Cedric Bixlar-Zavala is not making any grand entrances as he slides onto the NME/Radio One Stage, sweeping a broom across the stage, and keeping up with a day of musical surprise and intrigue.
“What the fuck are you doing here? We’ve still got to clean up” he says, with a knowing smirk.
‘Arcarsenal’ kicks things off and as the recorded version does to ‘Relationship of Command’ it has the same talent of building an overbearing buzz of anticipation. It feels like the kings have come to reclaim their crowns.
“Have you ever tasted skin?” rings around this overwhelmingly huge tent, which still seems unable to contain the force, even if the crowd numbers it can more than handle. Tired books and ‘Reading Festival’ jokes aside what follows is pure rapture, ‘Pattern Against User’ explodes into life as small oddities like a kettle at the back of the stage continue to boil over.
As Cedric goes for another cup of tea you notice all of the band are slightly wider and full-bellied versions of their former selves, and as time renders us all helpless to the onslaught of ageing, the years have rendered the youthful toxic of ATDI into a classical, well-crafted treasure. Something fitting to adorn the walls of this stately festival home.
‘Lopsided’ is, sonically, not a flawless reproduction of the recorded single but it seems irrelevant to the crowd. Savouring every second of the historic moment they are content to croon along to every word, it is all starting to make sense now.
‘Sleepwalk Capsules’ best demonstrates how split factions can come to make a good thing better. Two heads are still better than one, as Jim Ward and Cedric look happy to be dual team on vocal lines.
With members of Trash Talk and Dog is Dead watching, the band drop into ‘Napoleon Solo’ and later ‘Catacombs’, mixing it up with The Smiths‘ ‘That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore’, demonstrating how loud and quiet, soft and heavy songwriting should be done. Without this formula so many bands, from Glassjaw through to Biffy Clyro, wouldn’t have been passed the true techniques to engage sound extremes.
‘Metronome Arthritis’ is here as an example why ATDI embodied so much more than the hardcore label the critics wanted to stick to them. With rasping synth tones and a brooding bass line the song is sexual, dangerous, and only hints at the monster beneath.
Those whose only memory of ‘One Armed Scissor’ is through Jools Holland may be surprised to hear it in this form. With lyrics and even melody somewhat decipherable. It’s a more subtle and unannounced set closer than anyone expects, but is incendiary nonetheless.
Age weathers every man, but our damaged, worn and torn heroes of hardcore have, with age, developed a new beauty, a new blossoming sheen of cultural significance, that we must preserve. Call this nostalgia at your peril, this is, as Cedric will remind you throughout, “fresh“. Twelve years has been worth every second of the wait, to see At The Drive-In back on the one stage, aside of politics or musical pretensions. Whatever may come from the reformed band in the future we can live for one thing and one thing only – the present.
At The Drive-In played:
‘Pattern Against User’
‘Catacombs’/’That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore’
‘One Armed Scissor’
Read our feature on the return of Refused and At The Drive-In here
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