Of all the shows I saw over the weekend, Monotonix and Bad Brains was both the best and worst. Monotonix were incredible, as usual, creating an fully enveloping, sweaty, inclusive, shirtless neighbor hugging experience. It's really more performance art and feeling that they're cultivating than the specifics of music. It's just a shredding, swirly, garbage-tossing, hairy chested, rafter-swinging half-mad love fest. And perhaps most striking of all, it went off in a huge venue (The Roseland) just as well as it did some years ago in the cramped Tube.
Friday, the place was packed, near—if not at—capacity. Monotonix played in the middle of the floor, but their reach seemed to affect even those in the balcony. It was fucking incredible. They rode on drums, crowd surfed, the whole bit.
But as far as Bad Brains went, I want to offer a bit of a retraction (to this). HR was not compelled by the Monotonix chain lightning AT ALL. He was more listless than ever. From my notes:
active distaste and total boredom of HR
He had his hands in his pockets and seemed to be scowling at the crowd. Even his pidly motions like a faux-dance step or clap along seemed sarcastic. It was fucking pathetic. I feel bad for the other Brains, because they seemed to care somewhat, but there's no rising above that kind of scoundrel on the mic.
Just a insipid performance from HR, he might as well have done it sitting down and answered personal phone calls during instrumental breaks. It was really a slap in the face of the audience, and it's hard to think his intentions were anything but.
If HR has reached a point where he doesn't feel these songs anymore, and can't muster up the passion to deliver them while at least appearing to care, he should stop. It's that simple.
Two years ago I wrote that the Bad Brains didn't deserve to be lumped in with the Stooges and Pixies and Queen reunions, as their situation was different. And it may well be for 3/4's of the band (the interview with Daryl Jenifer proved he is a passionate, inspiring man.) But unfortunately, until HR comes around—which at this point seems unlikely—the Bad Brains are not whole, and any continued action appears pointless.
I'm sad this is the way things ended up. But hey, at least we've got Monotonix.
Get the best of the Mercury each week in your inbox!