By Stephen Trutwin, Rock At Night Adelaide Correspondent
Venue: Yours & Owls Music Festival, Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia
Self proclaimed underdogs At the Drive-In, turned on the tap to their unrestrained chaotic punk rock at the Yours & Owls music festival in Wollongong New South Wales on Sunday night. The fledgling festival has gone from strength to strength since its humble beginnings as Farmer and Owl at the Wollongong University by relocating to Stuart Park and now attracting 14,000 punters and some note-able performers the likes of At the Drive-In.
With the ripping opening song “Arcarsenal”, the 5-piece Texan outfit exploded in to action needing no warm-up to shake the audience alive. Two songs in and Cedric Bixler bounded from the stage and leapt over the crowd barrier in to the frenzied audience sending the pit photographers into a spin along the way. His untold energy belying his age, only his grey stubble the smoking gun, his manic, feisty conviction an undeniable sign that things are good within the band and that they have everything to play for.
Originally forming in 1994 the band achieved massive success with their third album Relationship of Command in 2000. The pressure of touring and the “clusterfuck of being in the public eye” led to a walk-off during the 2001 Sydney Big Day Out festival, and the band’s subsequent disbanding. Old friends Omar Rodriguez and Cedric formed The Mars Volta, whilst other band members went on to form Sparta. Finally reuniting in 2014, this performance was part of At the Drive-In’s Australian reformation tour, albeit without original founding member Jim Ward.
Despite the 15 year touring hiatus the band has lost none of its creativity and impact. The new album Interalia is a glut of get-down-dirty punk and post-hardcore rock with fluctuating tempos, distorted chords and uncomfortable choking rhythms. Their performance in Wollongong was delivered like a crazy workout with Cedric jumping off the bass drum and letting fly with the mic stand while Omar grooved and shuffled around the stage as if in a self-induced spell. His zany, quirky almost otherworldly guitar-work makes order out of disorder, sewing everything together. Tony Hajjar gave a workmanlike performance on drums hitting as well as ever despite recurrent shoulder injuries and Keeley Davis filled Jim Ward’s void perfectly on guitar and backing vocals.
At the Drive-In are as relevant now as they were in 2001. It seems that the wounds have healed and the band are appreciative of their support, each other and their music. There is a self-respect here and a gratefulness to be back together and on the road. Despite Cedric’s flamboyance and all the insanity, there is modesty and humility in their performance. Omar and Cedric’s 30 year friendship holds the group together and they look like being a happy family for a while to come. Let’s hope the time away hasn’t dampened the momentum of success!
Band members: Cedric Bixler-Zavala (vocals) Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (lead guitar) Paul Hinojos (bass guitar) Tony Hajjar (drums) Keeley Davis (guitar, backing vocals)
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