The story begins on Christmas Day 2021....
My sister, ever the thoughtful gift giver, had just gifted me and my son with tickets for Spring 2022 to see The Foo Fighters in Burgettstown, PA...the day after my birthday coincidentally enough. So, for months, my son and I were looking forward to a trip to Pennsylvania with my sister, brother in law and some friends to see some Foo be fought.
Three months to the day after being gifted these tickets - on March 25th 2022 - that plan got tragically changed.
The death of Taylor Hawkins hit me like a freight train to the chest....but it hit my son harder. Foo Fighters are/were his favorite band, so Taylor's passing just devastated him - it was and remains his "Kurt Cobain moment" (one of those 'I'll always remember where I was when...' moments.) Obviously the plans to go to PA in the Spring were now scuttled and I mentally removed a concert off my 2022 lineup of shows I either already had tickets for or planned to buy tickets for.
A few weeks later, during a random back and forth via iMessage while I was at work, the second half of this story began to take shape. My son had come to realize that the long delayed Rage Against The Machine & Run The Jewels tour was not only FINALLY happening...but there was a tour stop a couple of days after his birthday in July in Cleveland. Now, my son is not one to out and out ask for gifts for Christmas/birthdays/what have you. But this? This he asked for....or at least STRONGLY hinted that he'd REALLY like to go see this tour. I started looking at tickets online and discovered "wait...there's a show a couple days later in Pittsburgh...on a FRIDAY? Well, that is way easier to work with than a Tuesday in Cleveland." And began doing what I do best; plotting. While in the process of plotting this trip (acquiring tickets, putting in for PTO from work, etc etc) I mentioned this strong hint to my sister. Something along the lines of "Your nephew REALLY wants to go the Rage, RTJ tour. There's a show in Pittsburgh the Friday after his birthday so that one looks very promising....may need to crash at your house that night" (my sister lives just south of Pittsburgh in Morgantown, WV. An easy drive and way cheaper than a hotel haha...)
Next thing I know my Sister is texting me screen caps to let me know that she had taken care of her nephews request. All because she was able to take those previously mentioned Foo Fighters tickets for a now canceled show/tour and exchange them for tickets to the Public Service Announcement tour.
We timed our arrival through an alternate route I found on Google Maps (no WAY was I hitting the traditional route on a Friday evening) and arrived at the venue parking lot about 30 minutes before doors opened. We had actual seats, not GA floor tickets, so I was only concerned about getting to the venue and inside to hit up a merch table before the crowds swamped them since we didn't have to worry about fighting for space on the open floor/pit. This was my third event at PPG Paints Arena and my son's second event there (we had been there for a similar birthday trip in 2018 to see...the Foo Fighters. Life is funny like that sometimes) so we knew which gate to go to, where to park, all that stuff. Right at 7pm the doors swung open, we went through the metal detector, scanned our tickets and headed for the upper concourse and the first merch table we could find. After breezing through that and picking up a couple t-shirts for ourselves, we headed to our seats to check out the view and get situated.
At exactly 8:00pm the lights went out and the time for jewel running was upon us....
I have been a HUGE Run The Jewels fan since the first time I heard them when they released "RTJ 2" in 2014, but I was familiar with (and a fan of) both Killer Mike and EL-P for a long time BEFORE that from their respective solo work and Mike's affiliation with the Dungeon Family/Outkast. My son had grown to like RTJ over the years of randomly hearing them on my Spotify in the car...but that exploded into full on love with the release of RTJ 4 in 2020.
For the next almost hour we were treated to RTJ running through a great mix of their entire catalog....even with a stripped down stage presence and a crowd that was still filing in because of delays at the security screenings, standing in merch lines, getting beers, etc they prowled the stage with all the power and talent I'd seen a thousand times in YouTube videos over the last 8 years or so...but it was something you don't truly appreciate until you're in the room with them. EL-P, all NYC swagger and confidence, playing wonderfully off of his partner Killer MIke; the unofficial Mayor of Atlanta...booming voice and booming talent. Truly a sight to behold and witness.
While it would be easy to say "the whole damn thing!" if you asked me what my highlight of their set was, I'll get specific and say it was them dusting off probably my favorite song in their entire catalog - "Oh My Darling Don't Cry" from RTJ 2.
At about 850p the set was over...the lights came up....the countdown was on.
"THIS IS A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT!"
As the voice of Zack de la Rocha boomed on a loop, telling everyone that "this is a public service announcement" the crowd, now at pretty much full capacity of almost 15,000, started to come unglued. Then the familiar Tom Morello guitar noodling that starts "Bombtrack" filled the arena and the bar for the evening was set. Sh*t was about to get REAL.
