AT THE DRIVE-IN, with SINCLAIRE, at the Kathedral, August 17. Tickets: $8. Attendance: 400. Rating: NNN
Polite applause followed Sinclaire's emo-by-numbers set, which, despite singer Ian Murray's obvious debt to Ian Makaye, had all the excitement of a math test. However, they may have just been playing to the room.
The unsmiling horde of backpack-toting 20-somethings who filled the Kathedral looked better prepared to solve integral calculus questions than to participate in a night of live musical entertainment. Neither shaking loose nor spontaneous hollers of approval appeared to be on the evening's agenda.
When members of El Paso's At the Drive-In appeared onstage to fiddle with their equipment, it caused barely a ripple through the chat circles that had formed. Instead of an uproarious cheer of excited anticipation, you could hear it actually get quieter as people stopped talking to observe festively 'froed singer Cedric wind a ball of duct tape around the spot where his microphone connected to the cord.
A wise precaution, since from the first note our boy Cedric was swinging the thing overhead lasso-style, tossing it high in the air from atop the kick drum, then jumping back down to snatch it back before shouting his next line.
The rest of the Drive-In dudes kept to the perimeter of the stage and out of harm's way to focus attention on their instruments and time the rhythmic shifts from pummelling thrash to dub reggae breakdowns and anthemic rock flourishes currently being developed for stadiums. Yet for all of Cedric's Iggy-esque bouncing and the band's energetic blast, they could only inspire a light clatter of palms in response.
Seasoned touring professionals that they are, At the Drive-In kept one song flowing right into the next so there were no embarrassing lulls, but the reserved palm-tapping that followed their goodbyes didn't sound like a triumph. There was no demand for an encore, and people quietly wandered out in single file.