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Posts Tagged ‘The Dismemberment Plan’

My favorite shows of 2007

Monday, December 31st, 2007

Well, so this was my year in shows.

If you count NEARfest as two concerts (which seems fair, since it was two days and I saw five shows), then I hit my goal of seeing 52 shows in 2007. There were tons more I wanted to see, but between playing a competitive sport, spending many spring and fall weekends backpacking, and maintaining a long-distance relationship, it was particularly difficult for me to make weekend shows this year. So all in all I think I did pretty well. Here are some of the highlights — I’m just putting these in chronological order, and not necessarily limiting myself to 10 or anything like that.

  • Atomic at Twins Jazz, February 8 (blog entry) — What a great surprise! This quintet plays a very accessible brand of free jazz; it’s really fun to hear Paal Nilssen-Love in particular playing a more straight-ahead style. Twins Jazz was packed with about 80 people who gave Atomic an ecstatic reception. Fantastic, high-energy jazz, a great way to kick off the year.
  • The Vandermark 5 at Jammin’ Java, February 16, $12 (blog entry) — Actually this was along the same lines as Atomic: great, explosive energy jazz, also very accessible (I even took three friends to this show). They were a hundred times better than when I saw them in 2006; Fred Lonberg-Holm went from being an interesting addition to a core part of the group’s sound, pushing them further and further “out.” The crowd was kind of lame but the band nevertheless played two very hot sets.
  • Zs at The Hosiery, February 26, $5 (blog entry) — This show cemented Zs as one of my favorite current avant-rock groups; before, I liked them a lot, but seeing them live really made their brilliance unmistakably clear. The image of four musicians staring intently at each other and their sheet music, while cranking out some of the loudest and most intricate (yet still aggressively rocking) sound imaginable, is permanently burned into my brain.
  • Dälek at Rock and Roll Hotel, March 2, $10 (blog entry) — Speaking of loud… Dälek on record is an intense experience, but Dälek live is something else altogether. This was my second time seeing them, and if anything they were better than the first, if a little less overtly in-your-face.
  • Do Make Say Think at The Black Cat, April 1, $10 (blog entry) — The best rock show I saw all year. DMST played a transcendently beautiful set, and I don’t use those words lightly. I love their take on post-rock, which involves a cacophony of instruments making coherent noise, often with one single instrument (an acoustic guitar, or most often electric violin) rising to the surface with a gorgeous, straightforward melody. One of the most purely joyous concerts I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending.
  • Brötzmann/Pliakas/Wertmüller at The Red Room (Baltimore), April 13, $12 (blog entry) — A legendary free-jazz skronker teamed up with an extreme metal rhythm section? Yeah, this was probably the most unrelentingly intense show I’ve ever seen. Once I managed to figure out how to parse it, though, I found it enthralling, especially Wertmüller’s drumming, which alone could have given me nightmares if I’d been having a bad day.
  • The Dismemberment Plan at The Black Cat, April 28, $15 (blog entry) — DC’s biggest phenomenon since Fugazi reuniting for two shows, four years after their breakup, guaranteed a crazy event, something bigger than just a mere concert. Sure enough, this was something to behold, especially since the band was, bizarrely, at their peak, better than they ever were when they were actually together. I saw better concerts in 2007, I think, but maybe none as memorable.
  • Sleepytime Gorilla Museum at The Black Cat, June 5, $12 (blog entry) — The third time was the charm: the first two times I saw SGM I was actually kind of underwhelmed for some reason, but this time they really brought their A game. Maybe it was just my newfound familiarity with the In Glorious Times material, but it just seemed like the band had really mastered their peculiar meshing of theatricality, creepy beauty, and crushing heaviness.
  • Alarm Will Sound at the Library of Congress, October 30, free (blog entry) — A very intellectual concert that I also found quite viscerally effective, which is a good combination indeed. This 20-piece ensemble played a series of pieces chosen specifically for their rhythmic complexity, and they pulled it off with gusto. There were some avant-rock type moments here, but the real fun was seeing them play live renditions of a couple IDM songs, music that was never meant to be played by humans.
  • Om at Rock and Roll Hotel, November 13, $10 (blog entry) — I guess I must just like really, really intense concerts. This one had it all: incredible feats of tension-building, wonderfully effective individual performances, high-wire drama, and above all, a sense of spiritual searching of the sort that I like to think listeners must have experienced at late-60s Coltrane shows.

