Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Review: Scratch Acid @ The EARL

Scratch Acid @ The EARL (Atlanta, GA) - November 1, 2011
Photo & Review: Jeffrey K.

Autumn in Atlanta is, in a word, pleasant. We finally get a break from the oppressive summer heat and the ample canopy of the city's many trees pop with a colorful bouquet of reds, yellows, greens, and browns. With the passing of the seasons, the concert schedule explodes, with many veteran acts including Bob Mould, Pierced Arrows, Peter Case, and Tesco Vee's The Meatmen, passing through town.

One show I was eagerly anticipating was the reunion of Scratch Acid, the legendary Austin, TX, noise rock quartet, who along with bands like The Skunks, Butthole Surfers, and The Dicks, put the Austin freak-scene on the map in the 1980's. Fronted by the manic and fearless David Yow, Scratch Acid became known for their wild live shows, which featured the confrontational Yow spending as much time surfing on top of the crowd as he did on stage. After releasing three phenomenal records of visceral noise rock (all compiled on on the Touch and Go release The Greatest Gift), the band dissolved in 1987. The rhythm section joined Steve Albini to form Rapeman (people who know and love Two Nuns and a Pack Mule get a hug from me). The bassist, David Wm. Sims, later re-joined Yow to form The Jesus Lizard (for my money, the very best band of the 1990's).

The show was originally scheduled to be performed at the higher capacity Variety Playhouse, but eventually moved to East Atlanta's The EARL due to slow ticket sales (not unusual in ATL-- we're a bit of a "last minute" kind of city). I couldn't have been happier: not only is The EARL within a quarter mile of my house, a smaller venue would force the crowd to pack in a bit tighter, allowing Yow to better wreak havoc over the proceedings.

Opening the gig was Atlanta's own Hawks, which was very appropriate, considering they borrow so heavily from noise-punk bands like Scratch Acid, Unsane, and Tar (the guitarist even uses a Travis Bean guitar like Steve Albini and Duane Denison, for chrissakes). Over the last 2 years, Hawks have made a name for themselves by having completely unhinged shows, with lead singer Michael Keenan usually naked--covered in tattoos, sweat and glitter--screaming into the faces of the either exultant or terrified attendees (put me in the former). Hawks played their opening spot decidedly low-key and clothed (mostly), so as not to upstage their heroes. Most of the set was composed of songs from their latest LP, Rub (which kicks ass, by the way). One thing I think keeps this band from achieving greatness is the lack of hooks-- while I can say that I enjoy what I hear, I can't remember how any of the songs go 2 minutes after hearing them. They ended their set with a couple new songs, which both showed signs of improvement. I hope they keep it going-- it's exciting to watch a band gel.

Scratch Acid finally took the stage to a roar of applause. They ripped right into "Mary Had a Little Drug Problem" leading to an all-out sing-along (shout-along?) of "Mess." David Yow, as usual, lived up to his reputation, frantically pacing up and down the stage, leaning into the reveling crowd, shouting like a madman. Yow's between-song banter was kept to a minimum, usually comprising of a passive "Hi!" Per tradition, he did manage to squeeze in one delightfully disturbing joke (I'll post it in the comments). Drummer Rey Washam and Sims are an incredibly tight rhythm section (I will always argue that Sims is, bar-none, one of the finest bassists in punk rock). Guitarist Brett Bradford played flawlessly, tearing through his riffs with precision. The crowd really exploded during "Eyeball," with Yow getting lifted up on top of the shoving mass of people. The encore was epic, starting with the subdued and, dare I say, beautiful, "Owner's Lement", easing into "Cannibal." The show ended with Yow launching himself into the crowd one last time during "Damned for All Time."

I woke up this morning slightly sore. It was worth it.


Scratch Acid will be here in New York City at Webster Hall on Monday (11/7). Tickets are still on sale. Someone posted a pretty amazing quality video of 20 minutes worth of this show at The Earl. Check that out below, along with the remainder of Scratch Acid's tour dates...

Scratch Acid 2011 Tour Dates
Nov 4 - Washington, DC - 9:30 Club
Nov 5 - Philadelphia, PA - Union Transfer
Nov 7 - New York, NY - Webster Hall
Nov 9 - Boston, MA - Paradise
Nov 10 - Montreal, QC - Il Motore
Nov 11 - Toronto, ON - Lee's Palace
Nov 12 - Chicago, IL - Metro
Dec 8 - Dallas, TX - Trees
Dec 9 - Houstin, TX - Fitzgerald's
Dec 10 - Austin, TX - Emo's East
Dec 13 - Los Angeles, CA - El Rey Theatre
Dec 14 - San Francisco, CA - The Fillmore
Dec 16 - Portland, OR - Crystal Ballroom
Dec 17 - Seattle, WA - Neumo


  1. David Yow joke of the show:
    "So I'm going down on this chick... She's liiiike..... 81? Anyway, I'm really giving it to her and she's being really quiet. I guess she was in heaven or something... So, I'm getting deep in there and I taste something rank... it kinda tasted like donkey sperm. So, I got up and asked her, 'Hey, Nana, is that how you died?'"