Saturday, September 19

Drones Far From Home

I spend the day in a regional city at a large suburban campus of a giant corporation, walking through the cube farms to the windowless conference rooms. When the day ends, I rush through peak-hour traffic on the unfamiliar freeways to the airport. A quick flight later, I'm on the ground in San Francisco and head straight into the city. I meet B__ and we hurry to Cafe Du Nord where The Drones are playing. My only hope to catch them is if the show runs late.

The Drones are led by Gareth Liddiard. Gareth grew up in Perth's northern suburbs and played music with friends of mine back when we were all barely out of high school. I remember him vaguely from that time as the slightly older rock guy with the Einst├╝rzende Neubauten symbol tattooed on his wrist. I also remember that Robin the drummer would complain that Gareth would turn his amp up so loud that Robin couldn't hear his own drum kit during rehearsals.

We get there at 10:30 and the support act (some local band I don't know) is still playing to a nearly full room. Acclaimed in Australia, the Drones are almost unknown in America so I feel like it's a good crowd. But, by the time the Drones go on, the crowd has thinned. As the Drones launch into their set, with the thundering Jezebel, the band looks slightly bored--except for Gareth who plays and screams with his usual intensity, as he probably does even in the rehearsal room. A couple of songs into the set, a drunk guy in front of us collapses backwards. He cracks his head and blood spreads across the floor. The Drones don't stop as staff and patrons surround the kid and call an ambulance. As the blood keeps spreading, another patron faints, not from drunkenness or drugs, but from seeing so much blood.

As the band plays on, the collapsers are carried out and staff clean the bloody floor with bleach. The room reeks of the bleach and the crowd thins even further. Only 20 or so people seem to still be watching the band. Gareth writhes on but the rest of the band looks more and more bored. I can't tell if they've even noticed the commotion in the crowd or if they can smell the bleach. They belt out Shark Fin Blues and a couple more songs and walk out quickly.

There is no encore.