JAM Magazine Concert Reviews

March 9, 2012
Trees
Dallas, TX USA
Review by David DiPietro
Photos by James Villa

D.R.I. - Dirty Rotten Imbeciles

Formed in 1982 in Houston, Texas, D.R.I. (Dirty Rotten Imbeciles) went from being an early standout in the American hardcore punk scene (simply put, they did and still do play faster and louder than any other group in existence), to five years later founding the "crossover" punk/metal-hybrid genre virtually singlehandedly, with the album, Crossover.

Thought to be completely at odds just years before, punk and heavy metal were indeed strange bedfellows by 1987, the former decidedly avant-garde and capable of musical surprise, if not outright inspiration, the latter devolving into juvenile self-parody--watered-down by the likes of such so-called "hair metal" bands as Quiet Riot, Ratt and Twisted Sister. The emerging thrash metal scene however, spearheaded by the likes of Venom, Metallica and Slayer, shared with hardcore not only an intensely underground subculture, but musical trappings, such as speed, volume and a maniacal mayhem.

Returning to Dallas for the third time since again becoming a touring unit following guitarst Spike Cassidy's cancer remission in 2010, D.R. I. has in essence become the hardcore musical equivalent of the Ryder Trucks they inhabit on the road--they work harder, so you don't have to.

Friday night's show at Trees in Dallas showed original founding members Cassidy and lyricist/vocalist Kurt Brecht's talents to be finally meshing as one with drummer Rob Rampy's (with the band since 1989) and bassist Harald Oimoen's, forming a unit nearly as cohesive and musically tight as the Mark II version of the band, 1985-89.

Taking the stage at 12:30 A.M., D.R.I. launched into a manic, 34 song, hour and 20 minute performance with, "Who Am I?," the self-descriptive track from the Dirty Rotten EP, their first release. Most of the evening's tunes segued directly into the next with nary a breath between, underscoring the band's utmost focus and relentless musical intent. "Slumlord," from the metallicized 1988 release, 4 of a Kind, signaled early on that D.R.I. was showcasing their entire creative output, not just the early punk, or later metal-infused material.

Though this night's Trees crowd, as opposed to the D.R.I. shows there in 2010 and last year, seemed to be culled from a mostly metal median--stage diving was limited to about 30-40 as opposed to last year's 160 or so, the crowd here clearly had no trouble digesting and enjoying the shorter, harder/faster early material in the same mouthful as the molten metal. Bodies flew to and fro and the pit at the front of the floor was a counter-clockwise tornado; a whirlwind of hyperactivity, a human sea of flotsam and jetsam.

Harald Oimoen, who in his tenure in the band has taken on a very welcome Jerry Lewis-like comic role during the band's between-song banter (previous D.R.I. bassists said little or nothing onstage), seemed to serve as a buffer between himself and the more self-serious Brecht, whose socio-political, anti-racism/ anti-drug lyrics must rank with those of the Dead Kennedys' Jello Biafra's as some of the most succinct and spot-on in American punk.

Always good for a laugh (related as a story live, but preserved for posterity as a recorded intro to the song "Mad Man" on the superior Dealing With It LP), is the hilarious mid-rehearsal interruption by Brecht's father, berrating the embryonic band as a bunch of "imbeciles" admonishing the from the house and giving much needed detail to the origins of the band's moniker. As D.R.I. proceeded to pull out the deep album cuts, the Dallas audience responded in kind, with some caustic slam-dancing up front, several women in the audience showing their mettle amidst the mostly-male maelstrom.

Promising a new LP in 2012, vocalist Brecht told the Trees crowd why a new recording hasn't exactly been top priority in the D.R.I camp: "No one really buys music anymore, he said. "Everyone just downloads for free on the Internet, so we have to hit the road harder just to survive these days." "The Explorer," "Soup Kitchen" (detailing the band's relocation to San Francisco in the mid 1980's when they had to eat just there) and "Shame," all described the tribulations of such musical endeavors, amidst varied and contrasting lyrical scenarios and backdrops.

It must be said at this point that the sound at Trees was, as usual, superlative--extremely loud, but distortion free--as clear as a globally-warming winter day. "Acid Rain" off of the Definition album followed, showing that even the new (er) recorded material is as topical today as when it was written in 1995.

Drummer Rob Rampy, proving himself to be in the class of T.S.O.L.'s Todd Barnes, D.O.A.'s/Circle Jerks' Chuck Biscuits and the Dead Kennedys' Darren Peligro, shined in his seemingly effortless approach to the daunting speed of D.R.I.'s material. Rampy is without a doubt in the first echelon of hardcore drummers, despite the double-bass drum pedal used on a quarter of the material, which was once sneered upon in punk circles. Rampy plays a 4-piece kit, which flies in the face of much of the "crossover" and "speed metal" genres who tend to favor double-bass drum sets the size of Tommy Aldridge's.

Vocalist Brecht then mused upon D.R.I.'s touring career and recalled the band's first performance in Dallas (a show I attended, at the Twilight Room at 2111 Commerce in March, 1983 because my childhood friend Paul Baker's band, the Stinky Shits, opened the show). "We've always been treated very good here in Dallas, Brecht told the Trees audience, "ever since the first time we played here."

The set proper climaxed accordingly with, "Arugument Then War," "I Don't Need Society," and a stunning, tightly packed, "Nursing Home Blues," three tracks from Dealing With It, one of the finest hardcore punk albums of the 1980's. For some of the audience members more versed with the band's modern metal material, these songs went down like Guiness Stout chasing a hearty sheppard's pie--robust, satisfying; though the word "mellow" surely cannot be applied here.

"Violent Pacification," a sort-of thrash singalong, which would have been a hit in 1984 if hardcore ever had a Top 40, closed the concert in flying fashion, leaving the slammed- out crowd too pooped to pop; too tired to cheer. D.R.I. acknowledged this with a collective grin, as though they had seen it many times before. Without a doubt, they will see it many times again.