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- These Altered States - America Trying to Become Itself
- The Worthless
Rage Against The Machine is BACK (vidz & werdz)
I heard some other bands played at the 2007 Coachella Festival, but as far as I (and everyone else there besides other bands' mothers) am concerned, it was the RAGE. AGAINST. THE. MACHINE!!! Hostile Takeover. Taking back our country with a warrior's call to arms, RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE! BACK! For the first time in SEVEN YEARS! I'd be real surprised if anyone remembers anything else from this festival in years to come. I bet it will be like Woodstock, with people claiming to have been there, claiming their kids were conceived in the campgrounds, all of it. This was the greatest show of my life. Period. After a week of shows that until this one were also the best of my life. I am blessed beyond my own belief. I am completely humbled by the power of music. And I know that our country and we the people, have never needed this band like we do now. As The Nightwatchman has said in recent interviews, I don't believe it is mere coincidence that in the seven years we've been without Rage, the country has gone to hell. Last night they came back, to deliver a knockout punch to this filthy administration – and a whole lot of people have their backs. The system should be afraid … very afraid.
I arrived at the Coachella Festival after the sun went down, and went immediately to the stage area. The wonderful, benevolent and ever-gracious Denise Luiso hooked us up like no one should dare to dream, with passes to watch the Rage reunion from the side of the stage (Sweet D, I am forever and always your humble servant … you gave me a gift I will never forget, a true highlight of my life)! I was just happy to be on the grounds for this MONUMENTAL (you know, I really should write this entire thing in capitals – that's just how it was) occasion, but to watch it so close and from the band's own perspective, well, I have a perfect moment to return to time and again that will forever blow my mind. FOREVER!
We were herded into a holding area while the lead-in band (Manu Chao) finished up (I can't tell you a thing about them beyond a muffled, sounds pretty good mashup of notes, as I was bursting with excitement and nothing else mattered to me at this moment in time). The security guys were all yelling that unless you had Rage stickers, you needed to leave. I have never been more grateful for an adhesive-backed piece of paper (which is now safely enshrined in my own personal Smithsonian). You could hear the excitement building out front, but I had yet to see the size of the crowd as we'd entered through the VIP area. It sounded BIG. It was hot, it was extra-crowded and frankly, a little desperate as you listened to the pleas to the security guards from people shamelessly begging to be let back. I hear even ol' Tommy Lee had a run-in with security as he lacked the proper credentials, resorting to the sad, "Do you know who I am?" and trying to be badass. But I get it. If ever there was a show to get desperate for, this was it.
The mood was high in the holding, I'll call it what it was pen, and you could take a bite out of the anticipation it was so thick – and it tasted good. Paris Hilton and her emaciated, vacantly staring posse strutted past everyone assembled like they owned the place – to a loud chorus of BOOOO's. Comedy. There was a sick feeling to that though, as these girls were not here for the music, for the RAGE behind the music, for the utter IMPORTANCE of the music … they are in fact part of the problematic machine themselves. It was maddening to watch them sashay past the TRUE and hyperventilating with joy and luck absolute SUPERFANS that were trembling with unbridled near-hysteria ALREADY (I was told they too were later told to scram as they were not Rage affiliated – Hee-Her)!
The roadies scrambled to set up the stage, as the crowd on the other side of the curtains from us had begun the "RAGE RAGE RAGE!!! …" chant. It was so, so, so exciting, I was covered with goosebumps from thereon out. Finally the guards started letting people pass and mount the steps to the stage. It was a mad rush. There were way more people than could comfortably fit, so it was every person for themselves as you jostled your way in to try and see something – anything. I am a pretty good jostler (and polite too – try it sometime you know who you are's) so I was, in a word, STOKED! And entirely unprepared for what met my eyes: People as far as the horizon, going absolutely BALListic out in the crowd. I can't imagine what it must feel like to know that all those people are there for you, that they have MISSED YOU LIKE CRAZY, that they WANT to go crazy, and it is your job to see that it happens … and that ALL – HELL – CAN"T STOP US NOW!!!!!!
The energy felt almost dangerous (just as they/we like it), but I keep going back to the word JOY, because that is what the crowd was feeling, obviously. Joy that the Rage boys were back together, of course, and I like to think joy that they are back to give voice (and HOW!) to all of our frustrations, and joy that leads us to dare to hope for something better. Looking around from my position (that I guarded with all I had – boxing out when need arose – and that I did not budge from other than to go UP), I could see Perry Farrell squished in, Lars Ulrich, Tommy Lee (hey, how'd he get there? Joking. Kind of.), I don't even know who else because I didn't really care in my pure excitement for what was about to go down, but it was great to see that no one was in the least bit jaded about this event. It was impossible not to acknowledge the sheer weight of this show NOW.
