“Death. Lives.” reads the appropriately dramatic tagline of the new Death from Above 1979 documentary that follows members Jesse F. Keeler and Sebastien Grainger from the beginning, middle, end–and rebirth–of one of the most fascinating DIY punk bands of the era. The soundtrack to the mayhem is the first single off their second new album, The Physical World, titled “Trainwreck 1979.” The opening dun-dun-dun-dun of Keeler’s bass might as well be the rapid heartbeat of every DFA fan when word got out that the duo not only reconciled, but were working on a new album. Among the fans, I found myself enraptured by the album, listening to it in the car and simultaneously pushing harder on the gas propelling down the highway feeling alive. I imagine that this wild exhilaration is what Jesse and Sebastien felt, or at least had in mind for their devoted fans when reconvening and bringing new life into something that wasn’t ready to be dead.
It’s been a decade since DFA 1979 released their debut album You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine on Last Gang Records, eight years since they announced their split in 2006, and three years since they shocked fans by their reunion. It was like a tumultuous relationship between members Jesse and Sebastien, a bumpy roller coaster ride that’s outcome could not be predicted, but was exciting to watch. From an outsider’s perspective, it was mystifying. One night the Canadian duo was opening for Nine Inch Nails and Queens of the Stone Age at the infamous Madison Square Garden, and a couple weeks later were no longer speaking…and no longer a band. They were right on the brink of something major–it felt like such a tease. Presenting people with this outrageous dance punk sound that was all the more fun to actually thrash and dance around to live, then completely bringing it to a halt after one big tour. It appeared that if you didn’t see them in 2005-06, you weren’t gonna get the chance. I listened with envy the few friends who recanted the stories of the chaotic shows where one got a nosebleed and someone else was underage and snuck in just in time. I, among thousands of others were left disheartened at the prospect of never seeing the legendary Death from Above 1979.
The scene was Beauty Bar in Austin, Texas for SXSW. The year was 2011. There were whispers throughout the annual music festival and the entire blogosphere alike that a certain Canadian punk duo were reuniting for a secret performance after an epic five year silence. By midnight, the rumored venue was already at capacity with hopefuls smashing their way in for a chance that may not come again, and even if it did, who the hell would want to miss the start of it all? A little after 1AM, Sebastien and Jesse took the stage causing an all out riot. Literally. By the time the duo performed fan favorite “Romantic Rights,” all hell was breaking loose around the modest-sized Beauty Bar. Kids were climbing the fence until it caved entirely, photographers were contorting themselves to get a shot of the stage and cops on horses began taking violent measures to clear the alley and attempt to calm the crowd. Utter chaos, blood, sweat and rock ‘n’ roll. And I missed it.
Well, not this time. Months ago when this tour was announced, I swore aloud to anyone who would listen that I would not miss this show at Marathon Music Works. Here I am, day of show, sick as dog but ready to put my personal pain aside to be a part of something that is truly monumental–back from the dead and better than ever.