In an interview with Kevin & Bean earlier this month, [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Tom Morello[/lastfm] of [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Rage Against The Machine [/lastfm]said that Rage hadn’t played a proper show in Los Angeles since 1999.
So what do you do when you want to play an awesome, seminal show and you are as massive as Rage? You organize your own, make it a festival setting with your favorite bands (like Muse, Rise Against, Ms.Lauryn Hill, [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Immortal Technique[/lastfm], and [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]El Gran Silencio[/lastfm]) and give it a righteous name like L.A. Rising.
Right now, KROQ is at the Coliseum live blogging the first ever L.A Rising. Check back here for live show reviews, great pictures of the event, backstage reports, and maybe some embarrassing confessions.
Frown. Show’s over, kids. You all are surprisingly good looking in the bright lights. Now where we drinking?
There is no better way to start a Rage show than silence. The darkness. The scream of sirens. And then Zack De La Rocha stepping on the stage with a simple greeting for Los Angeles.
If someone had never seen Rage before, it would totally belie how their sound would eventually explode through the eardrums, their words perpetually provoking what has been pounded into us by society.
Although, according to their Kevin & Bean interview, Rage Against The Machine hasn’t “technically” played a show in Los Angeles since 1999 (apparently all those shows in between didn’t count as actual show-shows), Rage is still as primal, vicious, and gut-ripping as they were when the first set themselves like wildfire onto the music scene.
Railing into songs like “Bombtrack,” I’m sure Rage didn’t realize that their metaphorical sonic fire was realistically being played out in some tribal, orgiastic dance in the pit around an actual bonfire.
The fire was first noticed during Rage’s third song, “People Of The Sun,” dangerously acting out lyrics like “it’s coming back around again/this is for the people of the sun.” Their “sun” will eventually be put out when the night ends, but those people will always have that story of how they lit fire to their world during a Rage show. Some took that seriously by lighting sticks on fire and flinging the sparks across the pit.
Hopefully, they don’t take Rage’s mantra of “Sleep Now In The Fire” seriously. Which, of course, Rage Against The Machine played no-holds-barred to the throbbing beast of over seventy-thousand people that were in the Coliseum.
Maybe lighting fire to half a dozen people around you is “an American dream,” but “Know Your Enemy” lists many others, essentially the theme of the whole entire day. It’s interesting to see De La Rocha open up on stage when in person he is seemingly so private.
The raucous, politically-aggressive energy that is inside him comes out in intensive spurts, with shadows of shyness seeping through. In a way, seeing these quiet moments within De La Rocha make his philosophies and even his anger more lyrically-believable. Yes, there is Rage, but there is also passionate intelligence, without which the Rage would just become a chaotic monster.
De La Rocha was not the only one who showed us this tonight. During “Bulls On Parade,” Tom Morello’s monstrous guitar solo literally reverberated through the air, up to the top of the Coliseum, through the floor into my feet, and through my body.
Ironically, when Rage Against The Machine played “Bullet In Your Head,” their song that alludes to blindly giving into the wills of major corporations, all from the luxury of your living room, when De La Rocha sang “when I say jump, you say how high?,” the whole crowd jumped as high as they could.
The difference is Rage Against The Machine’s audience isn’t jumping blindly, but with pure, conscientious purpose. When they jump at a Rage Against The Machine show, they jump so that they never feel the motivation to jump for the man.
As Rage says two songs later in their tune “Guerilla Radio,” “it has to start somewhere/it had to start sometime/what better place but here/what better time than now.”
There is no better time than now at Rage Against The Machine’s first official music festival L.A. Rising. They managed to curate six fantastic, socially-inspiring artists of all different musical genres, but with the same overall message: Change needs to start now.
I WON’T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME.
Unless, of course, you are Rage Against The Machine.
Will Rage have a finale? Why is that even a question?
There are people dancing around a bonfire during Rage Against The Machine. Because that’s really safe.
But, have no fear, one of the many versions of Batman is in the crowd in case we need him to save the day.
Not to brag or anything, but Rise Against came in our pressbox to watch Rage Against The Machine with us.
OK, I’m bragging. Whatever.
British progressive-glam rock band, Muse, have the uncanny ability to make you feel transported to another level of consciousness while being insane beasts on their instruments. It seemed quite fitting that their second song was “Uprising,” with lyrics like “they will not force us/they will stop degrading us/they will not control us/we will be victorious.”
The purple fog, futuristic eyeball graphics, giant eyeball balls thrust into the crowd, psychedelic lightning bolts, and purple haze don’t distract from the fact that Muse are technically stellar musicians. And, yes,there will be continuos allusions to stars, the universe, and stardom in the musical metaphors and overall synesthetic feeling that Muse evokes.
