At The Drive-In, Le Butcherettes music review (Hordern Pavilion, Sydney)

Hardcore band At the Drive-In formed in El Paso, Texas in the mid-’90s and called it a day in 2001 (before returning in 2017 with Inter alia) at the peak of their popularity as so many bands in the ’90s did. In fact, quitting while you’re ahead has been a common move for rock bands since the ’60s. At some point it stops being fun for many.

While loud and rebellious guitar rock was as popular in the 1990s as it ever was, At the Drive- In were somewhat different to the other heavy hitters. They weren’t grunge, they didn’t have a metal sound at all, no hip hop and no significant electronic elements.

The aural whirlwind of ATDI includes Omar Rodríguez-López on guitar and recalls the 1980s DC hardcore of Fugazi and others, with waves of prog rock experimentation that Rodríguez-López would take further with the band Mars Volta he started post ATDI.

Indeed, ATDI flew under the mainstream radar in Australia until the single One-Armed Scissor from their hit 2000 album Relationship of Command was played ad-nauseum on Triple J. This paved the way for Rodríguez-López’s tireless work post-ATDI which included Mars Volta, Bosnian Rainbows (featuring Le Butcherettes singer/multi-instrumentalist Terri Gender Bender on vocals), solo work and producing and playing with last night’s openers, the tres impressive Le Butcherettes.

Originally a duo, Le Butcherettes is now effectively Terri Gender Bender as songwriter/guitarist/keyboard player with hired hands on bass and drums. Le Butcherettes have released three albums to date, most recently, A Raw Youth in 2015. Their sound recalls garage rock, punk, riot grrl and even Kate Bush in the gorgeous vocals and melodramatic performance of Gender Bender.

Every night demons are exorcised. Her birth name is Terri Suarez, she took on the “Gender Bender” moniker as a feminist statement as she attacks repressive gender norms in her recordings and performances. In early Le Butcherettes shows, Gender Bender would take to the stage dressed as a scantily clad maid brandishing a duster and she would suggestively dust the stage throughout the show.

Le Butcherettes’ set last night began with the thick Burn the Scab from their second album, Cry is for the Flies and closed with Henry Don’t Got Love from their debut album, Sin Sin Sin. It was a flawless performance and while it may have been relatively restrained, it easily outmatched the show put on by the headliners.

At the Drive-In live shows are just like their records; brilliantly put together and full of ferocious energy from go to whoa, but managing to lack a certain something.

A significant drawback of ATDI is Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s vocals. A lot of rapid fire screaming goes on with very little nuance. Their recorded work often comes across as a lot of noisy bluster and empty bombast. They are a better prospect live as they fly all over the place and certainly put everything into the performance. No easy task as this is not Ramones-style, three chord punk.

The set drew mostly from their breakthrough album Relationship of Command and newie Inter alia. This was for the best as some of the drawbacks of their work are addressed on these, their most recent albums, especially Inter alia. There is more space on these albums and tunes from Inter alia were well delivered and were set highlights. Second song of the night Pattern Against User, with its memorable chorus and of course, One-Armed Scissor brought the house down, but for me, Le Butcherettes stole the show.

At the Drive-In (pictured above) and Le Butcherettes perform October 2 in Brisbane

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