Suicidal Tendencies/ Poison Idea/ Crutches @ the Showbox, Seattle WA Oct. 17, 2010

Review and photos by Cara Cross

This was one of my most anticipated shows of the year.

I’ve always loved Suicidal Tendencies, so when I heard they were doing a North American tour I jumped at the chance to see them live. The granddaddies of crossover thrash have been in my neck of the woods plenty of times, but after all these years I still hadn’t managed to make it out.

I was practically giddy as we rolled into downtown Seattle at dusk. Fresh off a show the night before featuring seminal punk rockers The Subhumans and Jello Biafra and the Guantanomo School of Medicine, I was looking forward to seeing yet another legendary band take the stage.

I was, however, a little apprehensive. As with any band that has a single original member remaining, it’s a crapshoot what you’ll actually get on stage. And last month’s CD release didn’t fill me with much confidence. No Mercy Fool! The Suicidal Family is a re-recording of 1987’s Join the Army along with a couple of oldies from thrash band No Mercy, a Mike Clark/Mike Muir side project. We’ve seen this movie before (1993’s Still Cyco After All These Years) — it wasn’t good then and it ain’t good now.

I hoped against hope for a good show.

The crowd at the Showbox was a real dog’s breakfast. Burly, bald-headed thugs mingled with punk rockers in studded leather jackets, amid a veritable sea of blue bandanas, skater shorts and pulled-up sport socks. The house music was equally, um, varied, ranging from “Eatin’ ain’t Cheatin’” to “Slaughter of the Soul” and back again.

But for all its diversity, the room was united by fierce love of a band that defies categorization, a band that took two different genres and fused them together into something completely different from that which came before. With this crowd, Suicidal Tendencies stands alone.

First up was local hardcore band Crutches. I only caught the last couple songs of their set, which I would describe as standard hardcore fare. Not bad, but not great. They had good energy, though; I would probably give them another chance if I were a local.

Next up was Poison Idea. Judging by the crowd’s reaction, most of the people in the room had never even heard of this band. That’s a real shame, because PI was such a huge part of the 80s hardcore scene and influenced so many groups that followed in their footsteps. The band deserved better than they got.

Vocalist Jerry A. seemed to feed off of the crowd’s lackluster response. He spent much of the set mumbling into the microphone, skipping lyrics, feigning yawns and not-so-subtly looking at his watch. In the end, the band folded their set 15 minutes early – and that was after they stopped to replace one of the kick drums, which blew out halfway through the second or third song. Disappointing, to say the least. But even the openers could see the writing on the wall – Suicidal Tendencies was the only act on the bill that night, as far as this crowd was concerned.

Despite their name, Suicidal Tendencies has always been relentlessly positive. They stand for making something out of nothing, for transforming a bad situation into good. Singer Mike Muir often talks about triumph over adversity, finding your own way, and challenging those who say something cannot or should not be done.

So it was fitting, then, that the band opened with “You Can’t Bring Me Down,” the single that catapulted Suicidal into the mainstream and most effectively captures the band’s ethos.

Singer Mike Muir could not be contained; he exploded on stage, spitting out lyrics with fighting intensity. When he wasn’t pontificating from the stage’s edge, he was running left and right, stomping from foot to foot, sparring to the beat. His endurance was impressive, his enthusiasm contagious. An amazing performance, especially given the fact that he recently had major back surgery.

In between songs, the crowd was treated to various “Mikeisms,” verbal interludes that alternated between self-deprecating humor and feel-good stories about how Suicidal Tendencies got their start.

But it wasn’t all about Cyco Miko. Over the course of the evening each of the band members shone.

Dean Pleasants gave the ghost of Rocky George a run for its money; the former Infectious Grooves guitarist carried off lead duties effortlessly, all while carrying on a conversation with the crowd members up front. Mike Clark seemed to be off in his own little world, savouring the intensity of the performance and the music.

Bassist Steve Brunner relished the opportunity to cover off both the guitar and bass lines in fan-favourite “Possessed to Skate.” His funky, slap style was reminiscent of a certain former bassist who shall remain nameless, if only because it would diminish the night’s solid performance. And Eric Moore’s jaw-dropping drum solo wowed the crowd, earning him an immense amount of respect from everyone in the room.

Together the band was a tight unit, playing off each other and the audience to create a truly enjoyable — dare I say feel-good — listening experience.

The night’s set list heavily favoured the band’s first two albums, Suicidal Tendencies and Join the Army. Other than “Cyco Vision,” I don’t think they played anything newer than 1990. Given that half of the band members weren’t even around back then, I was surprised at how well they performed this material.

The high point was “Pledge Your Allegiance,” when Mike Muir pulled about 75 fans up onto the stage to share the microphone and chant “ST!” to close out the set.

And just when you thought it was over and half the audience left, the band came out one last time for a blistering performance of “I Shot The Devil” and “I Want More.”

Yes, the glory days are behind them. Yes, they are not the young men they once were. But this show was not about recreating the past. It was about proving that the fighting spirit of Suicidal lives on. Their drive, their energy, their relentless positivity comes through in every single performance, every single song.

If you are any sort of a Suicidal fan, I suggest you get your ass out to one of these shows before the tour wraps in November. It’s an experience you won’t want to miss.

Suicidal Tendencies: Year of the Cyco 2010
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11/12/2010 9:30 Club – Washington, DC
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11/17/2010 Metro – Chicago, IL
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11/21/2010 Sunshine Theatre – Albuquerque, NM