Review by Phil BonyataThe Ataris mercury level on the post modern punk scene has been rising steadily even though the genre's first words are being inscribed on it's gravestone. With every great movement there lies many imitators. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright's masterful style of melding local natural surroundings into his ground hugging designs have unfortunately been watered down by a bad outbreak of 1950's homage. The urgency and hopeless rage of pioneering punk rockers like the Stooges, the Ramones and the Clash have been unsuccessfully aped by new agers, Blink-182, Good Charlotte and just about every other band that thinks that real anger lies in maxed out credit cards and too many Wal-Marts.
Photos by Karen Bondowski
The Ataris fortunately fall somewhere in between.
Topping the bill at the Volkswagen Music Ed. Tour the Ataris showed that there are still dying gasps of defiance left to be heard from the genre. The bands' energy levels were fueled by something more than their upcoming paychecks. There was a genuine fire lit under their asses. Lead singer Kris Roe, clad in loose fitting pelvis hugging jeans and black t-shirt, marched around the stage with an extra dose of vinegar in his juice. With shaggy blonde hair framing his sweaty face he charged into the lyrics of "Between You and Me" with extra vein popping passion. Guitarist John Collura's lightning jabs helped Roe to spit out the garage-greased lyrics on "Your Boyfriend Sucks." On "I Won't Spend Another Night Alone" drummer Chris Knapp beat the drums so hard and fast as if trying to rip the skins open to free the beats from the top as well as the bottom. Bassist Mike Davenport kept pace nicely. "San Dimas High School Rules" had Roe dropping to the floor as the half filled Varsity Theater collapsed even tighter towards the stage. Roe's volume rose as he shot the lyrics not from his larynx but straight from the gut. Feeling the moment he continued to hold his ground as surely as a masochist must have his face slapped.
Borrowing keenly from the live energy of early punk bands the Ataris showered each other with enough sweat to warrant a case of deodorant on tomorrow's shopping list. They jackhammered their way through such blistered-up numbers like "In this Diary," Don Henley's "Summer of '79" and I Won't Spend Another Night Alone." Taking a long swig from his cup on the speaker, Roe again fell to the floor and flailed like an overturned turtle trying to right himself. Roe then stood up - his face covered in blood - apparently from chewing some blood capsules hidden inside his cup. Here lies the difference between the punk pioneers and their bastard children of today. Never would it cross their minds (true punk is about raw emotion, after all) to ever have to fake anything.
Vendetta Red opened nicely for the Ataris. Lead singer Zachary Davidson, confined to a chair after a recent accident, still was able to command the audience's attention with his angular and fluid body movements. The bands' sound was eclectic and innovative. Their tight and muscular music painted a dark background for Davidson's maddenly gritty, yet distant vocal delivery.
Vendetta Red are seeking new musical paths, not fearing failure because they know that their music will still be better for trying.
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