The Bottleneck Monday, April 3, 2000

D.R.I./Eight Bucks Experiment/Punchline 

The Bottleneck Monday, April 3, 2000

The '80s sitcom Family Ties depicted the madcap adventures of two former flower children who eventually moved to suburbia and gave birth to Alex Keaton, the poster child for the "Me Generation." Despite the endless laughs (oh, that Skippy!), it was somewhat disillusioning to see that this couple seemed to have abandoned many of its '60s ideals. However, the hippie-to-yuppie transition pales in comparison to D.R.I.'s lamentable descent from politically minded punk icons to stereotypical metal morons, as displayed in tragic form at The Bottleneck Monday night.

"We're not playing another song until we see some tits" was the ultimatum issued by these aging thrash pioneers at one point in the proceedings, which is a far cry from the antimilitary slogans and rallying cries for equal rights the band was known for delivering in its lyrics and on stage during its mid-'80s heyday. One of the handful of women in an audience that was 99 percent air-guitar-playing, middle-age headbangers complied, which inspired one of these rock-star-complex victims, all of whom seemed to be hallucinating that they were playing to a packed stadium instead of a barely half-filled club, to quip "roll the cameras." The band proved that it was, at one time, capable of intelligent discourse, by playing classic tunes, such as "I Don't Need Society," "Violent Pacification," and "Yes Ma'am," but these anticonformist sentiments rang hollow given the band members' boorish behavior.

When the musicianship is outstanding, as at, say, a Slayer or Fiona Apple concert, it's possible to enjoy the performance as a whole despite inappropriate or annoying stage banter. This wasn't one of those occasions. D.R.I. arrived at the venue late and was apparently too tardy to unload its own equipment. Thus, the band made do with a makeshift mix of the opening bands' instruments, and this inconvenience apparently so traumatized the group that it couldn't muster the strength to tune properly. Unable to use equipment as an excuse was vocalist Kurt Bloch, whose microphone worked fine but whose singing was painfully inadequate. Bloch was unable to keep up with the music during the fastest moments or to hold notes anywhere as long as the songs required, and his pitch was horribly off-key. Granted, he has never claimed to be a crooner, and he once mocked his own skills with a tune called "Tone Deaf," but his voice on record was never this grating. When D.R.I. is on, the fact that its setlist tops 30 songs is a welcome bonus. On this night, it was a cornucopia from hell.

Denver's Eight Bucks Experiment lent D.R.I. its equipment, and, in retrospect, this quartet used its instruments more capably than the headliners. Headed by a spastic singer who kicked the drum set and his guitarist, delivered a profane tirade against Korn's Jonathan Davis and spookily recounted his erotic pleasure in "seeing bunnies fuck in the woods," Eight Bucks Experiment played an adventurous brand of metal/hardcore that emphasized odd time structures and abrupt endings. Despite its energy level and intriguing lyrics, Eight Bucks Experiment was unable to get much of a rise out of the crowd, whose members seemed much more partial to straightforward circle-pit-inducing metal fare.

Fluent in exactly this style of music was the Ottawa, Kan.-based outfit Punchline, whose Pantera-shirt-wearing singer paced the stage with anxious energy while shouting along with the fast-paced backdrops of "Stitches" and "R.E.M." This vocalist mixed unmistakable macho cockiness with self-deprecating commentary, as when he admitted that he "couldn't hit a note if it was a piece of ass." Still, this group's fans didn't come to hear a soulful serenade -- they wanted him to shout "Break Your Neck," and when he did so during the closing song, this basic-black-clad throng of muscular men stomped happily around the stage. If they liked what they saw, members of the single-digit crowd of underage patrons at this all-ages show can take comfort in the fact that Punchline is unlikely to switch styles or radically change its onstage behavior in the future. The same reassurance could not be offered to those who grew up on D.R.I., who received only a pathetic reminder that when it comes to old-school punk, you can't go home again.

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