Category Archives: Music

Live Review: Rage Against the Machine Members Joined By Chuck D and B-Real for “Prophets of Rage” Show in L.A.

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA—This year’s messy, divisive presidential election has a silver lining: Rage Against the Machine has reunited—sort of.

At 7:05 AM on the Tuesday after Memorial Day, RATM’s Tom Morello, Brad Wilk, and Tim Commerford were joined by Chuck D and B-Real on KROQ. Together, the supergroup announced that they would be performing a surprise inaugural show in the evening at the Whisky A Go Go under the band name Prophets of Rage.

It was simple: one admission wristband per person, and the cost would be what Morello called “the people’s price: $20.” All of the proceeds would benefit the charity P.A.T.H.—People Assisting the Homeless.  One more rule: no cell phones.

Prophets of Rage - Rage Against the Machine Reunion - Chuck D - B-Real - Cypress Hill - Public Enemy

Photo by Brian Fishbach

Morello said the main reason they are getting together is because “both the country and the world are on the brink of the abyss, and we thought it was wholly irresponsible for us to be sitting on the sidelines.”

By 9:05 PM, original members of Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy, and Cypress Hill were on stage together starting what they called “a musical revolution.”

The details of the revolution are still to be determined. But tonight, it involved twenty-one loud emotional songs spanning the careers of RATM, Public Enemy, and Cypress Hill.

Yes, original RATM frontman Zack de la Rocha was absent. But Chuck D and B-Real are deserving stand-ins. And they fit right in with three returning RATM guys.

In short, Prophets of Rage sounded amazing. They have been quietly rehearsing together nearly a month. Every move, every lyric and all the energy sounded explosive, in sync, and literally full of rage.

The night started with DJ Lord, who warmed up the crowd for ten minutes. The DJ set culminated with a remix of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” the song to which the Prophets of Rage would first take the stage. Wilk sat at the drums, Morello grabbed a guitar that read “arm the homeless,” and Commerford, with his heavily tattooed biceps, picked up a bass.

The crowd of no more than 500 people were astonished at what they were looking at: a 75% RATM reunion. They were then hit with Chuck D and B-Real, both ready to blow the roof off the Whisky.

They opened with the group’s eponymous song, “Prophets of Rage,” a Public Enemy track from 1988.

Prophets ripped through two more RATM hits, “Guerilla Radio” and “Bombtrack” before playing the next Public Enemy tune, “My Uzi Weighs a Ton.”

The first part of the set would alternate a few more times, with RATM’s “People of the Sun” and “Take the Power Back.” Just before “Testify,” B-Real led the band through the 2000 Cypress Hill hit, “Rock Superstar.”

During that song, Commerford squinted at Morello who then gave a nod from across the stage. It seemed like a “just making sure we’re together” look. It was the kind  of non-verbal gesture that band mates who have been playing together for over 25 years would give to each other while just playing a cover for fun.

At one point, B-Real revealed that this concert was Chuck D’s first performance ever at the Whiskey on Sunset.

The next part of the set began as the RATM guys left the stage. Chuck D and B-Real then alternated singing each other’s hits, including “Bring the Noise” and “Insane in the Brain.” The entire time, Morello was taking a breather by the guitar tech, drinking a bottle of water, but bouncing and ferociously, one arm in the air, singing along.

Morello, Commerford, and Wilk jumped back in, ready to slay a few more RATM songs together on stage for the first time in nearly five years.

The last third of the setlist was marked by mostly RATM hits, beginning with “Sleep Now in the Fire.” After playing “Know Your Enemy,” B-Real mentoined Donald Trump, and the crowd booed in agreement.

It was evident that a big reason that Prophets of Rage got together is because of the rise of Trump. Morello even wore a red hat throughout the evening that read “Make America Rage Again,” a swift jab at Trump’s campaign slogan and goofy red hat.

Tom Morello Hat 2016 Donald Trump Parody

Photo by Brian Fishbach

Eventually, they played a mashup of the Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” with the Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep Till Brooklyn.” The lyrics were changed, however to “No Sleep Till Cleveland,” a reference to the location of the Republican National Convention this summer.

