Coming Saturday: Bad Brains' Big Takeover of Sunset Junction
When the inevitable Hardcore Hall Of Fame hosts its opening ceremonies at the Huntington Beach Quality Inn’s main ballroom in spring of 2014 (even as debate over the eventual location of the actual Hall is still being debated in the letters pages of Maximum Rock And Roll), Bad Brains will be among its first inductees. From the time of their first recordings in 1979, the influence these DC Rastafarians held over a swath of pimply white teenagers was equivalent to any band of their era: Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, Minor Threat, DOA, anybody. Their sheer other-ness, the fact that they didn’t look or sound anything like the other bands, their ability to bust into a reggae jam at any moment, served notice that this scene could be expanded in any direction its participants wanted to take it.
But beyond that, they brought to American punk both a musical competence and explosive stage presence that went far beyond what the others were yet capable of. With a couple of isolated examples, people hadn’t learned to play that hard, that fast, that well, with that much rocket-fuel energy. Watching late-seventies footage, you can see them right at the beginning of the wave; within two years there would be lots of bands that sounded like this, or tried to, but for a while they stood very much alone, the most intense band in the USA.