Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Henry n' HR: The Bad Brains' 'Pay to Cum' has never sounded so brilliant

Henry Rollins and HR with Andy's brother, Ed, stage right. (Anna Summa photo)
Since the above photo generated much discussion on the Black Flag Facebook page this week, we now give you the lowdown on that gig for the ages:

By Andy

HR and the Bad Brains were in full swing, absolutely raging to the ferocious punk-rock beat, when some guy turned around and yelled, "What's PMA stand for?"

"Positive Mental Attitude!" I blasted back, but I'm not sure if the guy heard me over the roaring vocals, guitars and drums -- all steamrolling toward us with such finesse that all other bands that evening seemed useless.

And when Henry Rollins joined the band on stage for the finale, "Pay to Cum," forget about it. Nothing could top that.

The night was March 12, 1982. The place was the Ukrainian Cultural Center on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. Seven bucks for the Bad Brains, Bad Religion, the Lewd and Jody Foster's Army. A powerhouse bill that was hard to beat.

JFA's "Blatant Localism" EP had been a staple on mine and brother Ed's turntable for awhile, so we were stoked to hear "Beach Blanket Bongout" and other tunes live. If my memory serves me correctly, singer Brian Brannon displayed his own version of double-fisting during JFA's set: mic in one hand and a joint in the other.

We also had our eyes on the Lewd that night since its "American Wino" LP was one of our faves, as well. J. Sats Beret whined and gargled his way through the set to our approval, and bassist Olga de Volga and the rest of the SF crew powered things home.

Unfortunately, the cops were up next as they crashed the party-- to our disapproval-- and threatened to pull the plug on the gig because of some problems with the punks outside. After a long wait, and much worrying that we wouldn't get to see the Bad Brains, things were sorted out and the cops toddled off into the night.

Bad Religion then ripped through its set of favorites -- I believe the brilliant "New Leaf" was in there -- but most of us were already leap-frogging the locals' time in the spotlight for what awaited us next.

Yes, Washington, DC's Bad Brains were in the house, and they tore it up in some spots and slowed it down reggae-style in others. And Mr. Rollins and HR brought it all home with a bang in the end.

But that would not be the last we'd hear from those four bands.

A few weeks later, the Bad Brains did it again as they joined the Circle Jerks, Circle One and Public Nuisance for a gig at Devonshire Downs. I'd see the BB's a few more times over the years, but they were never as potent as those first two times in '82. That ROIR cassette still gets some serious airplay around mine and Carrie's home.

JFA surfaced in the LA area again a few months later with Battalion of Saints (!) and the Blades at Bob's Place. I saw them again later at the Whisky, and many years down the road with Carrie at the Hey Punk! festival in Seattle as Brannon traded in his "green" for a piano on some songs. Fu Manchu did "Bongout" right with a solid cover.

We all know what happened to Bad Religion-- some good songs and a lot of average ones that led them into the mainstream. I used to be afraid of my parents seeing their "cross-buster" logo on fliers that adorned the bedroom wall, but it eventually didn't shock as much over time. It's still hard for them to best "New Leaf" in my mind.

The Lewd has also stayed with me over time: I've seen them three times up here in Seattle (where they started out), including two nights straight at the old Breakroom. Beret's body and vocal cords are a bit worn these days, but he can still bring it. "Public Execution" is one of their great "lost" songs and "Dressed in Black" is a stunner.

As for Henry, he did his Black Flag thing well, but a few months after his HR pairing, he crowded up to the stage with us for a Minor Threat gig at Dancing Waters in San Pedro and sang along with Ian MacKaye on "Seeing Red" like he owned the song. Another killer night with Hank and another one of his DC brethren hit the spot for us punk-rock faithful.

1 comment:

  1. I was at the Devonshire Downs show....Best PR show I have ever seen. Bad Brains ripped that shit up. HR did a backflip into the pit and kept singing. Between songs he would rip a bong load. The pit was at least 75"-100" was insane.