At the Drive-In, Zechs Marquise Trees Tuesday, April 10
The last time At the Drive-In graced the stage at Trees, they looked like a band falling apart. Vocalist Cedric Bixler and guitarist Omar Rodriguez stayed on stage right, bouncing off each other while guitarist/vocalist Jim Ward, bassist Paul Hinojos and drummer Tony Hajjar kept things tight on stage left. The songs sounded sloppy; the chaotic side of the band overpowered the melodic side.
In other words, it was more Angel Hair and far less Billy Joel, if you want to talk about the band's wide range of influences. Luckily, last night's sold-out show was a very even affair. Which, by ATDI's standards, was a perfect balance of extremes.
Kicking off a couple of minutes after 10 p.m., the legendary El Paso quintet unleashed ripper after ripper, starting with "Arcarsenal." At various points, all of the members smiled and acted happy to be together again. Bixler twitched to the beat as he sang, and often used his microphone like a yo-yo. Rodriguez, usually a firecracker onstage, was reserved and restrained yet didn't miss a single note. And Ward, Hinojos and Hajjar held the fort down incredibly well.
As far as song choices, the audience didn't mind if it was a rager or a slowdance. If you were on the floor during the 75-minute set, you walked away with a few bruises, as pushing and crowdsurfing were almost nonstop.
Not surprisingly, the band focused exclusively on material from In/Casino/Out and Relationship of Command, as well as the Vaya EP. Bixler and Ward sounded as good as they did when they toured on those releases in the late '90s. If there was one drawback to the vocals, it was Bixler's decision to sing "Chanbara" more like a child from El Chavo Del Ocho. Kinda distracting, frankly.
Microphone problems were a persistent issue: Both Bixler and Ward's went out at various points in the set. Choosing to move forward with "One Armed Scissor" without Ward yelling, "Cut away," the audience gladly took over that part.
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For a reunion show, this certainly showed why the band is beloved. There was nothing phony about the emotional catharsis they brought, even back when five people watched them play a house show in the mid-'90s. Now back after 12 years, the band didn't look or play like they were worn out or out of touch. They gave something that a long-timer and newcomer could appreciate.
Fellow El Paso act Zechs Marquise started the show at 9 p.m. The instrumental five-piece definitely sounds like sonic offspring of The Mars Volta, but their Latin-funk-fusion hybrid kept the crowd's attention for 40 minutes.
Personal bias: I had the pleasure of seeing ATDI in 1999 and 2000, have written about and researched the band extensively in the past, and am a fan of Sparta's work and the first Mars Volta record. However, I was extremely skeptical about ATDI reuniting. Rodriguez might not have been like Roger Waters in terms of talking about estranged bandmates, but years upon years of shit-talking made a reunion sound nearly impossible. So everything's magically cool now?
Set list: "Arcarsenal" "Pattern Against User" "Chanbara" "Lopsided" "Sleepwalk Capsules" "Napoleon Solo" "Quarantined" "Rascuache" "198d" "Enfilade" "Metronome Arthritis" "Pickpocket" "Non-Zero Possibility" "One Armed Scissor" "Catacombs"