Emo's, Sept. 2
Up in the mosh pit, elbows flew, shins got booted, and comet blondes shot above and below, magazines of bullet sweat spraying on stage and in front of it. "Whatcha been doing these last 20 years?" shrugged vocalist David Yow, shirtless and gushing sweat 30 seconds into Scratch Acid's hourlong assault. "That's a rhetorical question." In Austin, time stands still, of course, and on a Labor Day weekend Saturday night not at the Dicks' bookstore, but rather the next best venue Red River's post-punk past reunited for one of three shows. Sold out, Emo's proved deicing for this week's Touch & Go anniversary in Chicago and a third outing in Seattle. If Austin didn't get the legendary local quartet's full-bore insanity of a generation ago, it was only because they were intent on crossing the "T" and gouging the "I" of their River City legacy. Yow, the only Acid casualty with a vocal mic, remains a poker-faced sprite, screaming, yowling, hanging upside down from a club support beam ("Can you help me down?"). The rhythm combine, Rey Washam's grin/grimace of pounding menace and David Wm. Sims' (Boris the) spider-fingered bass fluidity, contrasted Yow's frontman insouciance and guitarist Brett Bradford's bemused middle-grounding. Ten minutes longer than the performance itself, the balance of the group's catalog received the beating it deserved in mostly two-minute bursts of recoil and release. Getting it right got in the way of cutting loose all moorings, but the band tapped its molten core in the last third of the set with instrumental "Albino Slug." Yow took up the bass and Sims the guitar for Bradford's eviscerating screech on "Holes," a vocal approximation of his guitar immolation begun in Scratch Acid yet perfected in current Austin trio Insect Sex Act, and paved the way for barbwire takes on "This Is Bliss," "Damned for All Time," and "She Said," which ended the main set. The throng went ape. Tribute to the Big Boys' Randall J. "Biscuit" Turner and "Mess" manhandled a fistful of encores. Scratch Acid, still The Greatest Gift, bruises and all.