Banned in Babylon: The Art and Culture of Bad Brains
Thirty plus years ago in America fault lines opened up and the ground shifted. Cities like DC, LA and NYC gave rise to scores of angsty artists and musical insurgents who forged a more concentrated, speedy and aggressive form of punk called hardcore. This hybrid genre (born out of metal and punk sounds) was being propagated by youth factions fed up with authoritarians, over-commercialization, and the ‘new world order.’ Many of these artists were influenced by nearly a decade of economic gloom and doom (1970s-style ‘stagflation’), DIY style, crass aesthetics and zine art. In the early eighties they began making music critical of the status quo, supply-side economics, Cold War politics and Western pop culture. America’s capital, Washington, D.C, became the nation’s hardcore/post-punk nerve center, producing talents and movements like Ian MacKaye and Jeff Nelson (founders of Dischord Records), pioneered Straight Edge culture (a philosophy pushing a clean and sober lifestyle), and gave rise to disruptors like Fugazi, Teen Idles, Minor Threat, and Government Issue. Black Flag’s Henry Rollins even cut his teeth as a youth in DC (he managed a Häagen-Dazs ice cream parlor in Georgetown for a while before heading west to cali!).
However, it was the DC-based band Bad Brains — one of the most epic African-American punk bands of all time — that paved the way for these young upstarts to express their art and make their mark.
A new exhibit celebrating and showcasing the band’s indelible impact on American underground sound, post-punk and hardcore scenes is now live in LA. Titled Banned in Babylon: The Art and Culture of Bad Brains, the show presents cool paintings and crazy compositions by Bad Brains bassist Darryl Jenifer; memorabilia and keepsakes including rare posters, fliers and records; multimedia pieces by Shepard Fairey (the artist who operates the exhibition venue, Subliminal Projects and created the cover art for Bad Brains’ 2012 album, Into the Future); and archival imagery by Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Lucian Perkins, Bad Brains superfan John Mousheghian, and Jeannie “Aunt Jean” Pawlowski — the aunt of Cro-Mags founder Harley Flanagan who has been snapping Bad Brains since the early eighties. The opening included a piercing performance by Trash Talk, in addition to Jenifer, Chuck Treece of McRad, Peter Stahl of Scream and Moby playing Bad Brains covers.
The show is on through Aug. 20 at Subliminal Projects — 1331 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026