Last Night: Atari Teenage Riot At Groundhall

Atari Teenage Riot, Black Congress, Weird Party, Balaclavas Groundhall September 29, 2010

Atari Teenage Riot's set began with the entirety of Groundhall encompassed in darkness. As bass beat in everyone's chests, strobe lights lit up the otherwise pitch-black venue. For a good five minutes, ATR let the crowd scream and chant "Ri-ot! Ri-ot!" before finally taking the stage.

As they finally came out, they took to the front of the stage to clap hands with fans and finally grasped their respective microphones and put them to their lips and...

Nothing happened.

Stunned, all three members took to tapping their mikes, shrugging their shoulders and turning up their arms at the elbow, the international sign language for "What the hell?" Then they walked offstage, and the crowd began to get rowdy.

We were actually a bit worried there was about to be, a what? A girl fight! But seriously, neither the band nor the fans were pleased.

About five minutes later, most of the technical difficulties had been handled. ATR reappeared onstage to even more applause and proceeded to make half the crowd dance while the other half moshed.

We couldn't make out any of the lyrics, but a lot of people in attendance were singing screaming along. We weren't sure what to expect from ATR's set - since they're back from a 10 year hiatus and all, nevermind the whole anti-Neo-Nazi thing - but Aftermath thoroughly enjoyed what we heard.

It was danceable, it was fast, it was bright, it was fun, and boy was it loud. Really, really, really loud.

We should have brought earplugs.

Interestingly, some employees of Groundhall told us that it wasn't nearly as loud as it was supposed to be. Apparently, even once the apparent sound problems had been taken care of, some lesser-noticed troubles persisted.

While it was supposed to sound and feel "like a machine gun hitting your chest and ear drums," the sound engineers told us the volume level was more akin to that of a DJ's set.

It was supposed to be louder? Dear God... Nonetheless, ATR put on a strong set, and the crowd, including Houston's own Fat Tony and B L A C K I E, ate it up.

When we first walked in, all of about 25 people were inside the former Warsaw, and up until ATR took the stage, we found ourselves wondering if everyone had instead chosen to attend the first Whiskey Wednesday at the new Fitzgerald's. Or maybe it's because the cover charge for the evening was $25, which must have lost a few would-be concertgoers at the door.

Balaclavas opened the show with moody, almost demonic-sounding noise. We weren't quite sure what we were listening to, but we knew we liked it and were happy we came to the show early. Unfortunately, almost no one was there to enjoy the set.

This was the same story for Weird Party, whose set was a bit livelier but just as underappreciated. Black Congress vocalist Bryan Jackson was all smiles before the show, stoked to be opening for ATR. A fan of the band's found it fitting that BC open, because he felt that they would get the crowd pumped for what was to come.

Black Congress took the stage and got the crowd going, but was adamant that no one buy their music. Jackson may have been all smiles offstage, but once he took hold of the microphone he became a different, darker, angrier person.

We weren't (and still aren't) sure if this was an onstage performance or if he was upset with the crowd's response to his band's music, but not knowing is half the fun. Maybe we'll ask one day.

All of these bands play a type of music that's probably better left unexplained. It's all experimental in its own way, and we can appreciate musicians who think outside the box. We hope that more Houstonians come to as well.

Personal Bias: From what we hear, all this music sounds like Nine Inch Nails meets The Prodigy meets angry, angry Houstonians. So yeah, we dig it.

Overheard in the crowd: "These bands suck. Why did we come here?"

Random Notebook Dump: If we continue covering live music, we need to invest in earplugs. A lot of them. We don't want to be deaf by 30.

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