That mashup ended with a brief jam that had some echos of Audioslave’s “Like a Stone”. Morello showcased how he can play a solo with his teeth.

Chuck D took a moment to acknowledge the elephant in the room: de la Rocha’s absence.

“We’re Prophets of Rage, but there’s always a seat warm for Zach de la Rocha,” he shouted.

B-Real continued, explaining the group’s mission: “We want y’all to know, we definitely, man, salute our brother [de la Rocha] right here, his words are needed right now. Well we decided to be the fuckin’ megaphone to shout in your fucking ear! Right now! You ready for that? You still standing strong?”

Wilk tapped the snare once and they started playing “Bulls on Parade.” B-Real reiterated one last time, “let’s make America rage again!” And the night ended the way RATM usually ended a show, with “Killing in the Name.” B-Real changed the lyrics, as de la Rocha usually did, to “some of those that burn crosses, are the same up in Congress.”

Prophets of Rage, along with DJ Lord took a bow. When the house lights turned on, fans ripped Shepard Fairey-designed posters from the walls. Fairey watched pleased from the balcony.

As the presidential election dialogue and demonstration literally rages on, the Prophets of Rage sound determined to spread their message of unrest and make a dent in it all. But until then, they will be playing another show at the Hollywood Palladium on June 3.

Rage Against the Machine Setlist 2016 Prophets of Rage Set List Whisky A Go Go

Photo by Brian Fishbach

Prophets of Rage (Public Enemy)
Guerilla Radio (RATM)
Bombtrack (RATM)
My Uzi Weighs a Ton (Public Enemy)
People of the Sun (RATM)
Take the Power Back (RATM)
Rock Superstar (Cypress Hill)
Testify (RATM)

(Morello, Wilk, Commerford exit)

Hands on the Pump (Cypress Hill)
Can’t Truss It (Public Enemy)
Insane in the Brain (Cypress Hill)
Bring the Noise (Public Enemy)
Ain’t Goin Out (Cypress Hill)
Terrordome (Cypress Hill)

(Morello, Wilk, Commerford return)

Sleep Now in the Fire (RATM)
Shut Em Down (Public Enemy)
Know Your Enemy (RATM)
Party’s Over (RATM)
No Sleep Till Cleveland / Fight the Power (Public Enemy)
Bulls on Parade (RATM)
Killing in the Name (RATM)

Brian Fishbach is a Music Journalist based in Los Angeles. Follow Brian on Twitter @BrianFishbach

Guns N’ Roses Got Back Together ‘In This Lifetime’

Guns N’ Roses finally played a rock show again. And fans say it all lived up to the hype that has been building since the summer of 1993. Axl Rose, Slash, and Duff McKagan are officially back in the same band.

Friday night at the Troubador in Los Angeles, Guns N’ Roses played an intimate surprise concert. It had only been announced mere hours prior. A limited number of tickets (around 250) went on sale for only $10, setting off a massive line of would-be concert-goers at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Horne Avenue by 10:00 AM.

By the evening, the excitement had been brewing all day.

Even as late as 11:00 PM, some fans congregating outside the Troubador speculated that this could be some elaborate April Fools prank. And if it was, the thirty or so sheriff’s deputies on hand would have had a long night of thwarting riots.

But all signs were proving that this was no hoax. Literally:


Photo by Brian Fishbach

Under a marquee sign that read “GUNS N ROSES, NOT IN THIS LIFETIME,” hundreds of envious fans gathered outside the Troubador in black leather, red bandanas, and GNR concert shirts. A few lamented that they shelled out as much as $1,000 to buy scalped admission wristbands, only to find out they were scammed. Real fans that obtained the scarce wristbands knew they could not put a price on rock music history.

Before the show, a few A-list celebrities dined at the next door Italian restaurant, Dan Tana’s. Spotted among them were Bradley Cooper and his mother Gloria, David Arquette, Chris Brown, and Jim Carrey. Others inside the Troubador included Nicholas Cage, Andrew Dice Clay, Lana Del Ray, Colin Hanks, Kate Hudson, and Lenny Kravitz.

