Trees was about 3/4’s full when I arrived a little after 10:00 pm. A diverse crowd, in terms of both gender and age, milled about the club with giddy anticipation. D.R.I. vocalist Kurt Brecht was at the merch booth, signing LP’s and taking pictures with fans, and the crowd was sharing stories of seeing the band “back in the day.” While the nostalgia was palpable, this was a night that people will be talking about 10 years from now.
When the curtain opened at 10:30, I expected to see D.R.I. But, it was Southern California’s Kaustik. I silently groaned and got another beer. But, it didn’t take more than a song or two before these guys won me over. A smorgasbord of metal sub-genres, Kaustik has a little bit of everything to offer: thrash, groove, death, you name it. Rather than sounding like a desperate attempt to be everything to everyone, they admirably blend it all together. It was quite impressive to see a song start within a thrash-metal context and then take an unexpected turn. Lead guitarist Elan Mlagenovich kicks all kinds of ass. His solos are truly inspired and he’s a ton of fun to watch. But, each member of Kaustik (bassist/vocalist Robert Madrigal, guitarist Ryan Burrows, drummer Christopher Lewallen) is a fine musician in their own right. They had a great vibe and brought a lot of energy to their opening set that wrapped with them leading the crowd with a “D! R! I!” chant.
Finally, around 11:30, D.R.I. took the stage. The curtain hadn’t fully opened and only a single power-chord had been struck, but the pit immediately opened up. Playing songs across their entire discography and last years But Wait…There’s More! EP, the band was in top form. Led by founding members Spike Cassidy (guitar) and Kurt Brecht (vocals), D.R.I. delivered a truly memorable set. It was ferocious. Songs like “Hooked” from the Crossover LP and “All for Nothing” from Four of a Kind retain all the power they had when they came out more than two decades ago. The crowd was unhinged. Easily the most crowd surfing and stage diving I have witnessed all year. And they never took a break. There wasn’t a single song that brought the pit to a lull. There was so much power in both the bands performance and the audiences reaction, I found myself watching them both. It was a fully immersive experience.
While Cassidy constantly smiled and Brecht brought an unrelenting intensity, drummer Walter Ryan was mesmerizing. Playing like his life depended on it, Ryan is up there with the best. He added a depth to the songs that a lesser drummer would make seem like a mundane cover band. The new tracks from last year’s EP fit perfectly alongside the classic songs. They’re instantly recognizable as D.R.I., but have a fresh energy that shows that the band still knows how to do what they do best. Which is kicking your ass with high energy punk/metal steeped in an timeless angst.
D.R.I. and Kaustik have 8 more dates on this Gulf Coast tour. It is highly recommended you attend if they’re coming to your city.
– J. Kevin Lynch