At the Drive-In at the Palladium
At the Drive-In is a band I never thought I’d get to see perform live. After a respectable following in the indie scene in the 90s, they blew up in the year 2000, only to promptly break up.
The band basically split in two over creative differences. The afro-sporting Latino half went on to form the prog-rock band The Mars Volta (video clip below), while the post-punk half went on to form the band Sparta, both of which are now essentially defunct. At the Drive-In tried their first reunion in 2011. The reviews were not great, as some concert-goers thought they were phoning in their performances. I cannot comment, as I missed this tour completely. I knew I had to catch this one, though, so when I found out they were playing at the Hollywood Palladium, I enthusiastically grabbed a ticket.
I arrived at the venue alone, as I usually do these days, but I never have problems making friends. You’ve got a built-in conversation starter when you go to a concert, and I always take advantage. (I also always wear my Big Lebowski tee, shown below. Click to purchase!) My new friends this time around were a couple of slightly younger Latino guys from Inland Empire. It turns out they had their own psychedelic rock band, which we discussed as well as their jobs with Amazon.com. One guy was a huge ATDI fan, and he had dragged his drummer to the show. The drummer wasn’t familiar with their music, but by the end of the show, he was a fan. (There were a few times when he nudged me to ask the name of a song, which I was most often able to provide.)
The opening act was a garage punk band from Mexico that I had never heard of: Le Butcherettes. My new drummer friend told me that Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (from At the Drive-In) was also in this band. That didn’t sound right to me; how would he be able to play two sets? I looked it up and found out that he did indeed have ties to the band: he’s produced a couple of their albums.
Le Butcherettes put on a very fast-paced and chaotic show. They all dressed in red, and used fake blood and props from 1950s Americana to make a statement about the role of women in society. (The lead singer is a woman who goes by the name Teri Gender Bender.) Teri played guitar, sang, screamed, and smacked herself in the head with the microphone several times. The rest of the band wasn’t quite so theatrical, but their energy was just as high. At the end of the set, Teri jumped into the crowd and crowdsurfed to the back of the theater. Her red dress was almost immediately hiked up, so luckily she remembered to wear clean panties. (Yikes.)
I liked the band, and if I was more into punk rock, I would have loved them. I’ve added the video for the last song they played, called Henry Don’t Got Love. This was my favorite of the evening, and the first single off of their first LP (produced by Omar.) It will give you a pretty good sense of what the band is all about. Enjoy!
Le Butcherettes Setlist: Burn the Scab | Demon Stuck in Your Eye | The Leibniz Language | Shave the Pride | The Devil Lived | Boulders Love Over Layers of Rock | I’m Getting Sick of You | Witchless C Spot | Stab My Back | La Uva | Henry Don’t Got Love
Sound: ★★★★ out of 5
Energy: ★★★★★ out of 5
Live Performance: ★★★★ out of 5
Overall: ★★★★ out of 5
At the Drive-In
I had made my way up to the front of the stage in between bands, and was right up front when At the Drive-In took the stage. They opened with the song Arcarsenal, the first song off of their last (and best) album. It begins with a slow, ambient build-up of maracas until it suddenly explodes into post-punk fury. (I’ve included a video below.) Cedric Bixler-Zavala, the singer, jumped into the crowd directly onto me. It was awesome. I stayed up front for two or three songs, but as I was still injured from the Lamb of God mosh pit, I had to make my way towards the back in order to not get crushed.
By this time, my friend John had arrived to join us. He had seen them once before, and he repeated the criticism that I had heard about phoning it in on the previous tour. Not so this time. At the Drive-In brought the energy and kept it going for the entire 90 minute set. As I mentioned, Cedric leapt into the crowd several times, Omar flailed his guitar around, and Tony Hajar played his drums like a man possessed. (The only missing piece was Jim Ward, who dropped out of the tour right before it started.) They’re in their late 30s/early 40s now, so I can’t even imagine what they were like in their 20s. It must have been insane.
At the Drive-In has always been a political band. (Read the lyrics to Invalid Litter Dept. for a sampling.) The set decor was a couple of black banners with an illustration that looked like it was out of a medical book. They had slogans like, “How to Hypnotize,” “Tooth Deprivation,” “Neuronecromancy,” and “Be yourself with neurosynthesis.” I have no idea what it all meant, and Cedric often goes over the top with the vocabulary in his lyrics. At one point during the set, Cedric paused to tell people to treat each other not like Trump, not like Clinton, but like Bernie Sanders wants us to treat each other. It got a couple of “Woo!”s from the audience, but not as many as I expected in a place like Hollywood. He didn’t really get into it any further as I don’t think he had gotten the response he had wanted.
During the encore, they brought out the drummer’s young son after the song Shaking Hand Incision so we could sing Happy Birthday. It was a touching moment right before they launched into their biggest hit song, One Armed Scissor. The crowd went absolutely nuts. I wish I could have taken part in the pit, but I didn’t think it was worth further injuring myself.
All in all, a very enjoyable show and it will definitely be near the top, if not at the top, of my list when I rank my concert-going year. Both bands brought their A-game, and At the Drive-In did not disappoint. They played mostly the newer stuff, which was a good move as it’s widely regarded to be their best. I’m looking forward to seeing them again.
At the Drive-In Setlist: Arcarsenal | Pattern Against User | Sleepwalk Capsules | Chanbara | 300 MHz | Pickpocket | Invalid Litter Dept. | Enfilade | Metronome Arthritis | Non-Zero Possibility | Cosmonaut | Napoleon Solo | Catacombs
Shaking Hand Incision | One Armed Scissor
Setlist: ★★★★ out of 5
Sound: ★★★★★ out of 5
Energy: ★★★★★ out of 5
Live Performance: ★★★★ out of 5
Overall: ★★★★½ out of 5
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