by Tessa Solomon
photo by Glen E. Friedman
Emerging in the early ‘80s hardcore scene with a pioneering sound that earned them cult status along the East Coast (with their fan base strongest in their native Washington, D.C.), Bad Brains’ blend of reggae and punk helped them forge an unmistakable presence in the States. The band was founded way back in 1977 as a distinctive jazz-fusion ensemble named Mind Power by Dr. Know, yet a growing fascination with raw voices such as Sex Pistols and Black Sabbath inspired a sharp turn in sound. Rechristened Bad Brains (after the Ramones song), their newfound punk eventually met reggae. Obvious talent, complex rhythms, and the singularity of an entirely black band thriving in the era’s primarily white punk scene set them apart from the rest. Due to intense internal turmoil and health issues (with frontman H.R. undergoing brain surgery earlier this year), the band has regularly disbanded only to reunite for sporadic shows and tours. Like this special 40th anniversary set.