Honorable mentions go to Magma, Richard Pinhas, Wilco, Aussie Floyd, Nelly Furtado, Epica, Cowboy Junkies, and Dhafer Youssef, all really great shows but perhaps a tiny step down from the above. The most disappointing show I saw was probably John McLaughlin, but then again I think I just don’t like fusion very much, so maybe I shouldn’t have been that surprised. Isis and Mastodon were also pretty terrible, the former being particularly disappointing as I saw them put on a great show in 2006.

I’m not sure I’m going to try quite as hard to see every concert I possibly can in 2008, for financial reasons if nothing else — but 2006 and 2007 definitely have awakened a certain passion for live music in me that I don’t think is just going to go away. I’ve already started making a list of interesting 2008 shows

Travis Morrison: D-Plan better than ever

Friday, May 4th, 2007

So it wasn’t just my imagination that that Dismemberment Plan reunion show was better than any of their other shows I’d ever seen. Here’s the band’s frontman, Travis Morrison, responding in an interview:

STEREOGUM: How’d the reunion feel?

TM: Great. Turns out we wrote some really great songs, and none of us stopped playing music, so we sounded better. Especially the second night of our shows, I was just feeling it like I never have.

Holy fuck the Dismemberment Plan are still amazing

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

I would be remiss if I didn’t post about my 23rd show of the year — the much-anticipated Dismemberment Plan reunion concert at the Black Cat. A quick Technorati search reveals a ton of breathless blog reviews of the two shows these guys did this weekend (for instance here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). And you know what? Even my rather jaded showgoing self can’t help being really, really excited about last night’s show.

In various pre-weekend interviews, the D-Plan’s frontman Travis Morrison had said that he actually felt that the band were better than ever — better musicians, more comfortable with the material despite not having played any of it in three and a half years. I was skeptical, to say the least, but I honestly have to say that last night’s reunion show was easily the best show I’ve ever seen the band put on, and I saw them four times during their prime. The sound was perfect and their performance was shockingly tight, as if they hadn’t just picked up after three and a half years apart. They played all the songs one would expect — “You Are Invited,” “Time Bomb,” “The Ice of Boston,” and so on — playing almost all of Emergency & I and their usual selection of earlier stuff like “Onward, Fat Girl” and “The Dismemberment Plan Gets Rich.” The only notable omission was “Superpowers,” though I also wished that they had played “Sentimental Man.”

Setlist aside, the energy at the show was just tremendous. I caught the second opening band, whose frontman said, “We’re going to play a short set tonight, because we’re not stupid.” An apt statement, as everyone there was clearly there for one reason only. People had traveled from all over to see this reunion show, including someone from London and a bunch of people from up and down the eastern seaboard. The crowd was as I remembered from previous D-Plan shows, dancing spastically, pumping fists, jumping all over the place. What was different was the singing: it seemed like every song, the crowd was singing along as enthusiastically as Travis himself was singing into the mike. The band seemed a little overwhelmed by the response, which was understandable — during “The Ice of Boston,” in which traditionally the band asks audience members to join them on stage and dance, the crowd flooded up onto the stage to the point that the band didn’t have enough room to play their instruments, and by the end of the song Travis had given his guitar to some dude, Jason Caddell and Eric Axelson had stopped playing, and it was just Travis singing with Joe Easley tapping out the beat on drums. And everyone in the club singing along, of course.

They played two full encores, although they quipped to the crowd that they were running out of songs that they remembered how to play (they claimed to be making stuff up as they played “Bra” and “Onward, Fat Girl,” but damned if I noticed except for one flubbed line in the former). The band-audience dynamic was unforgettable. And it was all for a good cause. By the end of the year, I’ll probably have gone to many shows that were more challenging, musically ambitious, and whatnot, but I doubt any of them will have matched the atmosphere of this one.

UPDATE: There is now a review up at Pitchfork (complete with crowd shot in which one of my friends is visible, wooo), and I added to the list of blog reviews above.

D-Plan reunion: I GOT TICKETS!

