If you’re a fan of the post-hardcore genre, you were most likely at the Civic Theater on Friday, March 17 for At The Drive-In. The tickets became all general admission as the show inevitably sold our for a band with almost more dramatic history than music. Damn good music, though.
At The Drive-In was formed in El Paso, Texas by high school friends Cedric Bixler-Zavala and guitarist Jim Ward. They later formed a solidified lineup with guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, drummer Tony Hajjar, and bassist Paul Hinojos. They released three albums between 1993 and 2001, breaking up in 2001. Their third and final album, Relationship of Command was regarded as the peak of their creative success and a landmark in the history of the post-hardcore genre. The breakup was due to creative differences and drug habits, but then again, which breakups aren’t attributed to that?
The band reunited in 2011, stating that they would like to close the negative chapter in their band and continue forward in hopes to make new music that represented their growth. After a 2012 tour, the band went on hiatus again, confessing to fans that new material was most likely not going to be a reality. Of course, to everyone’s great surprise, they got back together in 2016 and announced that a new album was to be released May 5th, 2017. This, however, came also as a surprise to the guitarist Jim Ward, and he said in an interview that he would no longer like to discuss ATDI, stating that it did not pertain to his present or future career. He was replaced by Sparta guitarist Keeley Davis and the band embarked on a world tour.
Now, with the release of their new record In·ter a·li·a on the horizon, At The Drive-In is touring North America. They arrived at the Civic with Le Butcherettes, a quirky group led by Teri Gender Bender, who has shared multiple musical projects with Omar Rodriguez-Lopez. Le Bucherettes took the stage at half past seven and left the crowd’s jaws wide open from a creative and hyper active performance that could only be expected of a group on tour with ATDI.
At about nine o’clock, the lights dimmed and the crowd instantly knew, straining their voices for the first of many times that night. Omar, Paul, Tony, and Keeley came out from a haze of blue smoke and began to play the eerie, etherial, yet unmistakeable intro to the first song on Relationship of Command.
Before long, Cedric loomed out from behind the amps, scanning the crowd and then making a silly pose for each photographer. The song quickly exploded into a force of melodic power. At The Drive-In fuse a punk rock essence with a dynamic and experimental brand of rock. Omar’s effect-laced guitar riffs and Cedric’s complicated, almost nonsensical lyrics are the staples of their sound. Apart from their distinct creativity, the band is known for their intensely enthusiastic stage presence. Omar twirls and thrashes with his guitar while playing complicated riffs, and Cedric will make use of just about any piece of equipment that happens to be in front of him–whether throwing things or throwing himself off of things. His aggressive, although graceful courtship of the microphone stand is something to behold, and beware of.
They kept up the hits from their third album, playing “Sleepwalk Capsules” second, followed by “Pattern Against User.” Next, they brought back an old favorite, “198d,” from the Vaya EP, and then tried out some new material on the audience, executing the “Incurably Innocent” single to perfection. Venturing back to their cherished previous works, ATDI exuberantly carried out five more tracks from Relationship of Command, ending their set with the re-release bonus track, “Catacombs,” after divulging into their second album In/Casino/Out for “Napoleon Solo.”
The crowd, of course, resembled the sound of a wild stampede drawing nearer and nearer until they were satisfied by the return of their heroes. For an encore, At The Drive-In shared their more well-received new single, “Governed By Contagions.” Cedric then made sure to thank everyone in the venue for being so supportive and showing up to see them after almost 17 years of absence. “You have no idea how much we appreciate you. This song is for you,” he said as they concluded the evening with their most popular track, “One Armed Scissor.”