The Las Vegas Country Saloon would have been more identifiable as the Las Vegas Reggae Saloon on Friday night, as Rasta fans congregated at the Downtown venue to watch H.R., aka Human Rights, the frontman for pioneering D.C. hardcore outfit Bad Brains.
Though that band’s high-energy punk often featured reggae flair, H.R.’s solo work has a far more traditional roots sound to it. And though the bill was rounded out by local gutter-punks like Roid Rage and Sector 7-G, the vibe remained laid-back all night, the thick crowd spilling into the connected Brass Lounge. There was even a guy passed out in the back booth of the venue. Actually, that was H.R., snoozing through the openers. And it was tough to blame him, considering the show ran late into the morning. The headlining icon didn’t end up taking the stage until 1:30 a.m., with lots of downtime—in some cases 40 minutes—between acts. By the time H.R. took the stage, the large, supportive crowd that turned out for the show had thinned and mellowed further.
H.R.’s band was filled with noteworthy friends like Norwood Fisher of Fishbone and Louiche Mayorga of Suicidal Tendencies (both on bass) and Rocky George, also of Suicidal Tendencies, on guitar. They laid down a solid groove, but H.R. seemed less focused as the set wore on. Some vocals were incoherent and trailed off, and he mostly rambled between songs. I left somewhat disappointed, not because the show had been bad, but because it had potential to be better.