JULY 30 | LOS ANGELES—Most artists and bands that realign and move forth with reunions sound like they are doing it to stimulate some cash flow. But this is not the case for Rage Against the Machine, whose reunion was a second-coming. Arriving like Jesus, with open arms of salvation and nirvana through education and revolution, RATM creates meaningful events to garner support and raise money for people and/or organizations that are fighting for a just cause. RATM’s presence is enough to make the LAPD sweat gooey-glazed drops of fear at an impending situation of extreme danger. The recent debacle on Hollywood and Highland at the showing of The Electric Daisy Carnival documentary turned into a flaccid half-riot, in which the LAPD and riot squads barricaded the crowd on Hollywood Blvd. This was enough for the LAPD to act on their fear with regards to RATM; therefore, this concert had the greatest police presence of any concert I’ve ever been to. It was a serene summer day in Southern California at the Coliseum, and everybody had high hopes for this event in multiple facets: musically, socially and educationally.
L.A. Rising began at 3 p.m. with Monterrey, Mexico’s El Gran Silencio executing a cornucopia of genre mash-ups with sonorities ranging from ska/reggae, swing, rockabilly, traditional mariachi, hip hop, jump blues, hard rock, and even a brief homage to The Deltones and their signature surf guitar sound. As a musically proficient and diverse entity, this band consists of trumpet, trombone, accordion, percussion, and the typical rhythm section of two guitar bass and vocals. Past concerts in Los Angeles are proof that a 3 p.m. performance slot at an outdoor venue can be a very intimidating niche to fall into. The Angelino audience can be very unforgiving and will either carefully guide a band through the often- treacherous L.A. media-waters or leave you marinated for millions of sharks to gobble up insecurities with unfounded voices of criticism. El Gran Silencio’s sophisticated sound soared over the mid-day and passed the torch of reason for Immortal Technique to further solidify this event toward social validation.
Immortal Technique is a rapper and an urban activist who struck the match toward the day’s momentum, with a statement about the relevance of a coliseum’s historical practices of fighting to the death. At a non-listener surface glance, this performance could have been looked over as the same immoral, self-centered, self-proclaimed, and materialistic jargon-like nonsense that is so apparent in the hip hop/(new) R&B/rap “game.” Anyone who holds even the slightest knowledge of Immortal is completely aware that his actions validate of all of his commentary on the social and political consciousness and the “state-of-affairs.” In his latest endeavor, he has used all of the profits from his 3rd World release to help non-profit Omeid International build an orphanage in Kabul, Afghanistan, which houses children whom have been displaced or orphaned as a result of the U.S. occupation. His performance packed the power of the leader he is, and he recruited the help of some of his closest musical associates as hype-men, including a brief visit with a freestyle from Chino XL. The set started off with “Bin Laden,” a monumental and daring single (the recording of this song features Mos Def and Chuck-D) with an exquisite shout chorus: “Bin Laden didn’t blow up the projects…. It was you nigga, it was you….Bush knocked down the towers!” His set was full of inspirational words of wisdom and energy-filled proclamations: “Terrorism has no race, no one is illegal, this is our land!” and “Every ghetto has the same problem in every city and every country.” As his set came to a close, repeated acclamations for Rage Against the Machine and every other artist fluttered through the summer breeze, during which he made a point to vocalize the importance of different styles of music and that the only line that must be drawn is between “good and bad music.”
I have had the pleasure of seeing two other performances by Lauryn Hill, and both times she has been inexcusably late (one was a half-hour, and the other was one and a half-hours late). For this particular event, she was fortunately only 15 minutes late. She hit the stage with a mood-setting remix of “Killing Me Softly,” layered with reggae and psychedelic anomalies that forcefully propelled Ms. Lauryn through one of her most memorable performances. She re-visited all of her hits from The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and even touched the soul of The Fugees with her stacked arsenal of bass, guitar, drums, percussion, three back-up singers, and an electronic keyboard/effects artisan. The tempos of her classic hits are exponentially hastened, and they have a power that can never be captured on record. Her band emitted an extraordinary energy and power throughout the performance, with a “wall of sound” that ferociously fed back into the brain and peaceful spirit of L.A. Rising’s supporters.
With the Coliseum 75% full, Rise Against took the stage with a uniformly characteristic black and yellow décor. The audience was the most energetic of the night as mass roars and cheers filled the arena at every pause. Upon first glance at tonight’s bill, Rise Against may seem a little out of place, especially due to the contrasting market they reach; yet as the sun slowly set, solid mosh pits swirled around the general admission floor like toilets flushing mass waste to the soundtrack of a generation’s genre. Rise Against’s music is more against the grain of the night than anyone else’s, but they definitely brought an amazing performance and sufficient introduction to the dramatics of Muse.
The sun is now at full descent into the skeptics of the night, with the temperature dropping by almost 20 degrees below what the day started at. Exceptionally colored by L.A.’s finest air quality, Muse hit the stage with a sullen synth intro painting somber colors into the night’s canvas, as the band performed such favorites as “Hysteria,” “Knights of Cydonia,” “Stockholm Syndrome,” and many more hits. They even intermittently paid homage to their English predecessors Led Zeppelin with a brief quote, continued with AC/DC, and finally a popular fan-favorite, Bob Dylan’s “House of the Rising Sun.” Muse has an excellent stage presence that commanded the energy of the crowd into audible swoons and culminated their set with an enormous burst of approximately 40 gigantic inflatable eyeballs filled with red confetti. As each intoxicated neighbor fell into the next, stumbling in an attempt to pop the biological balloons, the airborne party-favors drew the final curtain upon the anticipation of night’s climax.
We were now all in darkness as red lights started to cast a War of the Worlds glow across the Coliseum; air-raid sirens gawking like prehistoric creatures served as alarms for the LAPD to rush and secure the sea of people before disaster could strike. The local authorities decided to create a stronghold at the core of the event, and event security no longer had control of this concert. Police held a steady grip on the pulse of this show to ensure that the city would not have a violent outpour of emotions like so many predicted. As Rage Against the Machine blasted through an emotional and symbiotic overture, the sea of people became thousands and thousands of squealing maggots squirming for air, as three separate sections of the general admission became gigantic mosh pits. RATM’s live presence ignites undeniable energy from any audience, while the message and the music codify the moment as a movement in this culture’s chain of growth. The sound quality of RATM’s set was incredible, Zach de La Rocha’s vocals withheld stunning clarity, and Tom Morello’s guitar tone wailed with a true originality. It has been a long time since I have seen a performance of this overwhelming depth and energy, as a sense of unity blossomed throughout the entire area. At every brightening change in lighting, I stood in cement-footed awe at this musical monster; the night even saw a few mosh-pit fires that security flocked to extinguish in fear of a tragedy. In spite of what the city authorities might have predicted, L.A. Rising came full circle without a major incident and served the community as a consciousness-raising expeditor and impeccable day of amazing music. As a peaceful contrast to the violence during the set, discussion areas were set up in a section outside of the arena and were filled with volunteers inviting questions and discussions of politics and worldviews. Not only did this event give us some amazing live performances, it served as an echoing reminder that there is magnanimous civil unrest and inequality throughout every city of every country.
For more photos of this event, click here.