Saturday, March 3rd, 2007

What happens when the DC band with the most rabid fan base (both local and national) since Fugazi reunites, four years after its breakup, for a single benefit concert at a club with a capacity of maybe 500-600 people? Why, it sells out in 30 seconds, of course. Such was the case for The Dismemberment Plan, who are playing a one-off reunion in late April for which tickets went on sale yesterday at 5pm. I was one of those rabid fans sitting at work hitting the refresh button on two computers every 30 seconds so that I could have a shot at getting tickets. As it happened, I lucked out and managed to get four. I saw these guys four times between 2001 and 2003 (in four different cities no less), but this is going to be a uniquely awesome experience. In celebration I’ll be reviewing their two most acclaimed albums, Emergency & I and Change, on this site. They may actually be of interest to some of the more open-minded prog fans. Josh Kortbein is the one who turned me on to them, sometime in 1999 or so, sending me a random e-mail that basically just said, “Check these guys out — I don’t know why, but I think you’ll like them.” He was right. Thanks, Josh.

I saw their final farewell show in 2003, and while it wasn’t their best, it was one hell of an experience.

Best of 2001, revisited

Wednesday, February 25th, 2004

So, as anyone who reads this blog on a fairly consistent basis (insofar as it’s consistently updated, at least) knows, I do my best-of-year lists a year after the fact to correct for a number of errors, most obviously the fact that I can’t possibly hear or buy all the great albums released in a year all that quickly. The folks over at The Turntable - the blog associated with Stylus - do a similar cool thing, which is go back and draw up a new “best of year” list a year after the fact, and compare it with their old lists. The differences are interesting at least. So here: I’ll do the same thing - here is my Best of 2001 as I would have it today. Note that I made this up without looking back at the original Best of 2001 list I posted in December of 2002.

  1. Present - High Infidelity
  2. The Dismemberment Plan - Change
  3. Magma - Theusz Hamtaakh Trilogie
  4. Mogwai - Rock Action
  5. Miles Davis - Live at the Fillmore East: It’s About That Time
  6. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum - Grand Opening and Closing
  7. The Beta Band - Hot Shots II
  8. Green Carnation - Light of Day, Day of Darkness
  9. Outkast - Stankonia
  10. Satoko Fujii Quartet - Vulcan

Some other great albums released in 2001: Femi Kuti’s Fight to Win, System of a Down’s Toxicity, Djam Karet’s Ascension, Explosions in the Sky’s Those Who Tell the Truth…, Avant Garden’s Maelstrom, Bob Drake’s The Skull Mailbox, Cannibal Ox’s The Cold Vein, and John Coltrane’s The Olatunji Concert. Whew. It was a good year, apparently. Oh, and the best surprise of the year was Dream Theater’s Live Scenes From New York, which was actually really good - light-years better than their previous live album (though that’s damning with faint praise, I suppose). The Coup’s Party Music was pretty good, but a little disappointing.

You may note that Krakatoa’s Togetherness disappeared from my list (from #4 originally). I still think it’s a great album, but I just haven’t been inclined to pull it out very often for the past couple years. Same goes for their other albums, including the newer one on Cuneiform, which never really grabbed me that well in the first place. Hmm.

Also, High Infidelity took a huge leap from #7 to #1, and after peeking back at the archives, four of the ten items on the list above were not on the old one at all. Still, the top few more or less remained constant, which is cool.

Ultimate prog & farewell to the D-Plan

Monday, September 8th, 2003

Two of my favorite pastimes - progressive rock and Ultimate Frisbee - finally combined into one: the New York Ultimate promotional video (Quicktime 5+ required) features King Crimson’s “Thela Hun Ginjeet” as its soundtrack. Pretty cool. Unforunately the video itself doesn’t feature all that much exciting footage, Ultimate-wise, but for anyone who’s never seen the sport it might be pretty interesting anyway.

Also: I was lucky enough to see the Dismemberment Plan’s final show, at the 9:30 Club here in DC. The critics and the fans are raving, but frankly I didn’t enjoy it all that much. I’ve seen the Plan live several times - four or five, I think - but this was the first time I’d ever seen them in their hometown of DC. Clearly all the people there were longtime, hardcore fans. There was a lot of back and forth banter between the crowd and the band that was fun, and the band had a ton of energy and clearly was having a great time. Unfortunately, the sound was fucking horrible - loose, muddy bass that completely swamped everything else, most noticeably the guitar and the vocals, which were completely inaudible from the all of the three different places on the floor that I tried standing. I expect that had I been able to hear anything but the drums (I could hear bass, but not the bass playing - it was all too muddy), I might have enjoyed the show a lot. Too bad.

