Even based on the success of their magnum opus Relationship Of Command alone, Texan post-hardcore outfit At the Drive-In are one of the most influential bands in the genre. Throw in their ferocious stage presence and a new arsenal of tunes from their 2017 record in*ter*a*li*a, and the recently reformed, albeit slightly altered band, proved a hotly anticipated act ahead of their Friday night Sydney show at the Hordern Pavilion.
Opening up the evening were Mexican garage punkers Le Butcherettes, who played a tight, 45 minute set of stripped-back, guttural punk. The captivating stage presence of their only remaining founding band member, Teri Gender Bender, did well to foreshadow what was to come. As a three-piece, they produced a mighty sound, centred around Teri’s immaculate, if slightly terrifying, vocals.
At The Drive-In exploded onto the stage with ‘Arcarsenal’, lighting up the room and turning the mosh pit into a fleshy circle of limbs, sweat and crashing bodies. Frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala immediately proved he wasn’t a one-trick pony when it came to stage moves by executing a dizzying rapid fire of stage dives, mic-swings, and jumps. The band certainly put on a show, and their uncontrollable energy didn’t abate for a moment.
At The Drive-In exploded onto the stage with ‘Arcarsenal’, lighting up the room and turning the mosh pit into a fleshy circle of limbs, sweat and crashing bodies
Through gritted teeth, I must admit that it was pretty clear that both the audience and the band had no illusions about the fact that all the songs from their new album were to be treated as filler. There were sudden spikes of interest from the crowd whenever the band played a song from Relationship Of Command, and it’s fair to say that there were moments of waiting; the occasional lull in interest.
Admittedly At The Drive-In lose some musical complexity live. Much of their noisy guitar interplay becomes a whitewash of over-trebled tinny guitar, and Bixler-Zavala’s angst-riddled singing was often lost underneath it all. Songs like ‘Invalid Litter Dept,’ with its Sunny Day Real Estate style rise and fall structure, lost a little of its punch – what came across as a searing cathartic ballad on record was victim to a degree of muddy inaudibility.
And yet, as a long time admirer of the band I was glad to finally hear the anthems of my adolescence belted out by At The Drive-In, with their encore of ‘One Armed Scissor’ being both predictable and an absolute standout – one that caused an immediate ruckus in the chanting crowd. The group were flawlessly tight and the complexity of their songs – featuring shifting time signatures, speedy riffing between guitars, Bixler-Zavala’s rambling vocals, and syncopated drum beats – still mesmerised. Long live At The Drive-In.