Rage at the Coachella Festival in Indio, CA - 10-10-99
By Lance Buchi
I flew out to San Diego on Saturday afternoon at 5 to meet internet friend and fellow RATM guru Gavin Rattmann of RageFAQ fame. We discussed all things Rage-related at a proletariat Mexican food restaraunt, and he showed me some significant things around the San Diego area, including the community collective for activism, arts, and general co-existance called the "Che Cafe" featuring a perimeter mural of figures from Karl Marx, to Che Guevara, to Malcolm X to the ancient Aztecs.
On Sunday we drove to Indio, CA to the Empire Polo Fields for the big festival. We arrived later than we expected - at about 4 or 5pm, instead of 3pm like we planned. I stopped at the Libros Revolucion booth and talked briefly with a man named Joey - one of the people who are part of what goes down at Revolution Books. (For those who don't know, Tom Morello is closely associated with this LA bookstore, for good reason - they do some fine work.) I bought Mao's notorious "little red book" at the booth, as it's hard to find in your run-of-the-mill Barnes and Noble. I put the book in my back pocket and prepared for Rage.
Gavin, me, and two of his friends made our way into the massive crowd during Ben Harper's set to try and get close for Rage's upcoming performance. This did not prove easy, however, as there was a large group of like-minded individuals at the concert. After a long waiting period in which several failed chants of "We want Rage!" from jocks anticipating mosh pits went unheard, the grand drapery was rolled out from left to right depicting the 8 images we've grown to know and love. ("Who laughs last?", etc.) The sight of this, Tom's classic "Che Guevara" marshall half-stack, and Brad's drumset suddenly made the entire experience very real. A concert promoter came on stage to suggest to fans that they "take it easy" on the blockade that holds the crowd back from the stage. After this, excitement and cheering began as Rage took stage...
Zack, Tim, Tom, and Brad walked onto the stage with what seemed to me to be overwhelming confidence and excitement. The look on Zack's face made me realize that he was indeed doing serious work for good, and he knew where he was going and what he was doing. He said the standard "Good evening, we're Rage Against the Machine from Los Angeles, California", in a stance and attitude that reminded me of Bob Marley's spirit and purpose - only with a more contemporized hip-hop influence (naturally). Tom started "Testify".
Rage played their set, and each song was simply right - in technique, style, and purpose. Anyone who's seen Rage live knows the energy taking place and the greatness of the general scheme. I jumped with fury, feeling so perfect seeing Rage on stage doing their work, and then looking at the churning crowd of fans, and none other than Gavin rocking to the new sounds. It was all too dreamlike in scope, and I began to realize that I, too, was on a right path simply by being there. When Rage was playing "Sleep Now in the Fire", and specifically the lyric beginning with "I am the Nina, the Pinta, the Santa...Maria...", I understood fully the intensity of Rage's spiritual magnitude. The songs have an almost haunting sound to them, and serve as a perfect representation of the soiled times we currently live in. Progressing from feeling simple "Rage" at the reality of a zombie-like culture such as America in songs like "Bullet in the Head", to the point of truely understanding the roots and causes of this horrifying situation, and relaying it in a artistically revolutionary way such as "Sleep Now in the Fire" is the most obvious sign that Rage are much more than a rock band hoping to educate music fans about the socio-political climate.
Zack briefly asked the crowd to help him through the set, because he had a bad case of laryngitis 3 days prior to the concert, and he might struggle a little bit. It was not evident, save for a few minor scratches in one or two songs, and I was impressed at his relentless focus to keep going. Maynard James Keenan of Tool came out for his part in "Know Your Enemy" and convinced me that he is indeed one of the most skilled vocalists in music - period. When he finished, and as he was making his way to leave the stage, Zack motioned to give him five, and Maynard hugged Zack, putting them both into a spinning, dance-like hug that one couldn't help but smirk at. Rage left the stage after "Bulls on Parade", but returned 3-4 minutes later to finish with "Killing in the Name" - a song that the jocks releasing aggression (sexual, or otherwise) in the mosh pits particularly enjoyed.
I left, simply stunned. Mao's little red book survived in my pocket.
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