Rage Against the Machine at Alpine Valley, Aug. 24

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Maybe it’s ironic that I went to see Rage with three Phish heads (thanks, Adam, Don and Bert!), but as we waited on the freeway exit where cars were bumpered up for miles, trudged across the muddy parking lots, encountered fanatics wearing concert t-shirts from 1997, 1998, 1995, with every step, I understood.

It wasn’t just that Rage’s music fused political ideals, anger, funk, hip-hop and rock into an intelligent, multi-layered package succicintly appealing to testosterone-laden adolescents, music aficionados or just folks who liked vitriol.

It was also that it was a night of “haven’t been/had/done this since…” Adam kept saying it hadn’t rained this much in Milwaukee in a hundred years. His friends agreed that they’d never seen Alpine Valley that muddy. Rage Against the Machine hadn’t played the Midwest in more than seven years, since they broke up. (They’d only played a handful of shows, maybe four, since reuniting this year.) All these circumstances bubbled up into in a feeling of anticipation, the knowledge that it was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime concert.


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Even Tom Morello’s mom, Mary, a tiny old lady, seemed giddy. She introduced “the best f**king band in the universe,” and then the band burst into “Testify.” Mud was flying everywhere and, people were walking around dirtier than hippies. Security seemed a little worried, but compared to the crowd my friends saw at San Bernardino (or even Coachella, where I saw Rage reunite for the first time), the crowd looked really amped, but not dangerous. (Actually, because I was in the covered part of the amphitheater, I didn’t realize that people were reportedly sliding down the hill in mud to mosh.)

Zack de la Rocha was wearing the exact same outfit he had on at Coachella — a red collared shirt and black pants — and they performed in front of the same black flag and a red star used by the Zapatista Army of National Liberation as a backdrop.

But at that show, where the whole band looked absolutely ecstatic, grinning from ear to ear, yesterday’s was polished and flawless. And maybe even a little weary. Still, Morello’s solos were flying, bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk drove the backline tighter than an emo kid’s pants, and de la Rocha was at top form, jumping, kicking, pumping up the crowd. My only complaint? It seemed that there was too much treble in de la Rocha’s vocals.

No matter what, though, it was awesome the way Rage channeled nostalgia and made it current.

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During “Wake Up,” he went on to talk about how they’ve made the news since they’re reunited. (Okay, I’m a nerd and I taped it, but I can’t make out all of it so here is the MP3 and we can all figure it out together! Yay!)



Press play to launch.

It was a rallying cry that, 15 years after the band first made its mark in music, still has the power to stir us today — no matter whether we’ve grown up to like Phish, Of Montreal or Justin Timberlake.

“At Coachella… that was our first show back I said a few things on stage and the next day Fox News ran a whole piece about us saying the president should be assassinated. Those fascists got it wrong … what we said was the whole Bush administration should be held on trial for war crimes…But I sat there and it made me think of something. It made me think of what the f**k they’re so afraid of. It made me think of what scares them. Is it really just four musicians from Los Angeles? …Is it really just this music and these rhythms and these words? My conclusion was…they’re not scared of us. They’re scared of you. They’re scared that you might come election time and throw Bush and Cheney and all those bastards out … And I say this, that the Democrats are scared of you too, because they’re scared you see through their bullshit too…they know they’re going to power and they’re going to take credit for it. If they don’t start pulling troops out of Iraq, you’re going to start burning every office in every city…the whole world is watching you. Your brothers and sisters in South America have their eyes on us. Our brothers and sisters in Iraq have their eyes on us… so wake up! Wake up!”

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Set List
“Testify”
“Bulls on Parade”
“People of the Sun”
“Bombtrack”
{a blank out of about four songs here as I was making my way back to my seat, witnessed a crowd tear out a barricade, had to navigate muddy moshpits, drunk dudes, potsmokers, etc. According to the Journal-Sentinel, it was “Vietnow,” “Bullet in the Head,” and “Take the Power Back,” }
“Tire Me”
“Guerilla Radio”
“Calm Like a Bomb”
“Sleep Now in the Fire”
“Wake Up”
*encore*
“Freedom”
“Township Rebellion” (outro)
“Killing in the Name”


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–Text and photos by Lilledeshan Bose

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