Last Night: Scratch Acid, Baboon Trees December 8, 2011
Better than: Watching a Whitney marathon.
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Scratch Acid might not make the kind of music that elicits universal joy. Difficult and straining can only begin to describe this Birthday Party-inspired act. Yet for the mostly full audience at Trees, this was not a deterrent. Matter of fact, this was a joyful affair. One that was recorded for a future live album, no less.
The four-piece doesn't have a ton of material to choose from, since they only did two EPs and an LP in their five years together. Still, playing a little over an hour, the band managed 20 songs from their 28-song catalog.
The live sound was a drastic improvement. If their albums sounded a little cold and numb, their carefully crafted live show was anything but. Sprinting tom-tom fills by Rey Washam, parading bass lines by David Wm. Sims, and clenching guitar lines by Brett Bradford all had weight under the one-man fireball that is David Yow.
Yow, never one to even attempt to sing like a choirboy, puked his vocals all over his microphone. Rarely standing still while Sims and Bradford were entrenched on opposite ends of the stage, he often smiled as he looked into the section of the crowd going nuts at every sonic bottle rocket the band fired off.
"Welcome to the 2011 Scratch Acid Reenactment Program," Yow said after "Crazy Dan." Also quipping that five different songs were love songs, he was noticeably appreciative and gracious to the whole crowd. And not only did he introduce his bandmates, he mentioned the names of the sound men as well. You definitely don't hear that at a regular show.
Though Yow has stated the money he's received from reuniting Scratch Acid and The Jesus Lizard has been very generous, the band certainly didn't play like they were punching a clock. Washam in particular used every facet of his drum kit, which looked like it was made up from spare parts from four different kits, and played with gusto.
As for the crowd, a lot of them were reuniting with a band they fell in love with in high school. A majority of the audience looked like they could have been at the band's shows when they were originally an Austin-based act in the early '80s. The crowd didn't forget to show them love back.
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Local legends Baboon opened with a 50-minute set. With its original line-up intact (along with an extra guitarist), the band that once rocked venues like Trees and the Ridglea Theater in the late '90s retained that energy. Songs like "Rise," "Evil," and "Lushlife" sounded vital as a sizable amount of the audience threw right arms in the air at 45-degree angles.
Personal bias: I make no bones about how if it weren't for Nirvana, I would have never heard of Scratch Acid as a teenager. A simple namecheck in an interview would pique my interest, even if it would be years before I heard the bands.
By the way: Cover charge to get into the show was $25, so Scratch Acid's set was really a dollar and change per song. Not a bad deal.