Arriving at 7:30 pm, I instantly remembered why I never show up to shows this early. The line into Gas Monkey Live wrapped around the corner of the venue and extended into the second parking lot behind the building. As I walked toward the end of the line, one thing stood out: Holy crap are these kids young! Indeed, Death Grips can draw a crowd. A crowd that is apparently 25-years my junior. As I stood in line, I couldn’t help but laugh to myself as I heard the group of gangly teens in front of me lamenting their common high school math teacher. As I waited, many more fans arrived and began their long journey into darkness that was the back of the line. The lights in the back parking lots were turned off, so when you walked around the corner of the building you saw a line that was seemingly endless. As “older” fans arrived, it was obvious who they were there to see.
The Gas Monkey did not bring their “A” game to this evenings event. When approaching the door, they didn’t have wands to do metal detection, rather I was frisked down by some creep. When I went to the bar to grab a beer, I was told they weren’t opening tabs, that I’d have to pay out with each round of drinks. Death Grips, who had a mile-long line for their merch, were taking cash only. Gas Monkey’s ATM was either out of cash or not working. Get it together, guys.
The venue was packed and it seemed like at last half of the crowd was there for Death Grips. I’ve never been able to appreciate Death Grips as much as I think I would or could. On paper, they seem right up my alley. But, I’ve never discovered the next level of appreciation. I’ll give them credit for doing something different and innovative. That’s undeniable. No matter, the crowd on hand unequivocally approved. Playing for about an hour, they played without any pause between songs. They didn’t stop to say “What’s up Dallas?” or “Stick around for Ministry.” They intensely powered through their set. Generally speaking, it all sounded like a big wall of noise to me, and from my position on the floor, I couldn’t make out any of the lyrics. But, I did enjoy watching their fans taking it all in, because they knew all the songs and relished every minute of it. It was a bit unfortunate that 50-some-odd fans watched the first several songs of their set from the merch line. But, such is life.
When the Death Grips set wrapped, it seemed like a majority of the fans split the scene. Cynical me can only assume they had to be home before midnight. My crew took the opportunity to make our way to the front of the stage for Ministry’s set. I was encouraged that by the time Ministry went on the floor was full and not everyone left after Death Grips. What’s more, there were more younger fans than I expected after making my critical observations while standing in line.
Opening with “Punch in the Face,” Ministry – as usual – was in top form. This was the second to last gig of the tour and each member of the band was dialed in. Joining Al Jourgensen was most of his usual suspects: Sin Quirin and Cesar Soto on guitar, Tony Campos on bass, and John Bechdel on keyboards. However, this time around they had Derek Abrams on drums and have added DJ Swamp (Beck, Crystal Method, others) to the mix. Abrams is a solid drummer who was spot-on throughout the night. I’ll admit that for most of the set I couldn’t hear anything that DJ Swamp was doing. But, because the sound at Gas Monkey is generally uneven, I’ll chalk this up to my position three-bodies behind the rail.
The first half of the bands set included three songs from 2006’s Rio Grande Blood and two new tracks from their forthcoming album AmeriKKKant. These new tracks (“Antifa” and “Wargasm”) sounded great, particularly the melodic chorus of “Wargasm.” I can’t wait to hear the new album. The crowd was typically Dallas. Yeah, there was some moshing. A single crowd-surfer kicked me in the face. Some dummy brought balloons (I popped two of them and threw the deflated plastic into the air). But, in my opinion, the crowd was a little lame.
The band then went through a greatest hits segment of the setlist, including a re-tooled version of “NWO,” “Just One Fix,” and “So What.” This did get a charge out of the listless crowd. I was thrilled that they pulled out “Bad Blood” from 1999’s Dark Side of the Spoon. Having been dormant in the Ministry setlist for many years prior to this tour, it was certainly a treat. Also, it featured some killer slide-guitar courtesy of Uncle Al. “Thieves” really got the mosh pit churning and I could finally hear what DJ Swamp was doing. He added some percussive scratching that felt perfectly at home on the song, rather than a distraction. The band encored with a cover of Devo’s “Gates of Steel” that appeared on Jourgensen’s 2016 Surgical Meth Machine project. This is one of his best covers and just an all around fun song. What’s more, you can tell the band has a blast playing it.
Ministry is one of the most reliable live acts around. You can always count on the band to give you a visceral, louder-than-hell performance. While many bands can fall victim to taking a mental night off, Ministry always delivers. Their new album is slated for a March 2018 release, which will surely be followed with extensive touring. Hopefully, they return to Dallas. Otherwise, I’ll travel to the nearest location.
– J. Kevin Lynch.
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