Bradley Cooper arriving at the Guns N' Roses reunion show in West Hollywood. April 1, 2016

Photo by Brian Fishbach

The West Hollywood concert venue only has a capacity of 500. But in a few days, Guns N’ Roses will be entertaining entire football stadiums, and even headlining Coachella. Face-value for some of the best seats is in the ballpark of $500.

As lucky fans and VIP guests made their way into the Troubador, they were instructed to tuck their phones into green pouches that lock shut. The pouches, made by tech company Yondr, thwart fans from polluting the concert with endless smartphone picture-takers and annoying amateur videographers. Comedians Dave Chapelle and Louie CK have required their audiences to use the Yondr pouches at their recent shows as well. It also keeps the bootleg audio of their newest jokes off the internet.

But the no-phones rule didn’t stop a few fans from snapping some photos from the inside. The first photo of Axl on stage posted to Instagram just after midnight.

axl troubador 2016

Photo by Instagram users kunkfu33 and ali_shayesteh_management

Guns N’ Roses opened with “It’s So Easy,” and tore through a thorough setlist that included radio hits “Mr. Brownstone,” “Welcome to the Jungle,” and “Sweet Child O’Mine.” They didn’t have time for the nine-minute ballad, “November Rain.” But it all built up to an encore that closed the night with “Paradise City.”

Like any ordinary concert, fans scooped-up paper setlists and Slash’s guitar picks. One fan even caught a whistle that Axl threw into the crowd.

All of the grateful attendees were issued a souvenir black ticket (since their prized admission ticket had only been a wristband.) It was clearly an homage to their humble roots in the 1980s Los Angeles glam-rock scene, blended with a modern-day hashtag, #GnFnR. The ticket read,


DATE: Fri. April 1st

TIME: Sometime After 11 PM


This was no ordinary concert. Guns N’ Roses are back. And now they are all warmed up to go on their first tour together in over twenty years.

guns n roses ticket troubador 2016

Photo by Instagram user paulhebertphoto

guns n roses setlist 2016 troubador

Photo by Instagram user damipantaleone

Pennywise Packs Hollywood Palladium for Three-Straight Nights of Full Album Setlists

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

Pennywise has a lot going well for them. They have pumped out an album almost every three years since 1988. They all still live with families where they grew up—the South Bay of Los Angeles. And the fans still show enough support to fill the Hollywood Palladium for three-straight nights.

Not only that, the punk rockers played a different album from beginning to end each of those nights. On Thursday, the self-titled album (1991). Friday, Unknown Road (1993). And on Saturday night, About Time (1995).

And even though all four members are either nearing or eclipsed age fifty, you could not tell unless you looked it up on Wikipedia.

Through all their years together, Pennywise’s onstage energy hasn’t waned a bit. And that’s expected out of a band that has had minimal (yet notable) lineup changes. And to understand those lineup changes is to understand Pennywise’s temperament.

In 1996, Pennywise lost their bassist Jason Thirsk to suicide. Lead singer Jim Lindberg, guitarist Fletcher Dragge, drummer Byron McMackin, and current bassist Randy Bradbury make sure to remind the crowd at every single show of Jason’s memory. Their last song ever since losing Jason has been a tribute song to him, “Bro Hymn.” One pre-chorus lyric reads, “brotherhood’s our rule we cannot bend.” The song is most notable for its passionate chanting chorus that directly mimics the repeating guitar riff. And the fans love to shout along.

It is almost as if every show that they do is dedicated to their dearly departed bandmate.

For a brief time from 2009 through 2012, lead singer Jim Lindberg left the band. Pennywise trucked on without him and released an album with replacement singer Zoli Teglas. And in 2012, when Teglas had an injury, Jim returned.

The gratefulness that these guys have for sticking together showed in every single second of every song at their three-night Palladium residency.

On night two, the crowd was already stuffed to capacity by time opening band H20 hit the stage. Outside the weed-haloed concert hall, a merchandise line easily fifty fans deep stretched down the concessions hallway. The shirts that have sold out the fastest are Pennywise parodies of Los Angeles-area sports logos: a black Kings-Pennywise mashup, a white Lakers-Pennywise girl shirt, and a blue Dodgers-Pennywise baseball tee.

