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Crossover-thrash original D.R.I. rides high on the return of a sound it helped pioneer



D.R.I with GRG, Violent Affair and Soul Craft Black
6:30 p.m. Saturday
the Conservatory
8911 N. Western
$10 advance, $13 door

Timing is everything. While thrash pioneers Dirty Rotten Imbeciles (aka D.R.I.) have been at it for 28 years, touring regularly much of that time, the musicians are fresh back from a four-year hiatus brought on by guitar player Spike Cassidy's colon-cancer diagnosis. In that time, thrash has seen a resurgence, resulting in bigger crowds than the Houston quartet has ever seen.

"We've been selling out almost everywhere we go. It's totally jam-packed with really enthusiastic people. It's just been nuts," said singer Kurt Brecht. "We got parents bringing their kids, too " 10-, 11-, 12-year-old kids that have already been into D.R.I. for a while, which is weird that you would like your parents' type of music. Usually, it's exactly the opposite direction."

The band formed in 1982 and within a few years relocated to San Francisco from Houston, following fellow Texas bands such as Millions of Dead Cops, Verbal Abuse and The Dicks.

"They told us how great it was and how they had big shows every night," Brecht said. "We were told they would like our music more there, there were more chances to jump on a tour, and it was easier to make connections and get signed to a label. So we just said, 'Let's go check it out.'"

It wasn't easy. They lived in their van for a while and ate at soup kitchens.

"We knew we weren't going to be making any money," Brecht said, but their friends were right about everything: D.R.I. was a perfect fit for the Bay Area punk community, and almost immediately, jumped on a tour with MDC and Dead Kennedys.

The group signed with Metal Blade Records' punk subsidiary, Death Records, for its second album, 1985's "Dealing with It," before stepping up to the parent label for its 1987 breakout, "Crossover," accompanied by a tour with pioneering crossover punk/metal act Slayer. "Crossover" signaled D.R.I.'s incorporation of metal, which had to that point existed in a separate scene.

"We never mingled, but just yelled at each other from across the street," Brecht said. "Slayer had a lot to do with it because it was something the hardcore kids liked because it was fast and furious, and people still were stage diving. There was a mosh pit and stuff. Then we started playing shows with Slayer and that really sealed the deal. Hardcore bands started playing with them, and it really homogenized the whole scene."

D.R.I. toured regularly until 2005, along the way releasing four more studio albums, the last one being 1995's "Full Speed Ahead." Although interest in thrash subsided, the group was going strong until Cassidy's diagnosis.

The act took a break while the guitarist endured radiation and chemotherapy, and when D.R.I. returned, it found a scene experiencing a reintegration of music's bifurcated metal and punk scenes, propelled by the arrival of screamo and the rise of hardcore/punk hybrids. Younger fans have turned out in legion to see where it all started, while Milwaukee label Beer City releases remastered versions of D.R.I.'s old discs.

There are hopes for new album, but for now, they're just that.

"It's definitely in the plan. We all want it," Brecht said. "But right now, we're touring every weekend and going out for four or five days at a time. We come home, recuperate for a couple days, and go back out again. It looks like it's going to be like that for the rest of the year, so I don't know when we'll have time to go in the studio."

For now, you'll have to be satisfied with the "Violent Pacification" of their furious live show.

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