Reunions are tired. They've all been done and are usually performed with that lackadaisical thousand-yard stare that screams "cash or check is fine with me." It's rare to get a reunion that captures the essence and excitement that a band once had, even if said excitement was only perceived and not actualized. Last night's performance by the Distillers at The Mohawk (May 1st, 2018), the fifth stop in a short stint of dates from the West Coast to Atlanta, was what reunions should be — full of handshakes, hugs, well-placed nostalgia and, most of all, heart, from both the audience and the band. The tour is the first for the group after 14 years away from the road.
For many in the audience, frontwoman Brody Dalle was the gateway drug to feminist punk or riot grrrl, and the Distillers, to a generation, represent far more than just nostalgia, but rather a female view into the overwhelmingly male punk scene. The millennial-somethings in attendance likely heard the Distillers before they ever heard Bikini Kill or even Babes of Toyland, and yet Dalle isn't often spoken of with the same reverence as Kathleen Hanna or any of her other forebears. But time is on her side.
It's a rare occurrence for any band to reunite after a long period with almost no indication of time passed, as if the laws of physics do not apply. Aside from some stray silver hairs atop guitarist Tony Bradley's head, the band appeared like they had been plucked from a 2006 time warp. Dalle even went as far as donning the same look she toured in back when their third studio album, Coral Fang, was released, down to her skin-tight cheetah pants and lip ring. She also ditched her blonde locks for the iconic shaggy brunette chop that Distillers fans know and love. Looks aside, the music had the same raw, discordant effect of their early recordings. Notes missed? Chords askew? Who gives a fuck! This is punk.
Every song down to the last inflection felt like a crowd favorite — searing with punk nostalgia and the cognizance of callous youth — and the audience responded by earnestly shouting every single lyric or throwing their bodies into the frenetic pit that comprised the entirety of the main floor. Occasionally you could catch Dalle's raspy crooning and hypnotic growl over the crowd's collective clamor. Through all the fanfare, she seemed virtually unaffected. There were no overt romantics directed towards the audience during the set considering the amount of love being hurled her way, just a simple "thanks for coming."
The Distillers played a well-curated selection from all three albums with almost no breaks in between and no encore. When the set was done, it felt over with — the crowd calmed to a low buzz, limbs no longer flailed in the air, fists returned to their sides and voices shuttered back in fans' throats. Back to reality, because this show surely wasn't.
The Distillers set list (May 1st at The Mohawk, Austin, Texas)
I Am a Revenant
Die on a Rope
Sick of It All
The Gallow Is God
Love Is Paranoid
For Tonight You're Only Here to Know
Drain the Blood
City of Angels
The Blackest Years