A young fan boasts that his entire family drove up from San Diego just for the show.

By the time the lights dimmed, the nearly 4,000 fans were ready. Over the speakers, a piano riff of “Bro Hymn” built the anticipation. That happens to be just how the album Unknown Road begins. And then six-foot five-inch guitarist Dragge ripped a power chord as the spotlight hit Lindberg.

“Hello we are Pennywise!” Lindberg shouts into the microphone. Shirts and beers are launched into the air by fans ready to mosh. And from there, the energy didn’t stop until the house lights came on.

After moving the crowd for the first two songs, Dragge asked the them, “how many weed smokers are out there?” The crowd roars and flickers of lighters speckle. “How many vape smokers out there?” Dragge asked the crowd again. This time they “boo.” Typical questions coming from a guitarist with a beer-holder on his mic stand.

More items are tossed in the air as the mosh pit keeps spinning ravenously. Twice, Lindberg announces to the crowd that he found a wallet on stage.

And then a few words of homage. Lindberg admits that twenty-five years ago, the first time Pennywise played their hometown’s Palladium was in support of the album Unknown Road. After playing the song “Tester,” he shouts, “we haven’t played that live in 20 years.”

As the first set ends, Lindberg makes a pact with the crowd: “If you keep coming, we’ll keep coming, is that a fucking deal, LA? How about next year, we do the Full Circle album?”

The second set of the night begins immediately following the end of Unknown Road. They are playing the song “Something to Change,” but poor Lindberg minces the lyrics with another song. Not too surprising, as so many of the four-chord punk songs bear a beautiful resemblance to one another. Dragge chastises Lindberg, “we’re not supposed to stop when we fuck up! We broke that rule!”

A few songs later, they begin playing one of their more mainstream hits, “Fuck Authority.” The mosh pit looks more violent than ever. And floating around on top of the pit is a 31-year-old, five-foot three-inch woman from Pasadena named Devin Bell. She is attending all three concerts. She is handling the crowd surfing with a yoga-like cadence. She also got a Pennywise logo tattooed on her torso in December.

“It was so much fun,” Bell explains as she recalls sitting on a guy’s shoulders as he ran around the circle pit. “I want to engage with people, so when I’m singing and sitting on a guy’s shoulders, I want people to feel the energy that I’m feeling. I’m motivated by the music.”

A special guest is then welcomed to the stage: former Bad Religion and Circle Jerks guitarist Greg Hetson. Dragge towers over him as they team up to play a cover of Bad Religion’s “Do What You Want.”

As the energy is reaching an apex, Bradbury starts picking the bass riff to “Bro Hymn.” The crowd knows that this is it. After the first chorus, Pennywise is joined on stage by family and friends. Lindberg gives one of his daughters a high five. He is clearly a family man. And it was even more evident in his 2007 book, Punk Rock Dad.

“Bro Hymn” ends, the lights come up, the energy dissipates, and Pennywise exits.

As most of the crowd dispersed, some sweaty exhausted fans congregated up front to snag the band’s discarded guitar picks, drumsticks, and setlists from the roadie crew. One fan received not a setlist, but a printout of selected lyrics to some lesser-played Unknown Road songs. Maybe Lindberg did seem a little bit in his fifties.

Nobody seemed to notice. The guys of Pennywise seem no older than the twenty-three year-old album they just rocked.

BRIAN FISHBACH is a music journalist based in Los Angeles.

You can find his stories about rockstars at

The Burden of Swapping Musical Partners

Polyamory—the act of mutually swapping lovers, is generally perceived as taboo. Monogamy—being exclusive to a lover is publicly accepted as the norm.

This isn’t just true for romantic relationships, it’s a fact of life. At work, a successful worker can be chided for leaving to pursue something less lucrative yet more fun. In sports, an athlete can leave a town where they have devoted fans and join a team that will pay them more in another town—and then those fans excoriate them.

Change is inevitable. Feelings can evolve. Passion can dwindle. But stubbornness is a gateway to misery.

