“Are the Bad Brains playing tonight?”
Of course, I knew the answer — for months the curators of Okay Space had transformed an idea into a fully-fleshed event, with Darryl Jenifer‘s “Mind Power” exhibition to include a surprise performance from the Bad Brains. But I played the part of the uninformed bartender, telling patrons “I’m just here to serve alcohol” in response to their inquiries about the surprise show.
Then, Jenifer took to the center of the gallery and strapped on his bass. As Jenifer set up so did drummer Benny, keyboardist Jamie Saft, and guitarist Chogyi, as they prepared for the moment everybody had been anxiously awaiting for. Suddenly, everyone was shoulder to shoulder with one another, trying to position themselves to where they could see the performance. The group, fittingly called Mind Power, then went into “Pyramid #1,” a free-jazz jam that kicked off the set.
Following that the remaining members of Bad Brains — H.R., Earl Hudson, and Dr. Know — took the stage to perform “Jah Love,” “Youth Are Getting Restless,” and “Re-Ignition.” Although H.R. isn’t the acrobatic and dynamic frontman he used to be seeing him post-brain surgery was such a treat, with the vocalist smiling into the crowd at fans both young and old.
H.R. then gave over vocal duties to Lamb Of God frontman Randy Blythe, who sung both “Big Take Over” and “Banned In D.C.,” before handing the mic over to original Bad Brains vocalist Sid McCray, who finished out the set with “Regulator.” Last night, history was made, with Bad Brains performing an intimate show that I can only imagine felt like the ones the group used to play back in the day. Surely, the band will announce some other shows prior to and after their forthcoming performance at this year’s Riot Fest. But this will serve as a memory cherished by those that were able to experience it, when Bad Brains took over a gallery in Williamsburg.