Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bad Brains at Slim's last night

Nostalgia about music is a funny thing. On the one hand, it's fun to think about great shows you saw a long time ago (R.E.M., Vanderbilt Auditorium, 1983, HOLLA!!!). On the other hand, bands keep touring, sometimes much longer than they should. So you go see them maybe expecting to see a spark of what you loved when you saw them as a kid, and it doesn't always turn out that way.

Bad Brains were, and are, an incredibly influential hardcore punk band from D.C. whose glory years were probably, say, 1982 to 1990 (even though they were broken up from '84 to '86). 2 notable things about Bad Brains that are maybe somewhat unusual for a hardcore punk band: (1) they're African-American, and (2) they also play reggae songs.

Stephen has long maintained that the Best Show He Ever Saw was a Bad Brains show at some place in Providence in 1986, so he and Jessica and I went down to Slim's last night to see what they could bring these days. Now, I'd never seen them in the old days (although I had a copy of "Rock for Light" that I remember enjoying) so it was all new to me. Apparently the shows back in the day were something, with lead singer H.R. doing back flips off the stage and stuff. Here he is, mid-flight:

H.R. is now 53 years old. He doesn't do back flips off the stage any more.

A few observations about last night:

1. It was fucking PACKED. And this was the second night at Slim's. Bad Brains are apparently still extremely popular. Punk is not dead. Or reggae-punk is not dead. Or something.

2. Median age about, say, 32 or so. Some old punx who had clearly seen Bad Brains at the Mabuhay back in the day. (I'm just assuming they played at the Mabuhay back in the day. I'd be shocked if they didn't.) And some kids! Kids with mohawks! Kids with mohawks pogoing by the bar and KNOCKING INTO ME AND SPILLING MY BEER EVERYWHERE! Damn kids! Oh, wait, that's pretty punk.

3. Speaking of, I went to a fair number of punk shows as a yoot, and I don't remember people being so polite. "Excuse me," the fat punk with the studded jean jacket and shaved head said as he scooted past me at the bar. Excuse me? What is this, Sunday Tea? You should be growling "Get the fuck out of my way!" Another punk bumped into me and said "Sorry." Times have changed. The beer spiller never said sorry, though. WHY DON'T YOU LEARN SOME MANNERS, YOUNG MAN?

4. The sound was pretty terrible. Very hard to make out vocals. H. R. basically swayed in place with his hands in his pockets. Hard to bust him for it, though. HE'S 53 YEARS OLD. But people seemed to be enjoying the hell out of it. Crowd surfing! They don't have crowd surfing at the stand-with-your-arms-crossed indie rock shows I go to.

5. Not knowing much about Bad Brains, I can't really comment on the music. Like I said, everyone seemed to be having a great time.

6. The cab driver on the way home was great. Old Jewish guy. "When I moved here 45 years ago, you never saw any gays! I lived at Pine and Powell! Bars used to give away free hot dogs back in those days!"

(OH ONE THING I FORGOT - one of the openers was a rapper called P.O.S. who I liked quite a bit. So, uh, check him out, I guess.)

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