In music, bands have members depart, and styles that change over time. Usually, loud fans hate it. They treat the new member like a step-dad who hasn’t earned their spot in the family (or never will.)

This week, it was announced that Orange County rock group No Doubt would be moving on for a while without their blonde edgy front woman, Gwen Stefani. But it’s not like they are just replacing her with their guitar tech. Her bandmates are instead just collaborating with the wailing frontman of punk band AFI, Davey Havok.

And right away, there was backlash from fans of both No Doubt and AFI.

Fans don’t have to embrace whatever tunes No Doubt-Minus-Gwen-Plus-Davey produce. But they should respect that their favorite artists are still out there finding new ways to be creative, expressive, and entertaining.

There are purists that will never be happy with anything beyond the first album that brought them to love a particular band. Many fans go to the concert and sing hard for the old throwback breakout hits. And then they openly scoff at anything that was made since the last presidential election.

Another band that recently had a controversial line-up change was Blink 182. Guitarist Tom Delonge is currently taking indefinite time to write fantasy and supernatural books. He always had an obsession with aliens (hence the song, “Aliens Exist” on their breakthrough album Enema of the State). And now Tom has the time to explore another passion outside of punk rock. After all, he turned 40 last year. That’s over twenty-two years of doing the same job.

The ensuing public fallout between Delonge and the other Blink 182 members fractured Tom from many fans. Eventually, drummer Travis Barker and bassist Mark Hoppus took in Alkaline Trio guitarist Matt Skiba to replace Delonge. They toured. Fans sang, fans cheered. They are even recording an album together. But plenty of fans of both bands continue to Tweet and pout with their arms crossed, as if the music that brought them into fandom has somehow changed.

It hasn’t. The old music will sound exactly the same. And the new music will at least be interesting.

In the last 30 years, plenty of rock bands have had controversial lineup switches. After the outrage calmed down, they all kept on keeping on.

In 1995, following the departure of guitarist John Frusciante, the Red Hot Chili Peppers joined forces with Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro. The sole album they produced, One Hot Minute, still gets airtime on the radio today. Frusciante eventually returned to the band in 1999 before leaving for good a decade later.

In 2000, Rage Against the Machine parted ways with singer Zach de La Rocha. The following year, the remaining three members formed a group called Audioslave with Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell. They toured the world and released an album together. Eventually, both singers went back to their respective bands.

Journey, the band that sang “Don’t Stop Believin’” replaced singer Steve Perry in 1998 with another singer named Steve—Steve Augeri. Eventually, Journey permanently replaced Augeri in 2007 with Arnel Pineda, a Filipino singer from a Journey cover band.

Some bands don’t even have the option of having a reunion after parting with members.

At the 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Nirvana was to be enshrined. Their lead singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain committed suicide 20 years prior, yet the band was slated to play some of their hits. So to help play their most famous song, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic recruited Joan Jett to sing the vocals. The woman who is famous for singing “I Love Rock and Roll” proved that she indeed does. And anyone who also loves rock and roll should at the very least appreciate that epic collaboration and tribute.

While it is perfectly normal to not be thrilled by the new music by an evolving band, it is unreasonable to chide artists for veering off the path that has trained their original fans to love their art. The old material is still very much there.

But is an inevitable burden of the artist whose art evolves to face criticism for swinging with new band mates. And the fans that made them successful in the first place should relax and give the old music a listen if the thought of them cheating on their old band mates repulses them so much.

BRIAN FISHBACH is a music journalist based in Los Angeles.  You can find his stories about rockstars at

Red Hot Chili Peppers Rock Out at Fundraiser for Bernie Sanders

Red Hot chili Peppers fundraiser for bernie sanders los angeles ace hotel

LOS ANGELES — The Red Hot Chili Peppers showed just how much they “feel the Bern” last night.

The SoCal rockers played an energetic concert at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles as a fundraiser for presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders.