I guess to a certain extent the music was only part of the point of the show, anyway. Which, in this case, is fine.

Yale Percussion Group puts on a fun show

Sunday, February 9th, 2003

Being sick is a pain in the ass. Last Wednesday I was supposed to go to the Dismemberment Plan show at the Bowery Ballroom - one of my favorite bands on their last tour at a great venue - but I was too sick to make it. Fuckin’ A. On the upside, the group has indicated on their website that although they won’t be recording anymore, they might hang around long enough to play a few more live shows. I hope so. Although I have to say, it’s a little tough to motivate myself to go see them now, despite how much I love them, since I’ve seen them three times and they haven’t written (or played live, to my knowledge) anything new since the last two.

I made up for it a little bit by seeing the Yale Percussion Group on Friday. This is a group of School of Music grad students banging on shit. They’re pretty cool; although I could only stay for the first half, they did a Ligeti piano etude arranged for two marimbas that was pretty cool, John Cage’s “Third Construction” (which I saw them perform a couple years ago - it was as fucking awesome this time as it was then), and a really interesting piece called “Village Burial With Fire” by James Wood. They closed the concert with a Bartók piece, but I didn’t get to see it.

Best used finds I’ve had in a while - Whatever You Love, You Are by the Dirty Three and Pale Sun, Crecent Moon by the Cowboy Junkies.

Aw shit: The Dismemberment Plan is calling it quits

Tuesday, January 21st, 2003

I found out yesterday, and it’s reported on (the newly redesigned) Pitchfork today, that The Dismemberment Plan is breaking up. Fuck. It’s a damn good thing I have tickets to their show in NYC in February - it will probably be the last time I get to see them. They’re awesome live. And they’ve already written part of a new album, but those compositions will probably end up on a solo album of Travis Morrison’s. Fuck.

The full news can be found on the band’s website, along with the few remaining tour dates. Fuck.

Something a bit cheerier: I’ve been browsing the access logs for this site, particularly the hits off of search engine keywords. Here are some of my favorites -

  • 7 shittiest fucking website ever
  • 5 nude camel toes
  • 3 what is a good iq
  • 2 does lightning come from ground or the sky
  • 2 alex lifeson overrated
  • 1 men gone wild
  • 1 where can i find some art on bears
  • 1 is it ok to use the word enthused
  • 1 why is it hard to live in japan
  • 1 clitoris land

This tells that five (yes, five) searches for “nude camel toes” were made and hit G&S. What the fuck? And isn’t that an oxymoron anyway? And how exactly did “men gone wild” lead to G&S? Ah, the mysteries of search engines… actually, this says interesting things about the efficacy of different search engines. By far the most hits are from Google, and surprisingly, virtually all of them were quite topical. On the other hand, there were few hits from Ask Jeeves, and a lot of them were laughable (and many of them are listed above). This shouldn’t really be surprising, I suppose.

Top 10 albums of 2001, one year late

Monday, December 9th, 2002

Here’s another list - my top 10 releases of 2001. No, that’s not a typo. I think it’s silly to be doing a top ten list for 2002 already, since the year’s not even over yet. Besides, I always take a while to catch up on new releases, so undoubtedly a top ten for 2002 will be much more accurate if I do it a year from now. Anyway - my favorite CDs released in 2001 were, in (very) rough order of kick-ass-ness:

  1. The Dismemberment Plan - Change
    My favorite album of the year, no question. Great indie-rock, a little less energetic than its predecessor Emergency & I, but more melodic and still possessing some absolutely killer grooves.
  2. Magma - Theusz Hamtaakh Trilogie
    Unbelievably good live set. Who would have thought that these guys could kick so much ass thirty years down the road? There’s so much energy here, and the band is so tight, that I’ll probably never listen to the studio versions again.
  3. Mogwai - Rock Action
    Mogwai’s most beautiful album yet. Lacks the sheer power of some of their other material, but makes up for it in majesty. What’s more, it’s probably the most consistent Mogwai album yet in terms of quality all the way through.
  4. Krakatoa - Togetherness
    Whimsical, eclectic, and utterly unique. Definitely the best original prog album of the year.
  5. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum - Grand Opening and Closing
    Again, utterly unique, and the best tracks on this album are just fucking awesome. The album as a whole is a bit inconsistent, but the sheer power of “Ambugaton” and “Powerless” alone sold me at first listen.
  6. The Beta Band - Hot Shots II
    Sleepy and contemplative indie-rock that defies any further categorization, and that is transformed into incredibly energetic and groove-filled stuff in concert. The Beta Band just might be my favorite live band ever.
  7. Present - High Infidelity
    A dark slab of accessible avant-prog. Best played at massive volumes!
  8. King Crimson - VROOOM VROOOM
    Somehow King Crimson keeps releasing live albums, I keep buying them, and I keep loving them. This one doesn’t disappoint, even though I’ve already heard eight bajillion versions of all the songs on here already. It’s a testament either to the band’s brilliance or to my utter fanboyishness that I enjoy all their live material, even when it starts getting redundant to the tenth power.
  9. Tarentel - The Order of Things
    Solid post-rock entry, although I preferred the debut album to this one. However, the first half is prime-time stuff.
  10. Avant Garden - Maelstrom
    These guys have a seemingly unlimited reserve of energy. Ass-kickingly intense all the way through, sometimes to the point that it’s tough to get through it all in one sitting. Great debut nevertheless.

