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Atari Teenage Riot’s long-awaited Vegas invasion

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Atari Teenage Riot’s Alec Empire, Saturday night at the Royal.
Photo: Corlene Byrd
Corlene Byrd

I just overheard a show attendee ask the merch salesman if Atari Teenage Riot had any T-shirts available that weren’t black. The answer is no, kid.

I was first introduced to the sounds of Atari Teenage Riot in 1999 through a Digital Hardcore Recordings label sampler. That level of energy and beat-driven distortion were new experiences for me at the time. It was a Holy Grail moment. ATR became an instantaneous obsession. I had never heard music that made me feel like I was in an apocalyptic action video game/thriller film based on a true story.

With social media still a few years from becoming a useful access point to more recordings, footage and fan content, ATR become a myth to me. Being able to experience Atari Teenage Riot as it was meant to be—in person—seemed inconceivable. I resigned myself to never solving their mystery.

If the band hadn’t gone on hiatus after its previous album, 1999’s 60 Second Wipe Out, I would have made my way to Germany to see it. The band has never been to Las Vegas. Until now.

The attendance was bizarre from my fan-fueled perspective—only a couple of hundred gathered near the newly built outdoor stage behind the Royal Resort. Still, ATR still carried on as though it were performing for the entire universe.

Maybe fans haven’t realized ATR is back with new material, or maybe they just assumed they would never come here. Or just maybe, the truth is that digital hardcore music didn’t make an impact here in this city, or possibly in the states, the way it did in Germany during the 1990s.

The sound was just as I imagined it. Excessive volume, abrasive distortion and the dance beat that implies Armageddon. ATR’s songs always seem built with the band name in mind—like it’s the group’s definition of intent and message. Atari. Teenage. Riot.

Empire and Nic Endo.

Empire and Nic Endo.

After the trio takes a request from the audience, founder Alec Empire explains the ensuing delay: ATR is still using old-school machines, and the song simply needs to upload so they can play it. With every opportunity, he makes sure we know the band is glad to have traveled in to play the show. He high-fives fans and comes across the barrier to dance with the crowd throughout the set.

Yeah, I went home with a T-shirt. A black one.

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