forces at keeping things calm. I witnessed not a single tussle between staff and crowd.

By The Way: This show really made me wish that members of other famous punk acts (such as Black Flag and Husker Du) would swallow their collective pride and reunite for the sake of the fans.

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