Some honorable mentions include Bob Drake’s Skull Mailbox, Explosions in the Sky’s Those Who Tell the Truth…, Radiohead’s Amnesiac, Silver Mt. Zion’s Born Into Trouble as the Sparks Fly Upward, and After Crying’s Bootleg Symphony (which was a pleasant surprise, as I wasn’t expecting much at all). All in all it was a pretty good year, I think. Certainly I can rave on and on about the top five or six in that top ten list… and as with any year there are undoubtedly some undiscovered gems from 2001 that I haven’t gotten around to picking up yet.

Dream Theater cover Master of Puppets!

Friday, March 29th, 2002

Last night I went to see Dream Theater in New York. It was their second show in the city, and was promised to have a “very special” setlist. If I’d been following Ytsejam or, I would have know what was so special about it, but I hadn’t been, so I didn’t. Anyway, it was a pretty good show. LONG. They went on promptly at 8:00 and I didn’t get out of the theater until nearly midnight… and there was only one 15-minute intermission in the middle.

I wasn’t really blown away by the first set. I’m not nearly as big a Dream Theater fan as I used to be, and the last couple of albums never really impressed me. Thankfully, the band played a set that spanned all of their albums, which was cool - my favorite part was when the noisy finale of “Misunderstood” transitioned into the heavy riffing of “Lie”. It was also interesting to hear James LaBrie try to sound like Charlie Dominici when the band did “The Killing Hand”. And “Take The Time” really reminded me of how much more I like the band’s early material. At about 9:45 the band went offstage for the intermission; fifteen minutes later they were back and they settled into the rather tedious “Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence” - the 40-minute-long “song” that makes up the entire second disc of the latest album. To my surprise, it went by pretty fast, and parts of it were pretty powerful live. Not as bad as I expected.

Then the band went offstage again. Clearly, something weird was about to happen. The opening of “Pull Me Under” started all of a sudden, and then disintegrated with a screech. The group came back onstage and Petrucci started playing what I immediately recognized as the opening guitar part to Metallica’s “Battery”. Sweet, I thought - a great song to cover. The band crunched through “Battery” convincingly - more than convincingly, it was fucking awesome - and then went straight into “Master of Puppets”. Even better! Turns out they covered the entire Master of Puppets album from start to finish. Now, I like Master of Puppets better than I like Dream Theater’s own recent work, so I was pretty damned happy. They did a great job with it - I was particularly impressed by Petrucci, who pulled off all the solos really well. After that, there were a couple encore songs (ending, of course, with “Pull Me Under”), and then it was over.

Master of Puppets was definitely the highlight of the show for me. “Take The Time” and “Lie” were pretty good too, but otherwise I wasn’t all that impressed. I was definitely much more affected by the Dream Theater show I saw two years ago on the Metropolis tour; probably just because I was a much bigger fan back then. Still, it was worth the trip.

Oh yeah, a couple weeks ago I saw The Dismemberment Plan live, for the third time, this time back home in North Carolina. It was a great show marred by really bad sound. I also really liked one of the other bands, Death Cab for Cutie, and just recently downloaded mp3s of their latest album, The Photo Album - really good, laid-back, melodic indie-pop.

Maybe some reviews will be up soon. Between work and Ultimate I’m struggling to find time for things like eating, sleeping, and breathing, but what the hell.