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At The Drive-In’s Intimate Show Outshines Marfa’s Famous Lights

Some bands sound amazing on record but can’t pull off the magic live in concert.

Others can dazzle on stage but fall flat trying to capture it for an album.

Then there’s a band like At the Drive-In – a sonic force of nature.

“We represent a definite sect of El Paso. Our music comes from the desert,” ATDI drummer Tony Hajjar told ABC-7 recently. “Once the winds pick up here it brings havoc. I think our music brings havoc, as well. And then when the winds are calm and the city is hot and sunny, you have that anticipation of sweat and power and I think that’s what our music is as well. I think our reunion is just showing that El Paso does produce music that you need to pay attention to.”

Marfa’s famous lights took a back seat Thursday night when the reunited band took the stage in front of 500 people for an intimate performance that did not disappoint. The band wraps up its Texas warm-up shows with a sold-out concert in their hometown of El Paso on Friday night. ATDI will then perform on Coachella Music and Arts Festival’s main stage this Sunday and on April 22.

ATDI had not played a show together in 11 years before April 9’s show in Austin, but they still have a devoted following that has shown they are willing to pay just about anything and travel hundreds of miles to see them perform live.

El Pasoan Greg Nunez’s two $20 tickets to the Marfa show ended up costing him quite a bit more – but not because of scalper prices. The tickets ended up costing him about $150 because he didn’t have enough money in his account when he ordered the ticket and he had to pay an overdraft fee. Nunez said the concert was worth it.

Victora Santillan, of San Antonio, made the six-hour-plus drive to Marfa because she had never seen ATDI perform before. She recalled with a smile how she used to have pictures of the band in her bedroom growing up.

ATDI still puts on a great performance live with singer Cedric Bixler Zavala asserting himself as one of the best frontmen in the business. He shimmied his way across the stage, crawled on his hands and knees, and scaled speakers.

Other times he would swing his microphone ala Roger Daltrey – with better dance moves.

The band’s music is tight and on point with some songs extended live. “Napoleon Solo,” always a fan favorite and a personal song for the band about a friend’s death, stood out during the Marfa set because of how powerful it remains, even though it is somewhat restrained compared to other ATDI songs.

A theme of the night was, for lack of a better phrase, was “good vibes.”

Bixler told the audience about how when the band first started they would practice in a garage and just hope to play to enough people to be able to buy some fast food and then play to more people.

“Touring is a lot like the food industry,” Bixler said. “You get to know how to treat people and how to be treated.”

Later in the show, during the band’s final song, “Catacombs,” guitarist Jim Ward walked over to Omar Rodriguez Lopez’s side of the stage and the two played their guitars facing each other. Camera phones were instantly raised to capture the moment.

Ward then stopped playing, sipped Rodriguez’s water and just watched his bandmate continue the song.

Rodriguez, who had been stoic the whole night, smiled. In a town renowned for its heavenly lights, Rodriguez’s smile easily shined brighter than them.

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