ACL Fest 2017: Dreamcar rides high with glam-punk energy

Let’s hear it for thoroughly professional rock stars keeping it together on the second acts of their careers. Crowds at Austin City Limits Music Festival got a sample of that dynamic Saturday afternoon when the No Doubt members not named Gwen Stefani took the stage with AFI front man Davey Havok as the sort-of punk rock supergroup Dreamcar.

At first the stylings of the members’ principle bands’ music would seem to make the pairing something of an oil and water scenario. After all, No Doubt ruled the late ‘90s with a playful brand of ska-punk-pop and AFI’s borderline horror punk beginnings gave them a hoe among hardcore punk fans.

Dreamcar singer Davey Havok at ACL Fest 2017. Credit: Brittany Cason

But No Doubt gradually adopted a healthy new wave streak as the years wore on, while Havok adopted plenty of glam tendencies during the end of the second Bush administration. Those styles are where Dreamcar lives creatively, employing punk energy with plenty of pop bounce and new wave sheen.

The key to all of it was Havok, who is a charismatic and singular singer at this point in his career, projecting his vocals with every ounce of sweaty energy he can muster. Lyrically he’s still firmly rooted in borderline macabre and romantic torment, but with the years behind him framing the songs as looks at past defeats, rather than current frustrations.

The clear highlight came on “All Of The Dead Girls,” which rode a bouncy and upbeat rhythm from guitarist Tom Dumont and bassist Tony Kanal while Havok basked in the confidence that “All the dead girls love me.”

Another high point: Havok, having sweated through his turquoise dress shirt and suit jacket, leading the band on a sizzling and high-energy cover of David Bowie’s “Suffragette City” that came off as a sincere appreciation without trying to reinvent the original’s compositional greatness. It was a sort of snapshot that perfectly captures this mostly new and uncertain musical venture; classic glam rock greatness propelled forward at high speed. Here’s to hoping there’s more where that came from.


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