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Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Updated: December 6, 3:34 PM ET
Banned in SD

By Jon Coen

Bad Brains
The Bad Brains tear up the Belly Up as part of the Arnette 20th Anniversary.

"The early '90s was a special time in our world. Major progression was happening in streets, on the water, mountains and in the dirt. Arnette was born in 1992 and, right from the start, supported the people that helped create modern-day youth culture," says Joe Frietag, global brand director at Arnette. "There aren't a lot of brands in action sports today that have that kind of heritage. Punk and hardcore were the driving soundtracks for the videos that first made local heroes into global icons. Bad Brains, and similar groups at this time, were the soundtracks to these videos and in the heads of guys who lived this world. Fast-forward 20 years and the scene is still going strong. Some of the players have changed, but the energy and creativity are still there."

Frietag hit the nail on the head; actually, he hit two nails pretty squarely. First, it's true that punk and hardcore had symbiotic relationships with boardriding culture. Two decades ago, surfing and skateboarding had yet to find their way into the mall. They were hanging out in a dirty parking lot with punk, early hip-hop, some reggae and select indie rock -- the soundtrack for youth culture.

Daryl Jennifer
The Bad Brains' Daryl Jennifer talks about that PMA with Joe Frietag, Global Brand Director at Arnette. Or maybe he's trying to swing a pair of Catfish shades?

But he's also right that the players have changed. You might say the players of guitars have been replaced by the players of keyboards. The early '90s underground was a direct backlash to materialistic, cheesy and commercial '80s pop. Now, you'd be hard pressed to find a single kid at a junior surf contest aware of Bad Brains, or any legit hardcore band for that matter. Just look at the U.S. Open: This year, Nike landed a bunch of Twitter all-stars and uber-hip synth-rock acts that sound a lot like the radio music that motivated surfers and skaters to find an alternative 20 years ago.

And there's nothing inherently wrong with that. A new generation has grown up at a different time with different values. They get fired up over electro beats instead of chord progressions. But it was fitting that Arnette had Bad Brains tear down the Belly Up in San Diego last Friday night to celebrate their 20th anniversary and re-release of their classic Catfish shade.

From their first rehearsals in 1979, the Bad Brains were an anomaly, four Rastas from Washington, D.C., who played a blistering brand of life-affirming punk music in the face of the status quo. Their raucous shows, which eventually got them kicked out of every venue in the nation's capital, became a benchmark for all live music. They bought new spiritualism and ideas to the underground, mixing the random reggae tune into sets of hardcore and becoming absolutely legendary.

Arnette is celebrating their 20 year annivesary by re-releasing limited runs of the classic Catfish.

After a hiatus and briefly losing their name to a former major label, Bad Brains reemerged in the late '90s to rabid fans from a variation of subcultures who wanted nothing more than to be whipped into a frenzy with "I Against I." This year, Bad Brains -- H.R., Daryl Jennifer, Earl Hudson and Dr. Know -- released "Into the Future," full of speedy hardcore with three dub ditties mixed in. Their most recent live gigs haven't always been the Bad Brains that the nostalgic crowd wants to hear, but it might be asking a lot of H.R. to backflip off the stage at age 56.

The Catfish is a countercultural classic, one as relevant to the early '90s as Doc Martens and Lost beanies. They influenced the direction of eyewear from Southern California to the rest of the world. Arnette chose to release limited numbers of the Catfish in throwback colorways: the original Gloss Black along with vintage Havana, trippy Inked Green and '90s-soaked Silver with a red mirror lens. They even bought back the original logo.

"The show last Friday at the Belly Up was nothing less than amazing. The concert sold out and was packed almost from the start, when the opening band, Creepy Creeps, took the stage," reports Frietag. "As soon as Bad Brains came on, everything went nuts. The audience was a good mix of people that came out to touch the energy that the Bad Brains bring to a live performance. Before and after the show, we heard people talking about their favorite Bad Brains and Arnette memories, so hopefully we helped create a new one for them on Friday."

Bad Brains
You don't usually get this for White Arrows or Best Coast.

We got that PMA/Don't care what they may say/We got that attitude!

It still sounds so sweet. Maybe this will usher in an early-'90s revival, because the '80s has certainly worn out its welcome. The new old Catfish drops at select retailers this month.