Better Than: Any of the Henry Rollins / Bad Brains collabos.
The Reunion Mania of the 2000s is a curious phenomenon. Sometimes (usually?) it's all a bunch of nostalgic, cash-in bullshit. Every now and then -- like, for example, in the case of Michael Gira's reinvigorated Swans, or the new era of Dinosaur Jr. -- a reunion manages to be a resumption of the band's work and not just a tribute to it. While our pre-show interview with Bad Brains founder Dr. Know has us firmly convinced the good doctor is a man-of-music, we couldn't help but feel that his legendary hardcore band's performance last night at Revolution was a little phoned-in.
The most succinct description of the evening's first set, from Miami's ultimate party band Furious Dudes would be: "very pro." Despite claims that they would be getting as high as humanly possible prior to their performance, their big-room friendly pairing of anthemic punk with bluesy bar rock rang out crystal clear. The Dudes were high energy on stage but were met with a yet to be warmed-up audience still trickling in. They performed their opening act duties with gracious aplomb.
Birdhand were next, but did little in the way of increasing the energy of the crowd. While County Grind appreciates eclectically booked tours featuring complimentary (but not redundant) openers, boring music is still boring music. Birdhand's technically sound but aesthetically torturous alterna-prog oscillated between faux-epic, comically emo, and overwritten to a point of unintended compositional incoherence.
After a long-broiling build-up -- resplendent with endless "Bad Brains!" chants and less structured screaming, both of which snowballed in intensity as Revolution's red curtain remained drawn -- Dr. Know and company finally took the stage. County Grind was surprised to see frontman H.R. behind a guitar, especially for opening number (and P.M.A. superclassic, "Attitude"). So much of the allure of live Bad Brains is the extraordinary showmanship of the group's lead vocalist, something like punk rock's archetypal miscreants (Iggy, Darby, G.G., and so on) minus the cartoonish petulance, and infused with savage primality.
Unfortunately, even when he wasn't behind a guitar, H.R. was relatively disengaged with his band, the audience, and, seemingly, himself. He sang/shouted relatively quiet the entire night, so much so that we paused to wonder if his mic was even on. There's a chance his low volume was a countermeasure against whatever he was rambling on the mic about in between songs. Like we said, the content was lost on us, but his body language and facial expressions -- both of which betrayed a sense of something manic afoot -- communicated his message just fine. Additionally we'd like to note he was wearing at least three visible layers of clothing including a green body suit.
The set itself was a matter-of-fact greatest hits run through that peaked with singalongs and code red mosh conditions whenever the group played notable hardcore numbers like "Right Brigade," "Banned In D.C.," and "Pay to Cum." The reggae songs put everyone to sleep, just like they've been doing for years. Though novel to see this legendary act on stage, the urgency that made them legends in the first place was absent.
The Crowd: Warped Tour diehards, old dudes, shirtless bros, overdressed girlfriend's holding shirts, one fan mohawk, numerous Bad Brains shirts.
Overheard In The Crowd: "I want my 30 dollars back."
Personal Bias: County Grind believes Bad Brains should get into dubstep.
Random Detail: The hot dogs at Revolution are cheaper and tastier than those at the Fillmore Miami Beach. Additionally, Revolution supplies Publix-brand relish.
Bad Brains Setlist
Give Thanks And Praises
I & I Survive
Banned In D.C.
I Luv I Jah
At The Movies
Pay To Cum