D.R.I./Deathwish - Live in Fort Wayne (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

D.R.I. / Deathwish

Live in Fort Wayne (2019)

live show

I’m sure I’ve told this story before, but I’m getting old and you’re going to have to indulge me. I clearly remember the first time I saw DRI. It was at the former Stadium Arena (now Deltaplex) in suburban Grand Rapids in very early 1990. A fresh faced (I haven’t been clean shaven for years), long haired (I haven’t had hair for years either),16 year old Tom (not yet Trauma), his 15 year old girlfriend, and a couple of her friends went to see the band at the peak of their popularity. (Why am I talking about myself in the third person?) It was insane.

There were crazy looking people doing crazing things everywhere. So many people were so drunk and/or high, that there were bodies slumped against the walls. The pit was massive and extremely violent. Someone tore a sink out of the wall in the men’s room, and there was water all over the place. I was drawn toward the danger and hooked on the chaos. I knew I had found my place and my people. (My soon to be dumped GF was bored, and walked to a nearby 24 hour big box store.) It’s among my favorite show memories.

I’ve seen DRI a dozen or so times in the nearly 30 years since, but it had been a few years since the last time. This time I brought a different 15 year old - my son. With his learner’s permit in hand, he drove the first two of the three hour drive from suburban GR to Fort Wayne, IN. The 4pm matinee was at the Fort Wayne Indoor Skatepark on Sunday September 15th, and also happened to be the last date on the tour. I really had no idea what to expect from the venue itself, but it somehow seemed more wholesome for a kid than a typical bar show.

I still didn’t know what to expect as we drove through a neighborhood of working class, well maintained homes. Suddenly we were there. The building still had its Summit City Metal Recycling sign. Inside the fenced in parking lot was a collection of Indiana’s greatest punks, metalheads and bikers. The ages ranged from young kids to folks in their 50s, or maybe even 60s.There were a ton of battle vests, a few mohawks, and even a young couple in full corpse paint. It was like a punk and heavy metal circus, complete with all the sights and sounds that you would expect. There were certainly plenty of crazy looking people, but the years have made me jaded. I noticed other folks drinking, so I popped the first of the six pack of tall boys stashed in a cooler in my trunk.

The building was essentially a metal pole barn with overhead doors in the front and on either end. There was no stage, and the bands set up on one end of the building, with the garage door open for air flow. Local cover band In Blood, the second of the four band bill, was already playing when we got there a little after 5. They were a six piece, with three guitars. The crowd seemed to enjoy their versions of Megadeth’s “Tornado of Souls”, Overkill’s “Fatal if Swallowed” and Exodus’ “Piranha”. The sound was very loud and surprisingly good, especially considering the fact that building was hardly designed with acoustics in mind.

Next up was a band I’ve been wanting to see, Deathwish from Wisconsin. The quartet was supporting this entire leg of the tour, and is labelmates with D.R.I. on Beer City Records and Skateboards. They were also a good musical match. Similar, but not too similar. The quartet plays a heavily Motörhead influenced brand of punk, metal, thrash and crossover. Their black and white Rock N Roll’s One Hell of a Drug banner hung from the top of the open garage door, blocking at least a little of the daylight. They blasted through a set of songs from their two excellent LPs, Out For Blood (2015) and Unleash Hell (2017). Deathwish is definitely right up my alley, and I very much enjoyed their motorcharged set.

It was still light out when those Dirty Rotten Imbeciles took the stage (concrete floor) about 7:15. They opened with “The Application” and thrashed through 90 minutes of fan favorites. As soon as they started, the small pit took on a new urgency. I saw a guy, probably pushing 40, get knocked down in that pit and come up with a clearly broken wrist. He got to hear one D.R.I. song, and then had a very bad night. It took away most of my desire to join in, but a couple beers later I did take a few spins.

While they didn’t play a 50 song set like the old days, there were still lots. “Violent Pacification”, “Snap” and “I’d Rather Be Sleeping” all came before it got dark enough to turn down the house lights and use the strobes. “Argument, Then War”, “The Explorer”, Problem Addict”, “Acid Rain” and “Nursing Home Blues” came before all five songs from their newest release, the But Wait...There’s More EP. I kept getting bumped into, and was showered in my own beer. “Who Am I?”, “Slumlord”, “I’m the Liar”, “Syringes in the Sandbox”, “Thrashard”, “Abduction”, “I Don’t Need Society” and “Beneath the Wheel” all came before “5 Year Plan” signaled the end. There were quite a few more that I didn’t write down.

Something strange happened during “Syringes”. Something that I don’t ever remember happening in my 30 plus years of going to shows, People started moshing in a circle around my son and I, but never touched us. We were in the eye of a mosh hurricane! It was disarming, but sort of peaceful too. By “Abduction”, we were right up front. The crowd had thinned out quite a bit by then, even though it wasn’t even 9pm yet. Overall, it was a great show. It felt very amateurish, but for me, that was definitely part of the charm. It reminded me of how chaotic and dangerous the shows seemed when I was a kid. Most of the shows I go to these days are at “legitimate” clubs, but I didn’t miss the overpriced beer and overzealous security. I’m not exactly sure what my son thought about the show. He said he had a good time, and I’m sure he enjoyed the people watching. I would rank this as my third favorite D.R.I show, after the first time, and an inspired performance at the Reptile House in ‘95.

I started with a story, now let me finish with a cautionary tale. My son didn’t want to drive on the way home. After a horrible dinner at Taco Bell, (there are very few things open after 9 on Sunday in Fort Wayne), we hit the highway. In Kalamazoo, about an hour from home, I got stopped by a state trooper for going 81 in a 70. Although I hadn’t had a drink for almost three hours, and had eaten, I was pretty nervous. Honestly, I hadn’t been pulled over in years. Those lights are blinding. Plus, I stunk of beer. My son was sleeping, (he woke up when the light was shined in his face),and my paperwork was in order. I guess i answered his questions properly. The young trooper must not have smelled me, and let me off with a warning. I never went over 79 for the remaining 75 miles. While I don’t think I would have failed a breathalyzer, it could have been a huge hassle. Be careful, kids. Be smart. Smarter than your Uncle Tom. You can’t always count on luck.

Confessions of a merch whore: My buying frenzy continues. I picked up a clear copy of Dirty Rotten LP. I believe it was at least the third time I’ve bought that album in one form or another. I got two DRI patches, a Thrashzone and the classic “skanker man”. I also got Deathwish’s double LP Rock N Roll’s One Hell of a Drug, which is a deluxe repackaging of their first two records. The vocalist/bassist from Deathwish had an amazingly curated little punk, metal and hardcore distro/portable record store with him. If I’d had it, I could have spent hundreds. If you ever come across it, it’s definitely worth your time to flip through it. After much deliberation, I bought Zero Boys’ Vicious Circle. I think for only the second time. I mean, I was in Indiana.