When I was 16, I bought a car that could only play CD’s; no tapes, no aux cord, just a good ol’ CD from Dearborn Music or my friend Grace’s basement. Over time, I collected over 40 of my favorite albums on CD that had their own place in my backseat. Six of these were albums and hits compilations by one of the most defining bands in my life — and arguably the most defining band in hardcore-punk, and reggae — Bad Brains. I first listened to the Washington D.C. punk quartet when I was around 14, and I’ll never forget it. The song was “Re-Ignition” off their 1986 LP, I Against I, and I’ve loved punk and hardcore music ever since.
14-year-old Selena would have never guessed that she would see Bad Brains live. Especially after 2015 when Dr. Know was put on life support, and later in 2016 when H.R. was diagnosed with SUNCT — a rare disease causing strong headaches that H.R. would later undergo brain surgery for.
But, on September 16 at 4:40 p.m. 19-year-old Selena was standing in the center of sweaty 40-year-old crust punks and reggae-lovers alike talking about the D.C. ban on Bad Brains in 1979, eagerly waiting to see what would unfold. And then, amongst the weed smoke, dreads and gleams of sunlight, laid the staple Bad Brains image of the capitol building being struck by lightning with Daryl Jennifer, Earl Hudson, H.R. and Dr. Know standing in front of it.
The drums hit and my heart started to beat outside of my chest when they began to play “Give Thanks and Praise.” The crowd became a body of running and jumping legs, pushing arms and screaming mouths; a body that wouldn’t settle down until the last note hit. The set continued and they played (not in this order) “Soul Craft,” “I Luv I Jah” and “Pay to Cum,” songs that created a spot in my brain sticky with punk tunes and the need to be creative in my previous formative years.
I could not believe that I was finally seeing the band that literally made me who I am today. There was a constant lump of love and appreciation growing in the back of my throat and when the guitar and drums slammed into “Re-Ignition,” I started to cry. With tears wetting my cheeks and a smile glued onto my face, I witnessed show-goers of all ages dance, laugh, cry and smile until H.R. signed off after “Banned in D.C.” Three other songs ensued with vocalist Randy Blythe, and then the banner rose up. It was done. I’ll never forget it and I’ll love Bad Brains forever.
— Selena Aguilera, Daily Arts Writer