L.A. Rising 07/30/11
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum – Los Angeles, CA
Words/Photos by Reverend Justito
I moved to Los Angeles just shy of a decade ago. Before moving down here I was as Bay Area as it comes. The use of the word hella was still our thing. I didn’t eat meat, enjoyed public transportation and went green back in the late 80’s. I knew I was moving to a whole new world, but nothing could have prepared me for that first 18 months living in the City of Angels. The fact is Los Angeles is a hard city to live in and while you can keep your hippie dreams and try to make a dent you need tough skin. I would not have survived those 18 months without the guidance and protection of one man. Our initial bond was Rage Against The Machine. We shared stories of shows from Oakland to San Diego. So you had to know it would be him who would take care of me again with the offer of an extra ticket roughly 24 hours before the gates of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum opened.
The Festival Experience
I walked around the entire horse shoe of the stadium. The entire time I saw three things. Lite Beer stands, Merchandise stands and Food stands. OK, there was a poorly placed stage where KROQ was blasting Rush/Faith No More mash ups, but not much else going on. I couldn’t even find a first aid stand to see if they had earplugs (I picked a bad day to forget them that’s for sure). I finally made it to the other side of the stadium for the promised revolution, something called the “Re-Education Camp.” While it was nice to see organizations like Greenpeace, Food Not Bombs and Iraq Veterans Against The War be allowed to set up for free, the area felt more like an Indian Reservation then an opportunity to save the world. The camp was a small parking lot adjacent to the grounds. Tents were small, poorly lit and the whole thing felt depressing. We know you can hardly make ends meet, but we need help so please sign up for our email list and give us cash.
While I understand that you need many stands to feed what I am guessing ended up around 85,000 people, the entire stadium walk around was capitalism at its best. $8 Hot Dogs, $30 T-shirt and $9 Beer as far as you can see. Speaking of beer, I assumed a festival would have more than Coors Lite, Miller Lite and if you were lucky enough to find it tucked away in the corner behind section 25 Dos Equis. So when it comes to being a festival, L.A. Rising has a long way to go. This is not the revolution; this was a corporate cash grab stadium gig at its finest.
To make things worse (and I realize that this only happened to a small percentage of guests) when I made it to my seat I discovered it was covered with a large black cloth. As it turns out there was a last minute security change where they decided to cover these seats to help prevent individuals from sneaking onto the floor. Between Immortal Technique and Lauryn Hill I walked back around the stadium for my seat exchange. The guy at the tent asked if I was alone or with a group. I told him I was meeting 5 other people and he promised me that my ticket was with them. I look at my new ticket and it was for the same exact section, except seat 10 was now found in row 5 instead of row 2. Knowing my group was in the stadium, I finally texted them between Muse and Rage worried that I had not seen them in the empty seats next to me. As it turns out, they were given tickets in section 8 clear across the stadium from me. So instead of sharing the day with the folks I was supposed to share it with I sat alone. Going to shows alone all the time it could be worse I suppose, but I lost my chance to see Rage with someone I really wanted to see Rage with and I don’t know if I will ever get that chance again. I do want to say thanks EC for getting me into the revolution, it means a lot to me.
I am not a huge hip hop fan so where I have heard the name Immortal Technique, I didn’t know who they (or as it turns out he) was. I missed the first half of his set checking out the Re-Education Camp and that was a huge mistake on my part. Just walking down the long tunnel towards my section I liked what I heard coming from the stage. Instead of finding my seat near the side of the stage I decided to head up and over to get a better view for photos. When not joking with the crowd and his crew on stage, Immortal Technique dazzled the crowd with hard hitting rhymes that spanned his entire career. Highlights included the song “Memories,” his banter encouraging folks to steal his music so they can hear the message and a guest spot from Chino XL. As some folks kicked me from a seat which I had no right to be in, the east coast rapper unleashed a harsh yet often hilarious rant attacking hip hop played on the radio, Summer Jam, Amy Winehouse and Casey Anthony. If I do listen to hip hop, it needs to have bite and both Chino XL and Immortal Technique managed to show me they had that bite in a sun drenched college football stadium. Consider me a fan.
Ms. Lauryn Hill
I get it, she had some solid jams over a decade ago. But for the love of God Goldenvoice, why the hell do you shove this shit down our throats? At least at Coachella you have 14 different options if you don’t want to watch a fucking train wreck. I could think of 24 acts that would have been better for the slot. I watched the opening “Killing Me Softly” which sounded more like a Rastafarian who has been smoking oxycontin for three days then oh I don’t know music? I tried to give it a chance but it was rough with a bad PA and a band that sounds like they were pulled together a day before the show. Whatever came next was even worse but hey don’t worry. It gave me a chance to go drink a beer with Skwerl of Antiquiet fame. Yes I could still hear her butchering hits from the concourse area, but that didn’t ruin my Dos Equis drank by this blatant name dropping music snob.