After all, they purposely try to create a sonically massive, but transcendent energy in their music, sort of like what you would imagine the big bang to sound like. Case in point: their performance of “Supermassive Black Hole” tonight–complete with giant moving green mouths.
Then Muse bettered themselves. “Butterflies and Hurricanes,” with its sparkling piano, Dominic Howard’s righteous drumming, and Matthew Bellamy’s operatic vocals were sublime enough, until the smoke jets went off explosively in front of the stage, shrouding Muse in all their musical, mythological glory and then we realized that they could take their show to overwhelmingly colossal levels.
For a split second, so our heads wouldn’t explode will sheer bliss, Muse slowed it down, but immediately took it all back with their very Queen-esque song “United States of Eurasia.” Much of Muse’s symphonically complex sound is very reminiscent of the mathematical music popular in the ’70s and early ’80s like [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Queen[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Rush[/lastfm], and [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Electric Light Orchestra[/lastfm] with a little [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]David Bowie [/lastfm] glam and echoes of electronic-focused Britpop like [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Radiohead[/lastfm].
Throughout their set, Muse did tiny musical vignettes to their musical heroes in between their own songs, like bits of [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Led Zeppelin[/lastfm], the [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Animals[/lastfm], and even the National Anthem.
The drumming and the fast-fingered basslines all jam out as sexy, perfect examples of what stadium rock should be. Muse’s sound is so large it seems to want to even break free from the giant venue that is the Coliseum. After a rhythm breakdown, the band broke into the more mid-tempo tortured love song “Undisclosed Desires.”
Muse didn’t talk much (Immortal Technique take note) except to say that Rage Against The Machine has been one of their favorite bands since they were kids.
Why talk when you can just play “The Resistance” at full volume? Or, in the case of the next two songs, why even sing when you can get thousands and thousands of people to sing verbatim the lyrics to your hit singles “Starlight” or “Time Is Running Out.” The ensuing applause, I’m sure, never gets tiresome.
As a live band, Muse deserves this applause. Their set tonight was delivered with such power and perfection that it’s hard to imagine that they ever played tiny shows, practiced in rehearsal space, or didn’t suddenly manifest into the universe with their already genius tiny baby fingers glued to some soft of magical instrument.
Naturally, after the eyeballs, Muse played “Knights of Cydonia,” probably one of their most well-known heavy rock songs, rounding out the set perfectly with lyrical laments of “you and I must fight to survive.”
If you’ve never seen Muse and you are fan of well-constructed riffs, drumming that will rip your soul out of your body, and poetic lyrics belted with poignancy, go see them. And if you’re not a fan of those things, we’re not sure why you even listen to music.
And out come the eyeballs into the crowd! I want one! Look at me…begging for balls.
This is one of the most amazing live shows I have ever seen. Please, haters, before you dismiss Muse, see them live. This is my first time and I can’t even begin to accurately describe how talented these dudes are.
Words are trite, but I guess I’ll have to review them for you in a few minutes.
Muse being epic and awesome and British as usual in their spooky, cinematic entrance.
System Of The Down didn’t even have to play L.A. Rising. They just played half a song and the crowd went wild.
Whoa. It’s getting serious out there. They just moved in a gang load of more security.
We guess it’s going to be harder to stick it to the man than we thought.
Here’s the thing about Rise Against: what negative can really be said about them? Straight-forward, yet complex socially-conscious punk rock, Rise Against are balls-out about who they are, and to top it off, they are pretty ballsy with their live show energy.
These Chicago-natives can really tear apart the stage and bring the audience into a frenzy. Actually, watching the kids in the audience mosh for the entire set made me pretty exhausted.
By the time Rise Against was playing “Halfway There,” there were eight giant mosh pits. Not one. Not two. Eight.
And maybe a couple hundred more tiny ones. I’m practically certain that Rise Against has the ability to make their crazy-devoted fans mosh in their hearts.
Tim McIlrath even called it out, “You guys are crazy in the eyes. I can see if from here.”
Of course, it’s a good kind of crazy. Much like some of the other bands on the bill tonight, Rise Against’s musical political messages and counterculture leanings has help support and cultivate the identities of those who once thought their life philosophies could be classified as the “bad” kind of crazy.
Rise Against literally makes their audience feel, that no matter what is happening in their lives, that “Help Is On The Way.”
Once Rise Against played one of their latest singles of the same name, they played their song which sort of has a little nod to the previous act on stage, “Prayer Of The Refugee.” The sun was beginning to set, as it often does for Rise Against.
As a KROQ fan so eloquently said on Facebook, “as the sun sets, Rise Against rises.”
In Rise Against’s eyes, everyone who still “gives a shit” has the chance to rise. McIlrath pointed out the black flags surrounding the Coliseum and mentioned the Re-Education Camp:
“Out there there are people talking about issues. Issues that have to do with…my future, your future…all of us together. And I’m proud to stand here with his many people who still give a shit about our future.”
