Review by Kevin Templeton
Photography by Michael LaRivière
This was certainly the case recently as the Rage Against the Machine tour came through town. To be at this event, you had to really want it, to need it, as it were. Several untimely events -- the Team Canada double OT match vs. Sweden, the sky-is-falling rainfall -- fought with my own psyche, but I made it. Hustling myself around B.C. Place in a mild sprint, I could hear the opening chords of the evening's first band and I dreaded the unlikely possibilities of meeting the friends whom I'd arranged to hang with. Hey, no one ever said revolution comes easy.
First at bat were Stanford Prison Experiment, who played straight-ahead emo-core jive rock of the shaved head, collared shirt variety. Not knowing who they were as I walked in and began watching their set, stupid me asked the pizza -slice guy, only to receive no response other than a "get a life" look, reinforcing my need to know. Sometimes visceral, often one-dimensional, yet tight and convincing, S.P.E. almost reminded me of a white version of Rage Against the Machine. The ruckus of moshers up front seemed into the band, even though their frontman seemed a little winded after awhile.
Perennial indie rockers Girls Against Boys were next up, and I was pleasantly satisfied with their cool, sultry, angst-free sound. You've got to give the band high marks for recording one last album (House of GVSB) for indie label Touch and Go before advancing to the major conglomerate that they will record next for. Singer/guitarist Scott McLeod, coming across like an intensified Paul Westerberg [ed. !], told the audience, "...you're gonna get Raged, we'll just provide a little foreplay." And foreplay it was, as the four-piece throbbed forward with noisy, dark rock that's rooted in D.C. punk but played with a tangible New York swagger. After awhile, the keyboardist became a little annoying, announcing the band's name over and over after every song. Still, a fine band with style and substance.
After a horrendously long wait between sets, Rage Against the Machine finally took to the stage and exploded into "Bulls on Parade," a hard, enthusiastic tirade against the U.S. military and its mentality. To say the place went nuts would be an understatement: not since Ministry at Lollapalooza '92 have I seen such an emotional, surging (read "fucking crazy") response from a crowd.
Frontman Zack de la Rocha barked his political raps like he was at a Republican convention, hosting other notable diatribes to follow such as the stomping "Know Your Enemy" and the fierce "Vietnow." Tom Morello, guitarist, writer and former scheduling secretary for U.S. Senator Alan Cranston, is like the intellectual guitar god of hip-hop metal, with his endless displays of weird sound effects (via strings and pedals) and crude, bare Led Zeppelin-meets-funk riffs.
"People of the Sun," "Bullet in the Head" and "Killing in the Name" rounded out the set, with the band returning to the stage to finish off the crowd with the conclusive "Freedom." Personally, I was hoping the band would progress into more of a hip-hop direction with their latest CD, Evil Empire, but having seen this concert, I've definitely come to appreciate the newer songs more than I had previously.
And the revolution? Wandering sheepishly through a maze of hostile youth, I wondered if event security were aware of the fence-jumping being partaken by several broke (or just cheap) Rage fans throughout the final set. Earlier one, one desperate soul crashed heavily into the outhouse I'd fortunately just finished using, he having hopped the barricade and was now scurrying away like a rabbit running for its life. Then there was the guy who, not entirely convinced of the laws of gravity, dove at least ten feet from a pillar onto the waiting hands and heads of the people below, most of whom were chanting "Jump! Jump! Jump!" Wicked.
Ultimately, this was surely one of the most intense performances of musical activism I have ever witnessed. Ask anyone who was there. "Township Rebellion" never felt so good.
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