The eclectic El Paso punk band At the Drive-In plays a reunion gig at the Showbox SoDo on Wednesday, June 8. Or at least it’s almost a reunion. One of the original five members declined to ride along.
At the turn of the millennium, At the Drive-In’s live show was a word-of-mouth phenomenon — a high-energy, high-decibel tour de force that galvanized underground audiences and for a brief moment in 2000 penetrated the mainstream with a hit single, “One Armed Scissor.”
Fifteen years later, those old shows are still the stuff of legend, but it’s an open question whether ATDI’s sold-out Seattle appearance Wednesday (June 8) at the Showbox SoDo will hold a candle to the original.
With its eye-popping look — massive Afros, impossibly tight pants — and ear-bleeding sound — punk and post-hardcore cut with dub and Latin influences — the El Paso, Texas, five-piece may as well have come from another planet, as far as the emo-punk scene that spawned it was concerned.
At the Drive-In
With Les Butcherettes. 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 8, at the Showbox SoDo, 1700 First Ave. S., Seattle; sold out (206-628-3151 showboxpresents.com)
But high-ranking rockers such as Rage Against the Machine and Beastie Boys got in on the ground floor, the former taking ATDI on the road in 1999 and the latter bringing them aboard their Grand Royal label.
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But the band’s ascent was fraught with tension. This was when rap-rock was king — Korn, Limp Bizkit, et al. — and during the Rage Against the Machine ’99 arena tour, the heckling got so bad that members of Rage started coming out before ATDI played to tell the audience to be cool.
That made it all the more bittersweet when “One Armed Scissor” broke out and suddenly those same macho types who had tormented the group were now moshing and screaming along. The seal of approval from these “meatheads,” as ATDI guitarist, singer and co-founder Jim Ward called them in a ’99 MTV interview, sent the band into existential-crisis mode and the band broke up midtour in ’01, crushed under the weight of its own success.
Before long, four of the five members splintered into two new groups — Mars Volta, with lead singer Cedric Bixler and guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, and Sparta, with bassist Pall Hinojos and drummer Tony Hajjar. But Mars Volta was too weird and Sparta wasn’t weird enough.
ATDI resurfaced at Coachella four years ago but then went quiet again. A week before the current “reunion” tour began, it was announced that Ward would not be participating — this after nearly every show had sold out — which not only dampened excitement, but had fans crying bait-and-switch.
Reviews so far have been mixed, some saying the band is as strong as ever, even without Ward, others accusing them of phoning it in.
No matter what, Wednesday’s gig offers more intrigue than the usual reunion lovefest, promising to stoke opinions and emotions — like ATDI always has.