He mentioned a very special cause close to his heart before launching into an emotional version of “Hero Of War”: the Irag Veterans Against The War.
“[They are] redefining what patriotism is and I’m talking about the Irag Veterans Against The War.”
Despite the serious messages in their music, Rise Against just seem to be having a good time playing music over a decade after their inception:
“Of all the things you could be doing on a summer night in Los Angeles, I think all you motherf**kers made the right choice.”
“Including the four f**kers on this stage. We’re damn glad you could have us.”
Rise Against need no introductions. They come onstage, the music starts and immediately, the crowd breaks into two distinct moshing styles: the punk rock circle mosh and the crazed, throw-yourself-against-everyone-else mosh.
Umm, hey guys. I just have one thing to say:
If you came to L.A. Rising as a fan of Ms. Lauryn Hill circa the soulful years of the Fugees, the hyper-politcal, oft-times controversial chanteuse gave the audience the song that they wanted (“Killing Me Softly”) as the first song in her set, but she did it with a big middle finger up to those just expecting routine fare.
The song was reincarnated into an experimental, twisted, painful and darkly psychedelic thing. With primal drums, speaker squeals, and acid-like imagery on her stage screens, Ms. Lauryn Hill played her music, but did it the way she wanted.
And it was wonderfully trippy.
Considering Hill just had a baby, the fact that she was even on stage was remarkable. Yes, her voice wasn’t great; her breathing was heavy, hesitant and her sound was unusually raspy.
But Ms. Lauryn Hill always proved with her heavy-rock version of “Everything is Everything” that a pretty woman could tear apart gender rules and so easily mess with our genre expectations. Her “Sweetest Thing” wasn’t very sweet. It was cacophonous and spiked with anger. If that’s not rock ‘n roll, we don’t know what is.
Something about Ms. Lauryn Hill’s jittery, frenetic vocals and stage presence (most notably when she sang Stevie Wonder’s song “Don’t Wonder Why”) reminded us of the late Amy Winehouse–especially when she came out on stage and the audience expected her to stick to the “program” of what they “expected” from her as a musician.
In a way, watching musicians at their worst, having musical meltdowns, or try something new (and fail) with their sound, gives us some insight into the core of their personality–instead of what the media feeds us.
That being said, the vast part of the audience (that wasn’t already a diehard fan) didn’t seem very happy with Ms.Lauryn Hill’s performance. They seemed most comfortable when she was rapping, or they roared with pleasure when she mentioned her career with the Fugees.
Her version of “Fu-Gee-La” with twee clarinet sound, Caribbean drums, and background gospel singing was a weird amalgamation of sounds that furthered our theory that Ms. Lauryn Hill just got up on stage and said, “Let’s just do whatever we want.”
Love her or hate her, you’ve got to respect Ms. Lauryn Hill for doing her, no matter what the response.
I spy with my little eye…eyeballs. No, literally. There are giant white balls with eyes on them backstage.
Combined with the psychedelic, ink blot effect of her video screens, Ms. Lauryn Hill’s acid rock versions of her soulful classics are messing with our minds.
Ms. Lauryn Hill is starting her set by scrambling our brains with high-pitched transmissions from extraterrestrials.
Reggae. Is. Making. Me. Feel. Super. Mellow.
Yep, just reggae. Mmmhmm.
A word of advice from the author to Immortal Technique: I agree with everything you say, Immortal Technique, but why do you have to say it? You’re a rapper. Rap it.
But Blackout called it; he’s seen Immortal Technique several times and said, “This guy is never going to stop talking.”
Morello said in his interview with Kevin & Bean that Harlem underground rapper (by way of Peru) was handpicked because of his brash political leanings. Immortal Technique definitely shook the audience out of their stupor; Felipe Coronel a/k/a Immortal Technique has a ton of opinions and he even harasses the crowd in a hilariously provocative, but enlightening way.
He’s definitely coming at the game with good intentions, slick rhyming techniques, and a lot of artistic integrity. If you’ve ever heard “Dance With The Devil,” you know Immortal Technique is a lyrical, storytelling star.
But I was distracted from his undoubted skill as a rapper, performance artist, and political activist by his constant talking.
Coronel is a smart, conscientious dude. He doesn’t need to fill up space with his mediocre hype men or pounding his message into the audience’s psyche repeatedly. We did like his special guest, fellow hip-hop artist, Chino XL. His pop-culture infused metaphorical lyrics were spot-on and fantastically vicious.
However, I did have some favorite “talking” moments. One was when he told the audience to get off heroin and that “we need you in the struggle, we don’t need you in recovery”; when he called out the selfish dudes grabbing swag from the chicks, “if you just elbowed a female to catch a shirt…give her the shirt you p**y”; and when he told the whole audience to steal his music, “go home, log on to your computer, or you million dollar device that you have in your crib, and just steal all my music.”
