Iíve seen The Dismemberment Plan several times
throughout the years; normally their live shows are some of
the most energetic and compelling things Iíve seen. Likewise,
Iíve always loved their albums from their early more punk days
up to the more mellow and mature Change. So when,
earlier this year, I heard that this band was breaking up, I
was quite sad. Luckily for us fans, The Plan decided to do one
last tour, and it was pretty much a sure thing that I and some
of the other Minions would be there.
We arrived at The Echo Lounge relatively early at 9:30 pm,
and found out that we had missed the first opening band. However,
we got there just in time for the second act, Cex. This was
something of a surprise to me; I was expecting Miss Spice and
the Malenium Band, who I had heard described as a go-go band.
Instead, we got Cex. After some 5 minutes of his set, I was
ready to yell out, ďWhere the hell is my go-go band?Ē But no,
Iím stuck listening to a young white guy in red underwear singing
what may or may not be ďrap.Ē And Iíve got to say: Iíve seen
Cex before. I didnít like him then; I donít like him now. Maybe
itís parochial and middle school, but throbbing
drum beats and theoretically humorous rapping doesnít do anything
for me. Itís nothing personal; I just donít get it.
After what seemed like a relatively short set, Cex left the
stage and we waited for the next band, El Guapo. Like Cex, they
had opened for The Plan before and, from what I remember, I
think they were a straight up math band. However, just prior
to their set, PostLibyan turned to me and said, ďIíve heard
their new stuff is more electronic.Ē Now, usually when someone
tells me ďelectronicĒ I think of laptops and special lighting
effects. However, El Guapo didnít sound like that. Instead,
they added some slightly giddy keyboards and synthetic beats
underneath much of their music. And, believe it or not, it really
seemed to increase my enjoyment of El Guapo. Or maybe I was
just happy to not have to listen to Cex again.
Of course, the fact that he had left the stage over an hour
ago didnít mean that we were done with the tall, blond, underwear-clad
schtick artist Cex. Nope, he was back in time for The Dismemberment
Planís set, roaming the audience with a microphone an hanging
out with the kids. In and of itself, this wasnít a bad thing.
However, the chaos he engendered seemed to be a reflection of
the chaos of The Plan itself.
I mean, musically The Plan seemed to have it together mostly.
Yeah, the bass was a little soft, and I couldnít really hear
the guitar at all. But those vagaries of sound can happen at
any venue. And they did seem to be playing a little by the numbers,
and not throwing themselves into the music in the same way I
remember. But this could be accounted for by the relative heat
inside the venue as well the fact that this was one of the first
dates on The Planís tour. Instead, what was most memorable about
The Planís set was the fact that after playing 3 or 4 songs,
they announced they didnít have a setlist, and were instead
going to play requests from the audience. In theory, this may
be a good idea: itís their last tour, so let the fans throw
out their suggestions.
However, in practice, in this venue, it came across to me as
an abject failure. First and foremost, the time the band spent
listening to the audience, trying to get an acceptable request,
detracted from the energy level of the show (and energy level
is the one attribute on which the band has always relied). Furthermore,
if a band says that theyíll play requests, they ought to make
damn sure they know their own catalogue. Over the course of
the evening, I got really tired of hearing the requests for
earlier, more punk Plan material getting shot down. And in essence,
it seemed like the requests they did take were mostly off the
last two albums, with the more popular songs from !
and Is Terrified thrown in. In other words, their
ďall requestĒ setlist sounded just like the set list from last
fall, or the one from last springÖ.or basically any set list
in the post-Change
era. So whatís the point? If thatís what The Dismemberment Plan
wanted to play, they should just do it, and give up the populist
In the end, despite hearing all of my favorite Plan songs (including
First Anniversary of Your Last Phone Call and Onward
Fat Girl), I was very disappointed in the show. I suppose
some of this was because of the afore-mentioned energy level.
But most of it dealt with the format and performance itself,
which proved ultimately frustrating. However, Iím glad I went
to the show, if only because for a long time The Dismemberment
Plan were one of the best touring live bands Iíve seen and it
likely be a long time before I hear anything like them again.