This was make or break for me when it comes to Rise Against. I had seen the band twice before, once was great and the other left me wanting a bit more. Could these guys who have headlines sold out arenas in this town make the jump from that level to dinner time/twilight stadium rockers? The answer was clear – Yes.
For the first time that I saw all day, huge circle pits broke out on the floor (which was divided into an A section up front, a middle B section and a rear C section upsetting many fans). Despite the sound system struggling throughout their set, the band bashed out hit after hit including “The Good Left Undone,” “Prayer Of The Refuge” and “Ready To Fall.” The highlight of the set however was when front man Tim McIlwraith strapped on an acoustic guitar and sang the powerful anti-war number “Hero Of War.” You could hear a pin drop it was so quiet inside the only venue to host two Olympic Games. Los Angeles has always given Rise Against a lot of love and it was great to see them take the next step in an already well accomplished career.
Having purchased a ticket for Outside Lands last Spring, L.A. Rising did me a huge favor by having Muse booked as a headliner. Having seen the band last fall, and now at L.A. Rising I have high hopes of having my Girl Talk cherry popped in Golden Gate Park. The band who can headline multiple nights in Football Stadiums across the pond felt right at home inside the massive Coliseum (further cementing my beliefs last fall that the 20,000 seat Staples Center was too small for the group). On a pure technical/skill level this was hands down the best set of the night.
Much like Rise Against, Muse spent much of their set rocking their wildly popular radio hits. Early on “Supermassive Black Hole” and “Hysteria” got fists pumping from the crowd in between deeper cuts like “Uprising” and “United States of Eurasia.” What is scary about Muse is how easy they make it look. Front man Matthew Bellamy can transition effortlessly from guitar to piano within the same song and own your ass on both instruments.
Packing their four biggest hits within the last five songs, the energy of the near capacity crowd was something truly special. From the TV spot friendly melodies of “Starlight” to the edge of manic meltdown that is “Stockholm Syndrome” the band had the crowd eating from the palm of their hands. It’s almost too easy for Muse; it’s really not even fair. Keep in mind I was unable to view the light show/effects the band had on stage and I was still blown away. As the final notes of “Knights Of Cydonia” rang through the PA, I knew even if I do see Muse at Outside Lands, I will still be blown away.
Rage Against The Machine
The last time I saw Rage Against The Machine was at the Battle of Los Angeles Tour Kickoff at the then Oakland Arena in Oakland, CA. That was almost 12 years ago. With the Olympic Torch lit and the arches of the Coliseum lighted up blood red, a brief video history of Rage Against The Machine played to the cheers of the crowd. Where love and respect was had for most of the other acts at the inaugural L.A. Rising, it was clear that this crowd was here for the lone appearance of Rage Against The Machine in 2011. The band started it off right with “Testify” and while it sucked to have the PA cut out twice it was clear that the band was beyond ready to bring the Coliseum down.
I was personally excited for how early Rage made it into the set After “Testify” the next seven songs came from the group’s first two releases. Highlights included an explosive “Bombtrack” along with fierce versions of “Bulls On Parade” “Township Rebellion” and “Bullet In The Head.” While there was one or two missed notes, the band sounded as if they had been on the road for a year. Vocalist Zach De La Rocha sounded great and even added a few new lines into songs like “Down Rodeo.”
During the set closing “Wake Up” De La Rocha took a large moment in time to address what he feels is a violent tension rising within Los Angeles. He compared foreclosures to empty hotel rooms in brand new developments downtown as a bonfire blazed towards the top of the stadium. It has been a few years since we have had a good riot here in Los Angeles, and the way things are going in this world we are probably due for one and De La Rocha made sure to encourage the crowd to take to streets. The band closed the night with an encore featuring their most explosive songs “Freedom>Killing In The Name Of.” With 12+ hours in the sun, the floor exploded into the biggest and most chaotic pits of the night as the hometown heroes celebrated a triumphant performance in downtown Los Angeles. Will this be the last Rage Against The Machine show as some have hinted? Who knows?
In closing L.A. Rising was a raging success for all the wrong reasons. Corporate America sold the revolution to a bunch of angry music fans. No doubt it will return next year with Common and System of a Down and the folks who struggle to make ends meet will throw down $100+ a ticket to get into the
Electric Daisy Replacement revolution. For my taste there needed to be more then bands reminding me that times are fucked. Where were the forward thinking food options? Where was the fair and affordable food options? The fact is the movement spent Saturday afternoon handing their hard earned cash back to the ones who have used our politicians to steal it from us in the first place. Turns out the joke is on us.