Chicago – Some bands never live up to their legend and others have a legend but don’t stay together long enough to live up to it. And then, somewhere in between there are bands like Death From Above 1979. The Canadian dance punk drum and bass/keyboard duo reunited this year after a five-year hiatus, which equaled the amount of time they were together the first go round (2001-2006).
Judging from the hour-long show they played at Chicago’s Metro on Thursday night as part of a tune-up for this weekend’s Lollapalooza festival, there isn’t much rust on this hard-driving machine. Playing to a sold-out crow at the legendary northside nightclub in the shadow of historic Wrigley Field, bassist Jesse Keeler and drummer/singer Sebastien Grainger fell right into the pocket as if no time had passed at all.
Opening with “Turn it Out,” Grainger – in all white – and Keeler – all in black – set of the first of a relentless barrage of rocket-fueled beats, with Grainger yelping urgently over his double kick-drum beats and Keeler’s killer bee of doom bass. “Black History Month” slowed their roll just a hair before the whole thing collapsed into a squall of noise and feedback.
Though Lolla has expanded over the years to include much more hip-hop, techno, jam band, mainstream rock and every genre in between, DFA’s screeching feedback and seasick mix of squelchy keyboards and machine gun beats was like a time machine back to the 1991 edition’s version of a noise machines, Nine Inch Nails and the Butthole Surfers.
Like those bands, DFA’s face-punching attack never let up, making it feel like the duo were running as fast as they could in every direction, always just a bit off balance. Around 40 minutes in Grainger addressed the audience, thanking them for coming out, admitting he can’t tell the Cars from Ok Go and Weezer and launching into an extended riff on lesbians and their buzzing bedroom assistants.
Keeler promised they weren’t just killing time because they only had one album’s-worth of material to play, proving it with the fuzzed-out “Do It!,” which, like a number of their songs, sounded a bit like the White Stripes if they were less concerned with melody and more focused on ear-blasting distortion.
The show ended with a tease of the dancey “Sexy Results,” which went from club-friendly to yet another 12-car pile-up of thundering drums. The crowd, sweaty and satisfied, spilled out into the humid night charged up and seemingly fueled for three more days of musical mayhem.