For the next hour and forty five minutes, Rage Against the Machine unleashed the musical fury you would expect from a band that has told us for almost 30 years that our anger is a gift. They ripped through a set of the hits (both 'radio' hits and fan favorites) and even brought RTJ back to the stage for a full band performance of RTJ's "Close Your Eyes (And Count to F***)" from RTJ 2 - a song that Zach has contributed a guest verse on back in 2014. From high in our perch in the upper deck parallel to stage right, my son and I just absorbed it all. Him, the fifteen year old still forming opinions in this world - both musical and otherwise - getting an education in things they don't teach in school. And me, the long long LONG time Rage fan who had waited decades for the chance to finally catch this band live (missing their tour with Wu Tang Clan in 1997 ranks among my biggest life regrets) and having my mind blown repeatedly. The fact that Zach was able to control the room and own the stage while being seated the entire time
(due to blowing out his knee in Chicago earlier in the tour...an injury that led to the band announcing on August 11th they were having to cancel the European leg of this tour because the issues Zach's injury would present with the demands of international travel, etc. Sorry Euro friends) is a testament now just to his showmanship but the raw power of his words and his voice. We throw the word "Iconic" around a lot but we have enough evidence at this point to absolutely mean it in this regard; Rage Against the Machine are a truly iconic band and Zach de la Rocha is an absolutely iconic front man. One of the absolute best to ever do it regardless of genre.
The show ended exactly as you'd expect, with a blistering rendition of "Killing In The Name" that had the entire 15,000 in attendance singing along and rattling the walls. It was truly a sight to behold and experience.
2. People of The Sun
3. Bulls On Parade
4. Bullet In The Head
6. Take The Power Back
7. Close Your Eyes (And Count To F***) with Run The Jewels
8. Guerrilla Radio
10. Know Your Enemy
11. Calm Like A Bomb
12. Sleep Now In The Fire
13. Born of Broken Man
14. War Within A Breath
15. The Ghost of Tom Joad (Bruce Springsteen cover)
17. Township Rebellion (snippet)
18. Killing In The Name
*After the show my son and I made our way across the street to the car and on our way there linked up with a friend of mine that I'd only ever known from online message board music chats. Shout out to Adam, nice to finally meet you after 20 or so years. And an extra shout out to the old InStrife Message Board (since I imagine one or two of you are reading this...or at least I know for sure you are, McNally hahaa. Cheers.)
*Highlight of Rage's set for me? Too numerous to name really. But getting to hear my favorite song of theirs ('Know Your Enemy') live was pretty tough to beat...for my son? He rattled off a ton of things but the performance of 'The Ghost of Tom Joad' was probably his biggest one. He had commented on the drive up, after the song shuffled up on our road trip Spotify playlist, that he didn't expect they'd play that one but if they did? He'd lose his mind. They did and...he did.
*The day after the show my son and I spent the day in and around Pittsburgh enjoying ourselves. We hit up Wahlburgers and some sports card shops. I hit up a brewery (Dancing Gnome...best brewery in Pittsburgh) and took my son to a Dave And Busters. But the highlight of all that running around was probably our trip a little bit east of the city to visit a mall. But not just any mall....
....love that Danhausen (and love the "Dawn of The Dead")
*One final post-script...
I mentioned earlier how seeing this tour, this combination of artists, was "knocking a bucket list show" off my list. As it stands right now, if I sat down and listed my 20, 30, 50, whatever favorite active bands I have been fortunate enough to have seen each of them live at least once (multiple times in some cases. Example; I've seen Clutch at least 11 times that I can remember, but I lost count some time ago) at this point - after knocking out Rage Against The Machine & Run The Jewels on the same night - the list is very short now. That list, in no particular order;
1. Hot Water Music (Actually had tickets to see them in Boston a couple of years ago. But, shortly before I was scheduled to make my trip to Boston the world shut down. This was February 2020.)
2. Tim Barry (another one I came close to knocking off the list. Had tickets to see him at a super small venue in Pittsburgh in 2013 or 2014 - I think. I can't remember exactly - ...but due to circumstances beyond my control that trip to Pittsburgh got canceled and I missed the show.)
3. Pearl Jam (I'm hoping one of my Ten Club member friends will take me along for a show or they come back through Pittsburgh and I can snag a ticket one of these years)
4. Baroness (they've played reasonably close to me a few times and I've just not been able to make it work out)
5. Red Fang (Another one of those "they've played reasonably close to me a few times and I've just not been able to make it work" situations.)
6. Wu Tang Clan (though I did see Cappadonna once at a free show one summer 20 some odd years ago. That kinda counts right?)
7. Sleep (I did see High On Fire open for Clutch once though so, that's reeeeeeeally close to seeing Sleep.)
That's it. That's the list.
One of these days, though. One of these days.
Dr Fever still resides in a fortified compound on the side of a hill deep in the mountains of West Virginia. When he's not working or getting into adventures with his son, Hunter, he still listens to music religiously. You can keep up with his various live music adventures as he documents them on his live music Instagram account or you can send him a follow request on his personal Instagram. And, if you have a lead on a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle at RETAIL? Feel free to message him.
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