At the Drive In

At The Drive-In’s surprise appearance at Mohawk was just one of the moments that made SXSW 2017 memorable.

Cedric Bixler-Zavala of At The Drive-In. All photos by Dakin Hardwick.

Every year in mid-March, music nerds from around the globe gather in downtown Austin to test their ability to handle long lines, blisters, alcohol poisoning, and dead cell phone batteries. Why? To get that first scoop on the “it” band of the year? To luck into a once-in-a-lifetime music experience with their all time favorite band? Masochism? Shit, I don’t know. Every year I say it’ll be my last, but I keep coming back. Maybe it’s the barbecue for me. Maybe it’s Austin: the worst kept secret in Texas. Without the quirks and charm of Austin, this music festival would just be ordinary — and like every other year, SXSW 2017 was definitely not ordinary.

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32 bands in five days. My feet still hurt.

All Photos by Dakin Hardwick

For those who aren’t in the know, SXSW is a conference in Austin, TX. It’s a place where folks in the technology, film, comedy, and music worlds come together and share ideas. The music portion is the primary reason why I come down, because it gives you an opportunity to see a large amount of music, often crossing dozens of genres, all in intimate venues all across town. This year, I feel like I “took it easy” and managed to see 32 different bands during the week (I saw Lizzo and Bleached both perform twice. You’d want to, too, if given the chance).

Without further ado, here are my thoughts on all 32 bands that I saw, in venues ranging from a donut shop to a lakeside amphitheater.

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The garage-doom record you always wanted, but were too afraid to ask for

Album cover for Crystal Fairy's self-titled debut

Album cover for Crystal Fairy’s self-titled debut

If 2015 and 2016 were any indication, 2017 has certainly shows that supergroups are coming back to the forefront in a big way. While this is nothing new in the music scene, it has become more apparent, recently, that supergroups pose a necessity for most musicians, to escape redundancy and to experiment with new sounds. In the early 2000s, many big collaborative albums were produced, but were always under the guise of guest vocalist and musicians. It left a manufactured tone about the record, one that felt as though the labels were just trying to squeeze dime after dime out of shifting paradigms in musical taste. A true supergroup combines all the best attributes and skills of the players to create something fresh and exciting, for fans and musicians alike. It doesn’t always work, of course; Giraffe Tongue Orchestra is an excellent example of an extremely talented group of musicians whose full length album left far too much to be desired. The Dead Weather, on the other hand (featuring Jack White, Allison Mossheart [The Kills], Dan Fertita [Queens of the Stone Age], and Jack Lawrence [City and Colour, The Raconteurs]) have made a number of albums that continue to grab people in one direction or another. So when it was announced that King Buzzo and Dale Crover (Melvins), Teri Gender Bender (Le Butcherettes), and Omar Rodríguez-López (Mars Volta, At The Drive-In) were joining forces to create Crystal Fairy, the prospect was definitely a positive attention grabber.

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A brand new sonic explosion from the Texas quintet

At The Drive-In in 2016 (photo by Jonathan Pirro)

At The Drive-In in 2016 (photo by Jonathan Pirro)

It was never predicted to happen again, but it has: after nearly two decades, the El Paso post-hardcore masterminds of At The Drive-In have not only continued to stay united AND tour, but now there is finally new studio material in recorded form available! Now on Rise Records, the group has released their first single, “Governed By Contagions”, on YouTube and their official website. Read on for the lyric video!

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It took 15 years to happen, and it was worth every moment.

At The Drive-In

At The Drive-In

Ten were spent wondering, with all involved working on new projects, exploring music and art in numerous forms. Two passed, with excited fervor and mild confusion, as they returned to the fold, thrust into the spotlight on unsteady feet and with only a handful of appearances, most before massive stadiums and festival crowds. The final three were marked with conflict, self-discovery, acceptance, and a renewed discovery of self — plus a new band to bring that unstoppable fire back to the front lines.

Thus, 15 years later, here we are. At The Drive-In has returned — and this time, they are just as ready to celebrate their reunion as we have been for the past decade and a half.

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All photos by Jonathan Pirro

There was a point in my life where The Mars Volta were, in my opinion, the most interesting thing in rock. Those first three full length records, De-Loused In The Comatorium, Frances The Mute, and Amputechture were all in heavy rotation while I moved from my early to mid 20’s. These records were the perfect balance of heavy and creative. Insane records filled with intensity that drew from influences as wide ranging as Fania All Stars, Pink Floyd, Fugazi, and Stockhausen. Delicious albums that I listened to almost daily. Before long, however, it felt like the band kept losing the plot. The records seemed stale, and the live shows also seemed to like some of the “Oomph!” of their earlier sets. When they decided to close up that chapter, it made sense to me. Both Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala found themselves exploring music apart from each other, and made for some awfully compelling records.

The year that they parted ways was 2012. Now, a mere two years later, Cedric & Omar quietly started putting out new material on the web. Under the name “Antemasque.” These were some great, concise tracks. So, the moment they announced a tour, I decided it was worth my while to see if they’ve really re-inspired themselves.

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Show Review: Sparta with KI:Theory at The Independent, 5/21/2012

May 23, 2012

Rising from the ashes of a former band can be a help or a hinderance to a new act that has cut their teeth in the music scene and is ready to unleash a fresh new set of tunes to the world. When you are as volatile and chaotic of an act as At The […]

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