It was only three months ago that At the Drive-In and Le Butcherettes played Dallas. However, on that night the bands were playing a SXSW warm-up gig at the 400 capacity Club Dada. To say that gig was cramped would be an understatement. But, it did give a few fans a rare chance to witness At the Drive-In in an intimate setting. Last night the band would play the significantly larger South Side Ballroom, nevertheless their fans capably filled it (even if it was a Monday night). What’s more, it was a setting that allowed the band to stretch-out a little bit and throw in a tasteful light show as well.
Le Butcherettes took the stage promptly at 8:00 pm. Having seen the band several times, I’m continually blown away that the seem to keep getting better. As usual, front woman Teri Gender Bender owned the stage and had the crowd in the palm of her hand. While the largely male-dominated crowd stood there, some bobbing their heads, there were a few women getting down like it was the show of their lives. One woman next to me was completely uninhibited as she gyrated and contorted her body non-stop throughout the set. And I’m not calling out those who were simply standing. A Le Butcherettes live show can be a lot to take in, especially if it’s your first time.
Case in point, during “Dress Off” Teri slipped out of an army green jumpsuit to reveal a bright red dress and then before anyone knew what was going on she had put the microphone in her mouth, somehow still singing. A few times she audibly gagged on the mic as she writhed on the floor. I heard one bro say “What the fuck?” to his group of friends. Collectively, the band sounded even tighter than when I saw them last March. Relatively new drummer Alejandra Robles Luna sounded great. She hits hard, but also has just the right touch to finesse each song as needed. Riko Rodríguez-López effortlessly switched between bass, guitar, and keyboard-synth-thingy, adding whatever was necessary to each song.
Taking the stage a little after 9:00, At the Drive-In was a juggernaut of pure energy. Playing mostly songs from Relationship of Command and their latest effort, in•ter a•li•a, they were in top form from the get-go. Vocalist Cedric Bixler was all over the place, constantly thrashing around the stage, jumping off of guitar amps, jumping into the crowd a few times, and always hitting his spots flawlessly. The rest of the band was no less energetic and every bit as strong in their execution. Indeed, with a few months of touring under their belt, they were firing on all cylinders. As songs veered from cacophony to melody, everything sounded precise without sounding rehearsed. That’s to say it sounded natural and offhand rather than contrived. You can only pull this off if you have a band of excellent musicians who truly love playing live.
The larger venue, or specifically the larger stage, provided ample room for the band to move about; whereas the tiny stage at Club Dada gave the intimate appeal, it didn’t allow them to fully do their thing. At the South Side Ballroom, they had room to incorporate a really cool light show (that wasn’t as overbearing as many acts seem to like) and changing backdrops. The whole package was a delight to take in and the crowd seemed to feed off of every aspect of it. Likewise, the band responded to the crowds enthusiasm and relished the outpouring of love.
There are only a few dates left on their North American tour. Their remaining dates in 2017 are mostly in Europe, Australia, and Japan. If they’re coming through your town, we recommend you be there. Put simply, they kick ass.
– J. Kevin Lynch