Watch: Rage Against the Machine’s “First Public Performance Ever”

Apparently this was uploaded to YouTube a year ago, so why am I just now seeing it? According to the description, which I’m not 100% sure is correct, this is Rage Against the Machine’s first ever public concert, which took place October 23, 1991 at the Quad on the Cal State Northridge campus. If it’s not accurate, it’s certainly close: Zach de la Rocha’s former band Inside Out broke up around this time. Rage formed shortly thereafter; according to Wikipedia, their first show was actually at a friend’s house party, but whether that’s even true, I’m not really sure.

This is the entire concert in full, minus about ten seconds of the beginning of “Township Rebellion.” Though it seems there were no lyrics yet written for “Killing In the Name,” and some of Zach’s raps weren’t fully-formed, I’m surprised at how little the group’s onstage demeanor and their sound changed between this time and the release of their major label debut just one year later. It seems from the onset, the band’s ultimate musical and political mission was put in place. Zach is more enthusiastic with the crowd, though just as political, and Tom Morello sounds like…..well, Tom Morello, a legendary beast on the guitar that forever changed the face of rap and metal.

There are some rare gems here, including “Autologic,” “Hit the Deck,” and a cover of The Clash’s “Clampdown.” And of course there are the classics: “Take the Power Back,” “Freedom,” and “Bullet In the Head,” the latter of which the small crowd appears to enjoy quite a bit. About 3/4 of the way through, in between songs, you can hear one guy ask his friend, “So are these guys any good?” Now it seems like a hilarious question, but truly we can only imagine sitting in on the first ever Rage show, hearing what was to be a catalyst for the entire genres of rock and rap. If you are a Rage fan at all, especially of the first album, I think you’ll really enjoy watching this forty-minute, history-making set.

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