The first time I saw D.R.I. was in the mid-eighties at a venue in San Jose called, if I remember correctly, The California Dance Academy. It was some sort of ballet school, I think, but it doubled as a punk venue for at least one show. That was the year that a lot of one-off shoes happened at venues. There was always that one audience member who broke something or did something too punk, preventing future shows from happening at the venue(s) in question. This particular D.R.I. shoe also featured Adrenlin O.D., Special Forces, and Christ On Parade (I think). There may have been other bands on the bill too, but I forget who they were. D.R.I. were blazingly fast, and I can still remember noting the fact that the drummer had one bass drum but two bass drum pedals. As a kid from a heavy metal background, this kind of thing interested me.
Speaking of heavy metal backgrounds and the mid-eighties, the present show presented an opportunity for a bunch of old friends to converge on the Catalyst and have a good night out. Because of this, for once, the music wasn’t the sole reason for being at the show. My friend Jack (who in the eighties sang for a band called Desecration and published a ‘zine called Hippy Core, and who has recently published a new version of the classic punk/vegan cookbook, “Soy, Not Oi!”) was in town for work-related reasons. We got together with fellow eighties friends Wayne (who was my constant companion at shows during that decade) and Chris (of Stikky, and later M.D.C. fame, and now playing in jazz band Scared of Spiders and blues band Legally Blue) and headed over the hill (actually, Chris lives on top of the hill) to Santa Cruz.
Walking to the venue, I noticed a familiar figure lurking inside Streetlight Records. It Was Harald, who currently plays bass for D.R.I. (and is the co-author of the definitive coffee table book about the eighties Bay Area metal scene, “Murder In the Front Row”). I went in and said hi, and he showed me a cassette by a band called Ass, pointing out that they’d used one of his photos on the cover. A dubious honor, to say the least.
I met up with the others in line, and we entered to find ourselves in the middle of the opening band battle. Two bands, Arab Spring and Scully, faced each other in front of the stage and took turns grinding out ferocious hardcore. There was a guy in a referee shirt who was ostensibly there to judge the contest and give out prizes. One prize was a gold-painted battle vest.
Chris had friends in a band scheduled to play down the street somewhere, and word had it that Fast Asleep maestro Danny Buzzard was eating at a bar around the corner, so we wandered out to go say hi. Speaking of Fast Asleep, one of the bands we’d just seen (Arab Spring, if memory serves) features the new Fast Asleep drummer. These people and their multiple bands…
We found Buzzard, and talked a bit. Not being a drinker, I soon elected to go back to the venue so I could catch part of Wolfpack’s set. I caught a fraction of their last song, which wasn’t enough for me to form an opinion. Sorry, Wolfpack.
Oh yeah, I forgot to bring my camera, so the photos are even crappier than usual.
Bl’ast was up next, and they played a good set of heavy, pounding hardcore. Like I mentioned the last time I saw them (with Neurosis), I think they’re better now than they were back in the eighties. Some bands just age well.
Present day D.R.I. features two original members, guitarist Spike, and vocalist Kurt. Harald has been playing bass for them for awhile now, and their drummer, Brandon, is relatively new. Chris mentioned that the drummer wasn’t really a good fit, not being fast enough for some of the songs, and when their set started, Brandon did seem to have a different style, more of a heavy rumble than the lightning strike of yore. Not bad, just different.
The good news was that they did a healthy selection of old material (a statement which makes me sound like a nostalgic old man, I know, but the last D.R.I. album I bought was “Dealing With It”, which was released in 1985). Songs like I Don’t Need Society, Couch Slouch, Argument Then War, Violent Pacification, and I’d Rather Be Sleeping (to name a few from their set list) were part of my teenage soundtrack. I find that songs like Violent Pacification, which have more of a groove than their faster songs, have stayed in my memory the best. It was fun to sing along. Also, Kurt may be decades older now, but his voice hasn’t aged at all.
The crowd response was the usual frenetic mess of pit action and stage diving. I saw one fight, between a couple of women, but other than that, people got their aggression out on the dance floor. There was another band playing in the main room, but D.R.I. was louder, so we didn't hear them at all.
New songs were played. I thought they sounded pretty good. Opinion differed among my friends.
The other interesting thing about the show was that I bumped into one of the kids who had volunteered at my work that week (I work at a science camp, and we generally have 10 to 20 teenage volunteer “cabin leaders” every week, whose job is to be in charge of a dorm full of kids from Monday through Friday, which means that they’re basically working 24 hours a day during the week). He was surprised to see me at the show. Most people who work in outdoor education primarily seem to listen to other musical genres, with reggae being one of the more common ones. I 'm pretty much the only person at my work who listens to the sort of music reviewed here. He was at the show with his parents, which I thought was pretty cool. They weren’t into hardcore though. They were deadheads.
It was fun seeing D.R.I. again. It had been a few years since the last time. They do seem to constantly tour though. Not bad for a bunch of old men. It was fun hanging out with my old man friends too. One day we'll all go from rocking at places like the Catalyst to rocking on a porch together, but that day isn't here yet.