Every time Anthony Keidis or Flea mentioned Senator Sanders, the beyond-capacity crowd of over 1,600 went into a frenzy—all while the man of the night was 2,700 miles away, campaigning in New Hampshire.

bernie sanders red hot chili peppers

It had all the trimmings of a typical campaign event: rows and rows of “Bernie 2016” signs, and volunteers armed with clipboards selling shirts, hats, and stickers.

Shepard Fairey, the artist behind the Obama “Hope” poster, designed the poster for the event and was in attendance as well.

The price of admission was bound to have generated a modest boost in funds for Senator Sanders. Although tickets prices started at $40, they soared up to $2,000 for a front-row seat and a meet-and-greet with the Chili Peppers. Undoubtedly, many volunteers and fans received comped tickets

The Grammy Award-winning group offered to do more, but Senator Sanders stood by his anti-large donation pledge.

“We offered to pay for the rent for the hotel and Bernie would not accept,” Keidis explained in a radio interview on KLOS.  “[Bernie] said ‘no I can’t take your money, that’s not how I work, I’m not taking those size contributions from groups, corporations, anything at all.’”

As the house lights dimmed to start the show, a two-minute taped video featured Senator Sanders thanking the crowd and the band for their support. From there, the band launched into a 12-song set-list that began with “Can’t Stop.”

Keidis then told the crowd that he’s supporting Bernie because he’s the “cutest candidate,” among other reasons. Sanders already has the endorsement of a plethora entertainers.

Then all four Chili Peppers adorned “Bernie 2016” hats, took a group photo, and bounced into their 1999 hit song, “Around the World.”

Sanders wasn’t the only one getting support from the Chili Peppers. They played homage to their recently departed idol and friend, David Bowie, with a cover of the song “Cracked Actor.”

And at center stage throughout the night, Chad Smith’s drum set featured a basshead with Bowie’s face.

david bowie drum set bass chad smithbernie sanders red hot chili peppers

BRIAN FISHBACH is a music journalist based in Los Angeles. Brian previously worked as a staffer in the U.S. Senate. You can find his stories about rockstars at


“Smash” Album by Offspring Turns 20 Years Old…But Still Very Much a Teenager

Some people love The Beatles.  Some people love Coldplay.  Some people love Springsteen.  Many people love Beyonce.  Miley Cyrus sells out arenas world wide.  But I love The Offspring. 

Twenty years ago today, the highest-selling independent album of all time was released:  “Smash” by The Offspring hit shelves of music stores (remember those?) on April 8, 1994.

April 8, 1994:

As a third-grader at the time, I wouldn’t hear any of the tracks until MTV occasionally interspliced “Come Out and Play” and “Self Esteem” into episodes of Beavis & Butthead.  “Smash” had so many hits:  the road rage ballad “Bad Habit”, the paranoid thriller “Gotta Get Away”, the peppy ska “What Happened To You”, and of course, “Nitro (Live Like There’s No Tomorrow)”

In the spring of 1994, I remember that the Milwaukee Brewers had just unveiled a new logo in April.  It was a year that also brought “Dookie” by Green Day, “The Blue Album” by Weezer, “Punk in Drublic” by NOFX, not to mention Ace Ventura, and the OJ Simpson White Bronco chase.

All these years later, “Smash” still endures.  As I think about this 20-year milestone, I visualize the montage of times this album serenaded life: while at my desk doing Algebra and studying Hebrew, to my Discman during long XC runs in high school, to blazing on max-volume while speeding down the 405.   “Smash” will always be my favorite.

The first songs I learned to play on the guitar were from this album.  The first live show I ever played, we closed the night with “Self-Esteem” like the vicarious Offspring devotees we were.   And to this day, the hits from “Smash” are still among my favorite to play.

And at its core, “Smash” is just 46 minutes of distorted rock songs recorded by four six-foot-tall geeks from Garden Grove.  I’ve had the fortune of meeting original members Dexter, Noodles, and Greg.  And yes, it made me appreciate “Smash” just a little bit more.

Some people love the Beatles.  Some people love Beyonce.  Many people love Sinatra.  Tons of people adore Garth Brooks.  I love the Offspring.  And today, their break out album “Smash” turns 20.  Stupid Dumbsh!t G0dd&mn Mother Fu#ker.

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