Written by Lavina Loya, Photos by Marcello Ambriz
VIVA LA REVOLUCION! seemed to be the overall motto of the day. Thousands of fans descended upon the L.A. Memorial Coliseum for the first (and maybe only) L.A. Rising concert/awareness event. The day was hosted by Los Angelesʼs own political whistleblowers, Rage Against the Machine. The band called upon five of their fellow musician friends to help spread the word…what that word was, no one was exactly sure. Most were too busy pounding $10 beer and bacon wrapped hotdogs to find out. The effort wasnʼt entirely lost on all, the designated “Re-Education Camp” was set up somewhat like a military base and served as a platform for dozens of social and political awareness groups to voice their issues and gather supporters. The camp also displayed a handful of street artist and LOTS of free swag, because nothing makes people open their eyes and start caring more than a free T-shirt.
The performances started at 3:00 and because of the intense traffic surrounding the Coliseum only about 40% of fans had even made their way through the gates. El Grand Silencio and Immortal Technique did their thing to a modest crowd of, like, A LOT of people down on the field…most of which had gotten there as early as possible to claim their places in the front row for Muse and Rage Against The Machine. Keep in mind itʼs very easy for a 100,000 seat stadium to appear empty and the two latin-based groups were definitely worth checking out if you were in the building and not stuck in traffic on MLK Blvd. I sat at the very top of the stadium and took in the performances, the cool breeze and the lack of chaos… for the last time that entire evening.
Things were about to get cramped.
At the start of Ms. Lauryn Hillʼs set it seemed like a tidal wave of concert-goers entered the grounds. What was a casual stroll to get some nachos was now an extreme sport and an exercise in agility. Ms. Hill took the stage with a full band and backup singers and kicked things off with a drastically different version of “Killing Me Softly”. The unfamiliar melody combined with battling a bit of feedback from her monitors made for a lackluster start. She made a decent effort to cover her hits with “Everything Is Everything,” “Ready or Not” and “Doo Whop(That Thing.)” I wasnʼt sure whether to take the vanilla performance as humbleness or indifference, but either way the slightest urge to eat or drink something could have easily pried you away from the performance. Hey, at least she showed up.
The field level general admission area was divided into 3 sections and filled with fans from the front to back based on how early (or how late) you arrived. The only consolation a could see for being in the very back in section 3 was your close proximity to the beer garden set up right in their area and come the start of Rise Against that very last section was the first to start a mosh pit. Coincidence? I think not. Rise Against has always somehow flown right under the radar for me. I know they have been fairly popular for quite sometime, yet until tonight, never realized just how many hits the band has had. There are a lot, and they covered them all.
The already heavily political band used the days theme to re-enforce the message of songs like “Re-Education(Through Labor)” and “Help Is On The Way.” The band had a simple set with no bells and whistles but played loud and played aggressive; injecting some much needed energy into the crowd. Tim McIIrathʼs vocals were clear and impressive for “Audience Of One” and “Hero Of War.” With the heat of the days sun backing off and on its way out fans were looking alive for the final one-two punch of
closing songs “Ready To Fall” and “Savior”
I think Muse thought they were headlining this shindig…and brought their A game. They dropped down an illuminated honeycomb shaped backdrop (by far the most elaborate of the night) and the cheers start roaring. Itʼs dark out now and the crowd had poured more than enough alcohol in their face to really get amped up…and itʼs freakin Muse! Of course they’re amped! Maybe itʼs that theyʼre used to playing those insanely large European festivals, but Muse knows and understands how to play to a large crowd. They have the rock star dance down pat and slayed a 14 song set. The mosh pits gave way to synchronized fist pumping as “The Uprising” and “Supermassive Black Hole” are not all that conducive to the ritual. You could almost see the hardcore Rage fans having to mentally give in and accept the fact that Muse was putting on one hell of a rock show. Singer Matt Bellamy has a voice and technique that is hard to top and he showed off every bit of it for “Hysteria” and “Resistance”. Smoke is shooting up from the stage, lights and lasers are going off and about 2/3 into the set they release dozens of huge balloons shaped like eyeballs into the crowd. Everyone is one the same page. The “Holy Jesus Muse Rocks” page.
Muse got the crowd involved with instrumental interludes of Led Zeppelinʼs “Heartbreaker” and the crowd sang along to “House of the Rising Sun.” The band closed the set on a high note with the epic “Knights of Cydonia” and from cover to cover blew the doors off the joint.
Anxiousness is thick in the air and anticipation is growing; everyone is seated and waiting and those without seats on the field level are already moshing to the songs playing between sets. The huge red star banner at the back of the stadium is suddenly spotlit and the same red star banner is slowly rises up from the floor to the sound of an air raid siren. The band walks out in the shadows and the crowd is like a water balloon filled to capacity and ready to explode. They lay into the intro to “Testify” the mood is electric; fans instantly start rushing the barricades and just as Rage Against The Machine frontman Zack De La Rocha leans in to utter the first lyrics of the set…………
His mic goes out.
A flood of “boos” washed over the arena, but the band didnʼt miss a beat and kept it going. The sound issues happened a few more times before it was resolved and the crowd quickly got over it. The entire field morphed into what looked like one throbbing, pulsating entity for “Bombtrack” and “ People Of the Sun”. What started as one moshpit turned into seven and it was getting intense. “Bulls on Parade and “Bullet in the Head” prompted one moshpit in particular to up the ante and start a bonfire in the center of the pit, flames eventually getting so high the LAPD and LAFD were called in to extinguish the fire and the moshpit. As soon as the cops and firefighter left the fans proceeded to start another one right back up. This went on four times.
Seeing a firefighter in full suit stand in the middle of a functioning moshpit is certainly a sight to see and I can only imagine one is not trained in moshpit fire extinguishing. Rage went straight for personal favorite “Down Rodeo” then right into “Guerrilla Radio” and the energy level has not budged. Out of control concert-goers are being tackled to the ground by security one after the other and at this point I donʼt know whether to watch the band or the crowd. Both highly entertaining. Zack looked slightly winded but seemed to push on through to the remaining two songs of the main set, “Sleep Now In The Fire” and the appropriate “Wake Up.”
Chanting fans stayed put for the encore and the band delivered “Freedom” and “Killing In The Name Of” before heading off stage for good. Although the crowd overall was harmonious, there was an indescribable layer of unpredictability and tension; like fans at a moments notice were ready to riot…but that line was never crossed and we made it out alive… L.A., you are nothing if not consistent! Hearing the roars and screams made you glad to be seeing such a monumental show on a perfect summer night in the city of angels. It made you forget the two hours it took to park, the crowds and the heat. Sure the show had its hiccups and maybe the lineup could have included more bands but overall it was well worth the price of admission.
Cue mass exodus and the two hour trip out of the parking lot.