The tension mounted as everyone was scrambling to get a good view. The ocean of a crowd kept up the Rage chant, and all of a sudden, it all went dark. "OHHHHHH SHIT!" ... I heard one guy yell. The audience was completely beside themselves. I was jumping in my spot. The Rage chant grew louder and louder, and then a screen went up in the back with the plain black background and the Rage red star in the center. That's when this: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7kifuk_UuI) happened. Bad quality, but you get the point. Remember, this was before anyone had even taken the stage!
I looked across the stage at our counterparts freaking out on that side … then I saw Tom, Zack, Tim and Brad jumping up and down, getting hyped for what they were about to DESTROY the people with. It was so incredibly exciting I almost felt sick! Then they ran out to the front of the stage and every single being in their presence (and probably in space) lost their ever-loving minds! Not one note had yet been struck! Brad did a little warm-up drum roll stylie thing, and Zack (gone for SEVEN YEARS!) walked to the microphone and simply said, "Hello, we're Rage Against The Machine from Los Angeles" … and it was immediately ON! The first chords to "Testify" from Tom Morello's guitar (aka The Nightwatchman plugged in!) resounded out across the plains – and the bodies started FLYING over the crowd. It was absolutely the craziest shit I've seen in all my days.
I think it's important to remember that this band had not played together in YEARS (7) and had maybe a couple months at most of rehearsal … yet it was like they just came off a show the night before in another city – they were that tight, they were that angry, they were that ROCKING, they were that NOW! Another extremely striking element to note was that all of the songs played this night were written in the early to mid to some late 90's, but it was as if they'd been written especially for today. Indeed, they might even be MORE fitting for today. I know I'm definitely angrier than I've ever been before at the state of things in this country … how about you? It could not be more fitting or heavy that Rage has chosen NOW to make themselves heard again. We can only hope that they heard the people and will want to create more music together FOR now – I can't even imagine what they have in their arsenal now that seven years of anger has built up. I'm not sure we could even take it after what I saw and felt last night, but I know I'd give it my best shot (um, perhaps literally – kidding, FBI, only kidding).
Next up, Bulls On Parade. Bombtrack. Bullet In the Head ("They say jump, you say how high?" Well, we jumped REAL high). Down Rodeo. Guerilla Radio ("TURN THAT SHIT UP!" -"WHAT BETTER PLACE THAN HERE? WHAT BETTER TIME THAN - NOW!!!"). Renegades of Funk. Calm Like A Bomb. Sleep Now In The Fire. No one in the crowd had forgotten a single word, yelling back to Zack the words to every chorus, and then some (I've been running around today – ok, "running" is asking a bit much – limping around today, after I finally woke up since returning at 6 this morning to Los Angeles, and all I can say to anyone is "I am the Nina, the Pinta, the Santa Maria …!" I don't anticipate this changing anytime soon, sorry if I'm annoying, friends). And then it was time for "Wake Up".
I had been waiting for Zack to get radical and political with some banter all night (though the songs clearly speak for themselves, but still – Zack was back and we wanted to hear what he had to say!) and I was amply rewarded. "Wake Up" is such a genius song (ok, they all are, I know) and again, so perfect for these times, title alone. But when they slowed it down and Zack stepped back up to the mike, he let them have it. Though it was a little hard for me to make it all out as I was behind the speakers facing out to the crowd, I did hear the word "Hitler" and then "This administration" (not a large stretch anymore, if people really were to WAKE UP!) then "every last rich, white one of 'em should be hung and tried and SHOT! This system destroys entire countries to sustain itself, a system we have to break down … generation after generation after generation!!!!" Then all hell broke loose between the band and the crowd, and Zack scaled the stack of amps to survey the madness from atop it all. You know, Zack and Tom were jumping around like whirling dervishes on speed the whole night, yet somehow were able to hit every note and satisfy the masses with sickeningly intricate guitar pyrotechnics, as they can only be called. Brad and Tim kept the whole thing together with such thick rhythm it threatened to crack a hole in the atmosphere.
At the end of "Wake Up" (and after the thousands upon thousands present screamed WAKE UP with every fragment of their being) Zack spat into the mike, "HOW LONG? NOT LONG, 'CAUSE WHAT YOU REAP IS WHAT YOU SOW!" And they were gone. Amazingly, people had voices left – and they used them. SCREAMING. CHANTING "RAGE!". WHISTLING. STOMPING. CLAPPING. Please God, MORE!
