H.R. at the Whiskey A Go Go: Pay to Cum, but don’t pay-to-play

Photo by Jon Tamkin

H.R. is like Sasquatch. He pops up from time-to-time to play a show and everyone I talk to about it is always “so bummed I missed him”.  Well, H.R. popped up again this past Friday at The Whisky A Go Go. He’s the rarest of punk legends because it doesn’t seem like he is trying to milk anything. He seems to play gigs when he feels like it and even sometimes, leaves the stage whenever he feels like it. The last time I saw him a couple years ago, he pulled a couple disappearing acts in the middle of the set. I wasn’t quite sure if this was planned since the band was ready and polished enough to break into a series of Suicidal Tendencies songs without missing a beat. I just hoped that we got more of H.R. this time.

I got to the venue early and joined the band back-stage. I walked in and H.R. and company were watching an episode of Different Strokes on the T.V. in the green room. I sat down next to H.R. and watched with them. How many people get to say they watched re-runs with H.R.? More friends filed in and eventually, it felt like being backstage with the band before a show.

hr bad brains

Human Rights band is made up of other notorious punk rockers like Stuart Casson of Meatmen fame and of course, Louie Mayorga from Luicidal, original bass player for Suicidal Tendencies, whose name might be a trivia question for everyone except those who grew up around these parts. The guys were joined by trusted D.C. comrade Grant Garretson on drums, Mr. Green aka The Hawaiian Lyon on backup vocals and they played a set list that ranged from roots, first and second album Suicidal Tendencies songs and of course, Bad Brains classics like Pay To Cum, Leaving Babylon and Right Brigade. It took every shred of self control in me not to grab the mic during “Subliminal” and “Institutionalized”. H.R. isn’t doing any back flips off stage anymore but he is having a great fucking time and I’m pleased to report he made no premature exits from the stage during this show. He looked happy.

The gig would’ve been a lot better if every other one of the 70 other bands on the bill weren’t pay-to-play acts. The audience was reflective of that fact. The kids that were crammed against the stage were obviously there to see H.R. but it looked to me like they were watching a show on their iPad rather than doing what they should’ve been doing: losing their fucking minds. Next time H.R. plays I hope there are some other, complimentary bands on the bill to stir the pot before H.R. comes on stage. Atmosphere is everything at shows and a venue half full with friends of the pay-to-play bands is not the right atmosphere for an icon like H.R. and company.

This was billed as a part of the Sunset Strip Music Festival, but didn’t get that vibe since I barely heard about this show and most tickets were sold on the backs of unknown, pay-to-play bands.

Review & Photos: Danny Baraz



Review by Danny Baraz

More features by the writer:

Sunset Strip Music Festival Day 1: saying goodbye to the old strip

GBH and Adolescents deliver a vintage set to hardcore fans at the Fonda

Stiff Little Fingers and GFP ignite a skate punk fire at the El Rey Theatre

Ty Segall rumbles first night at The Echo despite a wallflower crowd

One thought on “H.R. at the Whiskey A Go Go: Pay to Cum, but don’t pay-to-play

  1. MoeV

    Sadly, lukewarm reactions at the whiskey are all too common. It’s almost embarrassing. Outside of MSG, that stage is the holiest of holies in the world of rock venues, IMO.

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