Watch a pre-fame Rage Against The Machine lay waste to a tiny California record store

Rage Against The Machine
(Image credit: Gie Knaeps/Getty Images)

In November 1992, Rage Against The Machine released their self-titled debut album. You’ve probably heard it: it is, after all, one of the most acclaimed opening salvos ever, by anyone. It turned the band into global superstars and the shows that happened in the aftermath helped cement their reputation as one of the most incendiary live acts on the planet. It all happened so quickly that it’s almost impossible to think of a Rage Against The Machine that existed before that debut, a world where not everyone knew Killing In The Name, but of course they did and there was.

On March,29 1992, seven months before the release of the record, RATM played a tiny instore show at the small record store Zed’s in Long Beach, California. It’s your typically chaotic instore show: amps next to cd racks, cramped conditions and everyone on the floor, but this time it’s being performed by a band who would be elevated to festival headliners the world over due to the songs they’re playing in this set.

Rage themselves are, obviously, fantastic; all the riffs, grooves and monumental vocal hooks that would become anthemic present and correct in their set, and it’s actually slightly disorientating to watch Tom Morello and Tim Commerford trying to fix a tiny little PA system themselves before launching into a song as gargantuan as Know Your Enemy. Those in attendance bounce up and down, chant along to bits and pieces of the set, but the fervor that would greet the band if they were to do such a thing again today is not in evidence.

If you’re a fan of the band then it’s almost impossible not to feel sick with jealousy at the sight of this iconic band playing these songs in front of such a tiny audience, and we’re sure that every single person who was there (and a few thousand others who weren’t) would smugly boast of their presence in that room today.

Even so, it’s unlikely that any of them truly knew at that time what they had just witnessed, how rare it would become for this band to play in front of so few people and just how quick the rise would be in the aftermath of this tiny, DIY punk show.

Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.