Jun 9, 2017

That Time At The Drive In Finally Came Back to Austin

by Robert Dean

When The Relationship of Command came out, it changed my life. The jangly guitars, the chaotic vocals, mixed tightly with a percussive section that boomed instead of blasted – to those of us who first heard At The Drive In when they landed on the national radar, our minds were blown.

For all of its off-time, brilliance, The Relationship of Command stands as a body of work that defined a generation, and remains ground zero for many punk rock Millennials on that cusp of Generation X who didn’t know Fugazi in their prime or had yet to crate dig and discover Bad Brains. For many of us, At The Drive In Changed how we heard music. We didn’t know The Stooges, nor did we understand why Shellac was important – but, after One Armed Scissor gave us a new sonic direction in punk, we certainly did.

There’s a cultural ownership to an iconic record. It’s a bonding agent, as well as a mode of expression realized by the people who adore it long after the artist has moved on.

As At The Drive took the stage in Austin, Texas, for many, including myself, it was an annunciation of sins, a talisman within a shaking exorcism, which was seventeen years in the making for many of us. For the old folks, now with kids and potbellies - we finally got to hear the songs we’ve lusted after for so long.

The set was a mix of the new record, which is to be expected, and the older material everyone knows. But, let’s cut the shit: everyone in the building was there for the songs off of The Relationship of Command, and not anything else. Despite my love for In Casino/Out or De Facto, there is one record that defines the band’s legacy, and At The Drive In is smart enough to realize it, but play coy to the societal advances.

But, that’s the rub with bands who release legendary records – some embrace the historical nuance of their merits, while other accept their place, but constantly try to move forward: At The Drive In falls into to the latter, and sadly so.

Tonight’s set ebbed and flowed, with moments of mouth-frothing goodness ala Enfilade. But, we also had to endure new songs, too. The thing is, we love the new songs, and we accept them as a piece of the cannon that keeps the band humming along. Artists want to write new material, and that’s amazing. BUT, when you’re whipping out your first major tour since your initial breakup, you need to give the audience their money’s worth for the legacy factor.

 I feel like such a douche complaining after seeing At The Drive In, one of my bucket list bands, but honestly, I have to. All I wanted from their set was three songs:

·      One Armed Scissor
·      Enfilade
·      Arc Arsenal

We got two out of the three, but realistically, we needed Arc Arsenal for that sexy, leaving so fulfilled moment. We needed the maracas, and we needed that sense of stylistic chaos. Each of these songs are pillars that anchor the identity of The Relationship of Command, and not getting all three feels cheap. While I know and understand that the band has been touring on and off for the last few years, it’s important to realize the emotional impact of The Relationship of Command’s legacy and what it means to a lot of people.

I’m happy for my chance to see these guys, I’m at a loss for a sense of purpose of the show. Was it good? Absolutely. It was a wonderful experience to finally see and hear the songs I’ve hollered in my car countless times. If anything, it was an emotional homecoming, harkening back to a simpler time in my life, one that wasn’t mired in self-loathing, debt, or basically adulthood.

I don’t feel cheated in the least and was certainly better than all of the times I saw Sparta or The Mars Volta. Which truth to be told, is the overarching point: last night was like attending church for many, I just wish the band respected the wishes of the day before dancing on the corpse's ashes.

Dudes, play all three of those songs, for us old folks. It means a lot.

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