Mostly a rock show, a lot of the audience didn’t really come to see hip-hop; some don’t even like hip-hop. Obviously, Immortal Technique had a response to that:
“In my mind there’s just good music and bad music…It’s about good music. It’s about culture. It’s about a message. When people complain about hip-hop…you’re not digging deep enough. Come to the underground. We’ll show you a message…We aren’t scared of the people. We are the people.”
Unrelated: Blackout said that Spicy Pie is the best festival pie. We’ll be the judge of that.
Immortal Technique is more about the preaching and less about the rapping. He’s still rockin’ it though.
Underground, super political hip-hop artist, Immortal Technique takes the stage seven minutes early and precedes to tell the audience that this should be a “real coliseum where they would sick lions on you,” that it’s not a “methadone clinic” and to “wake the f**k up.”
We know, we know: Rage, Muse, and Rise are huge bands and most people coming to L.A. Rising are here to see them, but El Gran Silencio killed it. They are infectious, boisterous Rock En Español with funky horns, dancehall beats, tongue-limbering rapping, and fusions of cumbia and banda in their driving, dance-oriented rhythm section.
The one word that sums up El Gran Silencio best: Fun.
From their hilarious stage presence, to their crazy, freewheeling energy and punk rock style, El Gran Silencio might be from Monterrey, Mexico (and certainly proud of it considering they yelled “Viva Mexico” more than a handful of times), but they evoke the pure, raucous fire that is Los Angeles.
The one thing we were most disappointed about in their performance: That we weren’t in the pit “skanking.”
God, it’s been a long time since we’ve done that (or used that word.)
The whole crowd is moving in sync to the sound of El Gran Silencio’s accordion. From up here, it’s a beautiful sight.
Mexican Latin rock band, [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]El Gran Silencio[/lastfm], just came onstage. The horns! The accordion! So good. Great way to start the day–dancing. If you aren’t dancing at this point, you can’t be helped.
One song in, it’s impossible not to like El Gran Silencio. Like this dude says:
You fools are obviously ready to get down. Check out this crowd surfing at the KROQ stage before the actual show starts:
Lest we not forget that a huge component of L.A. Rising is raising awareness about different social causes, Rage Against The Machine created the Re-Education Camp.
We took a tour through the camp and talked to the some of the dedicated volunteers. Comprised of about thirty-two causes, the Re-Education Camp showcases a wide array of non-profit organizations and causes including environmental initiatives, protesters against government intervention and big businesses, animal cruelty education, California community empowerment and immigration rights, education about poverty, and support for the troops.
One of the highlights from our walkthrough was Jail Guitar Doors USA. According to their website, The Clash released the song in 1978 called “Jail Guitar Doors” which tells the story of Wayne Kramer of MC5’s imprisonment. A few years ago, Kramer and Billy Bragg got together to honor Joe Strummer in an initiative to provide musical equipment used to rehabilitate inmates serving time through the power of music.
We also talked to the Youth Justice Coalition and PETA. The Youth Justice Coalition organizes the Free L.A. High School-“the school where street knowledge can take you to college.” Youth Justice Coalition helps youth who are out of school get a real education like your high school diploma, GED, or a jobs.
PETA stands for People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals. and is the largest animal rights organization in the wold. PETA strives to help animals from cruel suffering like factory farms, clothing trade, laboratories, and in the entertainment industry. PETA conducts intensive investigations into animal cruelty, educates the public, enforces legislation, and creates protest campaigns.
Some more highlights were LAANE, USA for UNHCR, and Axis of Justice. LAANE is a leading advocacy organization dedicated to building a new economy by utilizing research, public policy and the organizing of broad alliances, LAANE promotes a new economic approach based on good jobs, thriving communities and a healthy environment.
The United States Association for UNHCR (USA for UNHCR) supports the UN Refugee Agency’s humanitarian work to protect and assist refugees around the world. We strive to meet the needs of the world’s most vulnerable people, building support and awareness in the United States for UNHCR’s life-saving relief programs.
Axis of Justice is a non-profit organization formed by Tom Morello and Serj Tankian. Its purpose is to bring together musicians, fans of music, and grassroots political organizations to fight for social justice. AOJ aim to build a bridge between fans of music around the world and local political organizations to effectively organize around issues of peace, human rights, and economic justice.
For more info on ALL the great causes represented at L.A. Rising, go to L.A. Rising’s site here!
We’ve been here for two hours already, the event hasn’t even started, and we’ve already gotten kicked out twice, snuck back in, and cracked open a beer before noon.
This is rock ‘n roll, dudes–and we love it.
Judging from the cheering and crowd surfing (you people are our heroes) in the huge line to get in, the fun has barely started.
When Muse comes out, this girl is totally ready to become one with the universe:
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