When I was young, band reunions were thought of as really awful: just a bunch of washed up musicians trying to make money. But times have changed: reunions are now viewed as normal and often something to be cherished. I think I’ve changed too, I’ve grown up a bit. When I was young, I had no interest in seeing my favourite 70s bands reunited. I thought it was an awful idea. But now I recognize that this is a completely natural thing for people to want to do: to recapture the glory of lost youth. Sometimes it probably doesn’t work very well. But I’ve been to multiple reunion shows of more recent bands now and, when done well, it doesn’t feel like a reunion in the negative way we thought about them in the 90s.
You couldn’t blame people for thinking a Jim Ward-less At the Drive-In is all about the money. And, maybe, on some level, it is. But I have no regrets about seeing them play last night.
Not knowing much about this band, I was intrigued to see them. However, I have been to a few shows where the opener was so far away from the headliner that you wondered what everyone was thinking and this was one of them.
Teri Gender Bender (yes, that’s her stage name) is a brave, brave performer. But she appears to be far more concerned with performing than with playing music and that’s a problem for someone like me. Also, it seemed like it was a problem for the vast majority of the audience, some of whom went to get beer and some of whom continually stared in disbelief.
You see, Le Butcherettes didn’t perform exactly, just Teri did, with an acoustic guitar plugged into some pedals and an amp. This band has existed for a decade but this performance was really, really rough. She missed some chords, she couldn’t remember what she was playing and paused a few times to find her place on the guitar – things that I, who am not a musician, couldn’t help but notice. I think she did this because she was performing – it was more important for her to sing, scream, whisper, do her birdcalls and cough (yes, cough!) into the mic than play guitar. I listen to lots of risk-taking singers but when your risk-taking is nothing new and it’s paired with generic open and power chords, it’s hard to get really excited.
The set was long, one-note (she plays one type of song) and rough. It was really, really disappointing, despite the clear energy, talent and idiosyncrasy she possesses. Also, it felt completely out of place for this packed club full of people waiting to see a band they grew up with.
At the Drive-In
Whatever disgust I had for reunion shows back when I didn’t actually go to concerts has completely eroded now that I have been a to more than a few concerts where everyone knows the words to every song. Though I am horribly stuck in my head and need to be drunk to singalong and move to music, I can appreciate when everyone else is absolutely carried away by hearing songs they know really well. Aside from the two (?) news songs, everyone knew all the words and the breaks, and it was an impressive site to see the crowd surge like it did.
The set itself was mostly drawn from Relationship of Command, with a few songs from earlier in their career. The Mars Volta found their way into the show in spirit, if not in actual songs, as they stretched out a couple of the songs into long jams. (Is this why Jim Ward isn’t here? Because Omar needs guitar solos?) I for one appreciate when songs do not sound identical to the record and multiple songs were radically or somewhat radically altered. There was also a healthy (but medically dangerous, I’m sure) dose of noise between songs and sometimes during songs.
I may have had low expectations – band I’ve never seen on a reunion tour without one of the two founding members – but these expectations were more than exceeded. ATDI were engaged, quirky, loud, violent (though, you know, not as violent as they used to be) and had one hell of a light show (that was kind of blinding at times).
A very good show.