At the Drive-In
Enmore Theater, Sydney NSW
24th July, 2016
Supported by Bad//Dreems
It was with great excitement that I entered the Enmore Theatre on Sunday night. Great, great, GREAT excitement. At the Drive-In are one of those bands I had resigned myself to never seeing at their peak, if at all, so this evening was quite literally a dream come true, and all I had to do was watch one support band first. Easy.
But maybe not… Originating from Adelaide, self stylised “outsider rock” band Bad//Dreems attempted to strut their stuff to the already filled venue. A mixture of garage rock and punk sounds began to diffuse throughout the room for the band’s first song, capped off with that trademark shout that is the hallmark of the two genres. The second song followed and for the life of me, I couldn’t tell you if it was any different if you put a gun to my head. I am wholly glad that the band would stop after each song, because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to differentiate a beginning from a chorus or verse of the previous song. Maybe my feelings were tainted because I just wanted At the Drive-In to play or maybe… Just maybe, my feelings are negative because Bad//Dreems aren’t that entertaining. I say a mixture of both.
However, all negative feelings were instantly swept aside the moment At the Drive-In vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala waltzed on stage and produced maracas, which could obviously on mean one thing: ‘Arcarsenal’. The El Pasoan (El Pasan?) quintet exploded from the moment those maracas stopped, spasmodically flowing over the stage like a ruptured tanker full of jet fuel, jumping off of the drum kit, spinning in never-ending circles and writhing on the stage as if possessed. I was surprised. I didn’t know what to expect, but it certainly wasn’t this. AND, this was only the first song!
‘Pattern Against User’ started as Bixler-Zavala was picking himself off the stage and Tony Hajjar belted out the introduction on the drums. The insane energy of the first two songs continued on and on while the lights flashed and strobed and in effect transported me to a whole other plane of enjoyment. All of this coalesced in a mid set crescendo with ‘Enfilade’; the lights pulsing in a mesmerising blue while Hajjar replaces stick after stick as they shatter with the power of his drumming. Let no one tell you At the Drive-In are done with their career, they are finally renewed back to their previous energy.
This was subtly mentioned by Bixler-Zavala through a heartfelt, emotional monologue about wanting to “spread the fire” of their passion and love for music, as former guitarist Jim Ward had no returned in this reincarnation of the band. He was not missed though, as the brilliance of the band as a whole continued to shine like the sun, as they played the aptly titled ‘Cosmonaut’ and segueing into one my personal favourites ‘300 MHz’. Pulling out no stops, a speaker was used as a jumping board and thrown across the stage, just reiterating that At the Drive-In may not be the same band that trashed the set of a British talk show fifteen years ago, but they still have that explosive energy within them.
Roaring through the rest of their set, I cannot help but say that they are awe inspiring to say the least. Every song sounding as crisp and tight as ever, but layered with something extra that I will yearn for forever in the future. Every song they played sounded heavier, or more emotional, and often both at the same time. The encore of the night just highlighting this even more, which was preceded by a thundering, ground shaking cheering that had the whole venue moving on its foundations. ‘One Armed Scissor’ was the last track of choice and what a choice it was. Seemingly renewed from their short break, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez belted out the first few chords which slowly build into a frenetic milieu of sounds and screams that are just heavenly to witness. Before I know it though, the lights shut off and Bixler-Zavala’s body is engulfed by the crowd. A fitting end for such a show.
At the Drive-In have given a resounding, screaming admonition to those who believe their hearts aren’t in it anymore. This is a reinvigorated band who are not compromising any more. I am equally at a loss for words and willing to babble endlessly about this show. Just try me.
At the Drive-In Set List —
Pattern Against User
Invalid Litter Dept.
Shaking Hand Incision
One Armed Scissor