Punk you, Bad Brains

By Duncan Scott Davidson

I went to the Bad Brains show at Slim’s last night. The sad admission: I’d never seen them before. I mean, I had, for the Rise (Epic, 1993) tour with Israel Joseph I on vocals instead of HR, which really doesn’t count, now does it? Sort of like going to the Wonka Chocolate Factory and being shown around by someone named “Millie Monka” instead of Willie Wonka.

Needless to say, I was stoked on the show last night, though I wasn’t expecting to see HR playing a guitar, an F-hole Ibanez with a blue sunburst paint job. That was all well and good, and added a little more crunch to the music (as if it needed any). I remember being physically moved by the early Brains footage in American Hardcore, just floored by how raw and forceful they were live. Nonetheless, I knew HR wasn’t in his twenties anymore, and wouldn’t be wearing a white droogie outfit and doing flips. Still, during the reggae tracks, when he wasn’t moored to his guitar, he stood with his hands in the pockets of his oversized ragamuffin Harry Potter hoodie-cardigan-blazer thing, his eyes slits, clearly higher than Haile Selassie I. You figure the guy can’t be a whole lot older than fellow DC favorite son Henry Rollins, but you know Hank wouldn’t rock out with his hands in his pockets. Of course, Rollins doesn’t smoke a whole cannabis club to his head every day. And what is it with being from DC and affecting a Jamaican accent? Does playing reggae and being a Rasta mean God sends down and authentic accent from above? Does converting to Hinduism make you speak like a Bollywood star?

Bad Brains, back in the day.