Into the Pit: 123: Atari Teenage Riot – Live at the Garage – 29-February 2012

It can hardly have escaped any gig goers attention nowadays just how eye-watering the price of gig tickets has got of late. I’m not talking about arena gigs, which have always attracted a premium, but even mid-sized shows. When it has got to the point that it is rare for a signed band to be charging less than £15 – even in venues with a capacity in the low hundreds, we have a problem. So I’ll give a cautious welcome to the idea of the various drinks brands subsidising a handful of gigs, although less of a welcome to seeing booking fees actually exceeding or nearing the cost of the ticket.

As it was here, with the gig itself being a bargain at a fiver, and a booking fee of £2.90 – including a charge for printing my own fucking ticket. Still, I got there early enough to see some of the support bands, and perhaps more importantly to catch up with some friends. The latter of which was just as well, as neither of the support bands did anything for me at all.

First band Gum Takes Tooth I only caught the end of, and was rather confused by what I heard. It seemed to be some kind of percussive jam session, with lots of odd drones. Something tells me I missed the context.

run,WALK! left me rather nonplussed, too. The image of what appeared to be a two-piece band (drummer and vocalist/guitarist) playing delicate, rather quiet post-rock was quickly shattered by an about-turn into loud, shouty punk-noise that did absolutely nothing for me, to be frank. Bands like HEALTH are noted in their “sounds like”. Sorry, no. HEALTH do a great job of sounding effortlessly eclectic, and quite astounding live. These guys were neither, and instead left me with something of a headache.

Which isn’t really the right state to be approaching an impending Atari Teenage Riot. However, I have form here: the first time I saw ATR was way back in 1999, at the Reading Festival. They opened the mainstage that day at 1200, and I had a hangover from two days of drinking by that point. They were very, very loud, and I had to go and sit down after that.

And this bit of reminiscing brings me onto my first problem with this gig. What the fuck was up with the sound? To start with it was a muddy mess – yeah, the beats sounded nice and punchy during Activate!, but the vocals were all but inaudible and I have no idea if there was much more going on in the sound mix, as it was all over the place. And not to mention that when I barely need earplugs at an ATR gig, something is very, very wrong.

As volume, and lots of it, were always what I would expect from this band. Brutally confrontational, with snarling, forthright views on politics and racism, with a current of furious rage seething through all of their songs, delivered at maximum volume (just ask though who were at the Judder where I nearly deafened the room when I dropped Start The Riot. Oops). Sadly, though, their new material has seen them mellowed, at least a bit.

ATR setlist

The Only Slight Glimmer of Hope
Black Flags
Into the Death
Sick to Death
Atari Teenage Riot
Too Dead for Me
Blood In My Eyes
Is This Hyperreal?
Hetzjagd auf Nazis!
Start the Riot
Revolution Action

Ok, so Carl Crack is of course no longer with us, and Hanin Elias appears to want no part in the reunion – but I was really hoping for a bit more than we got with this show. Alright, I get it – the old ATR aren’t coming back, but it was perhaps telling that the few truly brilliant moments were when the old stuff was rolled out, particularly a storming Sick To Death, sadly the only track aired from The Future of War, the album for me that really rammed home just how serious and fucking angry ATR were. It sounded like an all-night air-raid crammed into forty-five minutes or so, and here that power was returned.

Rather surprising also was just how much really old stuff was aired, and while it was great, those rave synths have not aged well whatsoever. But Start The Riot still gets treated like an instruction manual by the crowd (did I really see various people thrown out, by the way, for being rough in the ‘pit? Alec Empire wouldn’t have stood for that in the past), and the airing of Hetzjagd Auf Nazis! (by request!) was an unexpected treat. The latter part of the set felt somewhat rushed, though – two lengthy polemics from Empire appeared to cover up some equipment issues, and I got the distinct feeling a few tracks were dumped from the set in haste.

The very thought of a self-confessed anarchist band rushing through their set to make sure they still were done before curfew kinda amuses me, I have to admit. And so it was that Revolution Action closed things as ever, roused the baying crowd one more time, and we were indeed done by eleven. I couldn’t help feeling a bit let down, to be honest. Something clearly doesn’t feel right about this new ATR lineup, for obvious reasons, although I guess I can’t begrudge Alec Empire for regaining some of the attention that the various bands that took his template and ran with it basked in instead.

But more than anything, ATR seem to be struggling with the same issue that Ultraviolence do for me nowadays. What seemed to vicious and extreme in the nineties doesn’t seem anywhere near as such any more – there are industrial noise (and others) acts twenty times as heavy, extreme and challenging as this, they just don’t market themselves quite as well as this.

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