Expectations were high for the return of legendary Washington, D.C.-based punk band Bad Brains to the Music Farm, and all eyes were on unpredictable lead singer H.R. (short for Human Rights). He has a history of erratic stage performances and there's no doubt that he's an eccentric guy. His energy level wavered at times, but he didn't blow it.
Following opening sets from Santa Cruz, Calif.-based punks Birdhand and local indie band the Shaniqua Brown, Bad Brains hit the stage and played a mix of their classic thrash anthems and reggae-styled originals. The extreme tempo changes between songs caught people off guard and even left some disappointed. A few of the younger fans seemed confused that they played reggae at all.
When Bad Brains cranked it up, though, they killed it. They're still a solid band. Guitarist Dr. Know (a.k.a. Gary Miller) hasn't lost his chops. "Attitude" started things off, and "Banned in D.C." showed up about halfway through the set. The show lost some momentum after that, and H.R. even sat on the drum riser at one point.
By the time the first chords of "Re-ignition" came across the PA, the crowd was hungry to get the pit going again. They surged forward to catch the last bit of intensity of the show. "Pay to Cum" followed along with a searing "I Against I." Drummer Earl Hudson kept up a strong and complex beat.
H.R.'s voice didn't quite soar over the classic anthems like it used to. During some of the slower songs, he seemed to check out and did a kind of silent pantomime that imitated singing. But for most of the show, he did pretty well, compared to past shows where he just stared at the crowd.
On a side note, local band Shaniqua Brown made a strong impression with their opening set on the punk veterans who came out of the woodwork for the show. Afterward, outside the club, you could hear people grumbling about H.R. but raving about seeing Shaniqua Brown for the first time.