Keri's Story: At the Drive-In; Marathon Music Works, Nashville
Buying a ticket for a concert on a work night (a Tuesday!) was a great idea….two months out. In real time, show day is taking place during an uncharacteristically busy week.
I finish my workday with three hours to spare and realize there is no way I have the stamina to make the fan line outside AND spend another couple of hours on my feet for the show. So, I go home and putter around folding laundry, touching and then ignoring clutter, basically avoiding sitting down for too long and pajama pants that are staring me in the face. I keep one step ahead of two cats looking for a lap to sit on, and finally snap on my fanny pack and head out the door.
Despite the above paragraph, this IS a story about a (post-)hardcore show.
I never got the chance to see At the Drive-In before they broke up in 2001. I missed their reunion tour in 2012, but didn’t hear good things; basically that Cedric and Omar couldn’t have looked less interested in performing. ATDI’s 2001 splinter to Sparta and The Mars Volta resulted in amazing music, multiple lineup changes, and breakups with bad feelings. I’m nervous about this tour; after The Mars Volta broke up in 2013, I knew that Cedric and Omar weren’t even on speaking terms. But the feeling that this may be my only chance to see ATDI live pushes me to get a ticket.
Essentially, the night before this tour starts, the band announces that co-founding guitarist Jim Ward is not joining them on the tour (or “future journeys”). Crap. Should I sell my ticket? Is ATDI without Jim Ward worth it? Or is it just The Mars Volta playing ATDI songs? I’m wondering if this whole tour is going to just go down in flames. It would not be the first time. I decide to go, partly because I’m too lazy to orchestrate selling my ticket, and mostly because I know that whatever happens, it will at least be interesting.
I get into Marathon about halfway through The Butcherettes’s set, who, on first glance, look to be fronted by Fairuza Balk. I hover around the merch line, debating whether I’m going to spend $35 on a shirt.
I end up over on the left side of the stage. A guy to my right taps my elbow and says, “What do you think they’ll open with?” “Arcarsenal,” I say. A random voice comes in from my left, “I think you’re right.”
As I wait for ATDI, the filler music is devastatingly loud. I look around at this ocean of considerable hearing damage. A few people filter past me, trying to get closer to the stage. Some are holding cocktails with little straws, which looks to me like a rookie move as you try to get closer to a hardcore band that hasn’t toured in 4 years. I smell Red Bull.
I’m right about Arcarsenal. The crowd surges forward at the opening maracas, and Cedric is on stage with full energy and big hair. He’s leaning forward and pointing the mic, and we’re screaming back at him (Beware! Beware! Beware!) He hands over a mic that seems to have blown out, more than once, but it doesn’t slow him down. He’s picking up and biting cymbals. And wow, is it loud. Continuing to Pattern Against User, ATDI is raw and totally on point. I’ve never seen them with Jim Ward, but it doesn’t seem like much is missing tonight.
I make it through the third song, Cosmonaut, before I decide to change spots. I’m sort of weaving around trying to find a good sightline, but I’m 5’2”, and there’s no getting around how short I am at these shows. I’m tippy-toeing around for a few songs, checking out spots near the back of the venue, where I can hopefully get a full view. I’m over by the right side of the stage, with some room to breathe, when Enfilade starts. This spot will have to be good enough, because it demands full attention (in basements we will hide, amnesia in our alibis).
I can see from where I’m standing that the area I started out in is now lousy with people throwing water bottles and not-empty cups around. I shudder at the thought of getting splashed with Red Bull residue. My current location is calmer and more well-behaved, except that I’m standing near a garbage can, and 2 guys to my left practically head-butt each other with excitement when they play Quarantined.
I get the feeling that Catacombs is the last song of the set, and I dip back by the merch tables again since there’s almost no line. I pace around, talking myself in and out of the $35 shirt. I’m saved from the impulse buy by the encore - an explosive One-Armed Scissor. I spot a gated area that was reserved before the show but is now open to anyone and not too crowded. From here, I get a full right-side view of Cedric and the front row crowd. As tired as I’m getting, I do wish I was up against that gate. A sudden PA blowout shocks everyone, but Cedric doesn’t miss a beat and keeps the crowd singing with him until the sound comes back.
I crawl into bed just after 11 p.m., but it feels more like 3 a.m. My ears feel like they are stuffed with buzzing cotton as I cancel my ambitious plan to make a 6 a.m. yoga class. I drift off with Enfilade in my head and a mental note to try and find the $35 shirt online tomorrow.