At The Drive-In Stunted Some And Put On An Absolute Clinic At Its “Secret” Tour Kickoff Show At Club Dada In Dallas On Tuesday Night.

By the single-most traditional standard, At The Drive-In’s Monday-announced, “secret” tour kickoff show at Club Dada was not the biggest show along Elm Street in Deep Ellum on Tuesday night.

Technically, that honor belonged to the Los Angeles-based pop-rock outfit Electric Guest, which promoters say sold more than 500 tickets to its Trees show on this evening — a good 25 percent tickets more than the 400 sold within minutes of At The Drive-In’s buzzing Dada gig being announced on Monday morning.

Turns out, numbers sometimes do lie: Disregarding, even, the dozens who lingered out front of Dada at various points throughout the night, looking to either scam or scalp their way inside the venue, the two bands’ parking situations along Elm Street told the real story of the night; whereas Electric Guest’s tour was confined to two Sprinters, At The Drive-In’s caravan boasted two full-sized tour buses and an 18-wheeler filled with gear. 

There, of course, was a reason for that — it wasn’t just a stunt. For the remainder of the month, At The Drive-In will be hitting South by Southwest and touring along the East Coast, performing at venues that are, in some cases, up to seven times Dada’s size.

For all intents and purposes, Tuesday night’s Dada show was simply a warm-up show for the band.

But it didn’t feel like that. No, At The Drive-In looked and sounded well-rehearsed and in mid-tour form at this date. Cedric Bixler-Zavala was a shrieking hellion on the stage as he swaggered across its too-short-for-such-a-spectacle width, and the band behind him was loud, tight and technically sound — and from the moment it hit the stage, at that. (Dada staffers who were on-hand earlier in the night, hours before doors opened, say the band was just as on-point from the moment it started its soundcheck, which reportedly lasted all of three minutes.)

If anything, this night appeared meant to get the band’s crew in line: There’s no doubt that At The Drive-In’s gear situation was unnecessarily over-the-top for this setting, with the band not only bringing in its own main soundboard and setting it up alongside Dada’s own sound booth, but with it also installing for the night a front-of-house board just off-stage so the players could better hear their mix. But that group too appeared in fine form in this kickoff, with the performance sounding crisp perhaps even in spite of its volume.

Seems the only real hiccup of the night came over at the merch booth, where the band was selling a tour poster that listed this night’s show as being planned to take place at Fitzgerald’s in Houston instead of at Dada. Alas, perhaps as a part of an ongoing boycott of that space in response to some questionable actions of its ownership and perhaps not, the band was clearly in Dallas on March 14, with local audiences getting a second taste of the action it got in 2012 when the band similarly announced a surprise Dallas show with just a day’s notice — in that case at Trees, and then to signal the band’s then-new reunion.

Now, the band’s full-on back in the swing of things — albeit it sans co-founder Jim Ward, and with some new members backing Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez — readying a new album called in•ter a•li•a slated for release later this year. The two new songs the band played on this night (“Incurably Innocent” and “Governed by Contagions,” both of which have already surfaced online but earned their live debut during this set) reflected that mindset, too, with the band now appearing fully committed to its reunion and firing off the same pistons that made its music such an incendiary draw in the first place. Mostly, though, the band culled this night’s material from 2000’s Relationship of Command, seemingly well aware of the longterm and crammed-in fans to which it was playing as it unrelentingly sprinted through its set.

Earlier in the night, Le Butcherettes, just as it had in its previous stops through town, thrilled with its cabaret-tinged garage rock, emboldened by the ever-compelling stage antics and howls of frontwoman Teri Gender Bender.

But that opening performance was just the icing on an already tasty offering. This show seems destined to become one of those where far more people than could ever cram into the space will falsely claim to have been there for years to come.

It was one for the books, indeed.

At The Drive-In’s March 14, 2017, Club Dada set list:
“Pattern Against User”
“Sleepwalk Capsules”
“Metronome Arthritis”
“Incurably Innocent”
“Invalid Litter Dept”
“Napoleon Solo”
“Governed by Contagions”
“One Armed Scissor”

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