My friend Doug (bless his heart for driving – that was crrrrazy) was behind me and we both knew there had to be more. I said, "Freedom". He said, "Killing In The Name". We could only hope. The lights were out, the screaming was deafening … and across the stage I saw the guys in the band come back out. Zack had his arm around Tom and it gave me chills on top of the ones I already had … like all was again right in the world.
They took their places again, Brad rumbled off a drum flourish – and they launched into FREEDOM with such a ferocity you thought the world might end right there – and you'd be fine with it. (In fact, we instantly all started jumping on the side of the stage and I felt the boards under my feet shudder with the too many people jumping. I could easily envision it collapsing, but before I could get scared, I jumped higher and harder in celebration of the absolute ROCK going on right in front of my face, because I knew that if that did happen, what better way to go?) That's exactly how it felt to be there.
Freedom. What a haunting, ruling song! The quieter part, where Brad hits the cowbell, was met with such thunder from the crowd, it was like they were hearing a long, lost friend return … and then it builds, and builds and BUILDS … Freedom, yeah right! We were total captives to this music, even before it began. I LOVED IT SO MUCH!
As soon as the last note died on Freedom, the opening notes to "Killing In The Name" began – we got our two wishes! When it came time for Tom's beloved solo on this one, if it was at all possible that the crowd could go even crazier … it was and it DID. People had been waiting 7 whole YEARS to hear that song again, and they were going to make it count! Oh MAN, by the time we got to the "FUCK YOU, I WON'T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME!!" repeating over and over, you felt that the power in this place on Earth was more than nuclear … and that if this many people feel this way together, at THIS TIME, well, we can really change the shit up. We HAVE to. I know I'm being super superlative, but there is no other way to describe how this show went down. The POWER of the size of this crowd (totally surreal looking out over the thousands and thousands of people for as far as the eye could see – all with fists raised, all screaming the same words – in TOTAL unity!) simply cannot be ignored. We need to do this incomparable band the honor of having it not be just a rock show, something cool to have been at, but something that inspired us ALL to do something, to speak out, to finally RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE!!!
The chords of the instruments died out, as the chords of the audience swelled. Tom, Zack, Tim and Brad came out to center stage, arms around each other and fists raised, looking out over the massive crowd. They had to be thinking how GREAT it was to be back. We didn't want to let them go, didn't want it to be over EVER … but then it was. The houselights came up, and revealed the shell-shocked faces of people for whom it will take days to sink in and really know what hit them.
Staggering down the stairs and through the backstage area, all you could hear everywhere was "WOOOO!" "DUUUUUDE!" "HO-LY SHIIIIIT!" "EPIC!" and see only high-fives and looks of crazed ecstasy. I am, and have not been, exaggerating once in this entire Ode To Rage. I write it like I see/feel it. I was there. I WAS THERE! I am beside myself with unadulterated happiness at that fact, and I'll never get over it. Never.
We went to Rage's backstage area to congratulate them (again, THANK YOU SWEET D! I LOVE YOU!) and it was striking to see all the guys sitting and chatting calmly, sipping champagne, humbly accepting the sheer adulation and praise, where minutes before they had incited full-fledged mass hysteria. I will say, to a man, each of them looked utterly spent. They gave every bit of themselves up on that stage, and had pulled the whole thing off - to the extent that every single person I've heard from that was there has said it was, no question, the best show they'd seen in their lives. I have seen many in my days as a fanatical lover of music, but none other even compares to that electricity. I have yet to properly sleep, but am still smiling broadly, because … RAGE IS BACK, EVERYONE! The timing could not be better, it's as if they got the bat signal from all the disillusioned Americans and came back to save the day … but they'll need help from all of us. I'm there. I hope you will be too.
RAGE IS BACK! Sound the trumpets, sound the bells … scratch that, ROCK the bells!
THANK YOU, RAGE … from the bottom of my soul-rebel soul. I will never forget this night, nor the fire you re-stoked within us all.
Anger is A Gift! Arm the Homeless! TAKE THE POWER BACK!
*Post script: True story – we were rear-ended (HARD) on the way out of Indio, domino-ing us into another car in front of us. My neck is very stiff today, so I had someone check it out. It turns out it has nothing to do with the accident, but is actually the result of being forced to rock my head so hard to the power rock of Rage! This is a professional diagnosis. I have been officially ROCKED! Awesome.