Monday, October 21, 2013

Live Show Review: The Dismemberment Plan - 10/19/13 & 10/20/13

The Dismemberment Plan
Date:  October 19 & October 20, 2013
Venue:  930 Club, Washington, DC

Local indie rock heroes The Dismemberment Plan just came out of decade-long retirement, released new album Uncanney Valley, and played a couple shows at the 930 Club this past weekend.  Between 2000 and 2003, during the band's popular and critical peak after releasing their seminal Emergency and I and around the time they put out Change, I must've seen 'em live at the Black Cat or Fort Reno over a dozen times - even a rad secret show they put on as "Last Train to Marseilles" (from the lyrics to their early tune "If I Don't Write").  This wasn't exactly Phish-levels-of-frequency, but at that time (and really, to this day) The Plan were the single band I saw and relished live the most.  

Left to right:  Eric Axelson, Travis Morrison, Joe Easley, Jason Caddell
Despite holding the crown as DC's best-loved hometown band at the time (Fugazi were on the way out, playing few local shows - and frankly weren't nearly as fun), The Plan never was booked (to my knowledge) as a headliner at the 1,200 person capacity 930 Club until their sold-out "farewell" gig on September 1, 2003 (also, later, a couple sold-out reunion shows in 2011).

Maybe The Plan really are better suited for a smaller club like the Black Cat - where their screwball living-room dance party act works best.  The Saturday gig sold out of course, but the Sunday gig was attended sparsely - about half the crowd from the night prior.  Very weird - maybe it was the "Pitchfork curse" again, or the fact that most of their original heyday fans likely regard watching The Good Wife on CBS after putting their toddlers to bed a more sensible option for Sunday evening entertainment.

The traditional dance-party-on-stage bit for "The Ice of Boston" 
As expected, Saturday night found the band in high spirits as their full throttle set went over like gangbusters.  Motormouth frontman Travis Morrison blasted through a plethora of classic fan-favorites and new cuts off Uncanny Valley with firecracker backup from Jason Caddell dutifully on guitar and ever-beastly rhythm section Eric Axelson swinging his bass like a pendulum and Joe Easley like a mad octopus on drums.  Always the brainy goofball, Morrison frequently bantered with the audience and intro'd new track "White Collar White Trash" by ad-libbing a pretty hilarious new "Northern Virginian white suburbanite" version of DJ Kool's shout-out from "Let Me Clear My Throat" ("now, all the ladies in the place. . .").      

Sunday night was equally gonzo with a slightly tweaked set list, notwithstanding the much smaller crowd (again, what the hell DC?).  Maybe that's why Morrison broke after the opening tune to peddle some new merch - bringing up two audience-members to model t-shirts and brandish logo'd mugs after making a "whoa, this show's a sausage party" crack.  Couldn't quite tell if the typically affable Morrison was genuinely peeved from then on, calling that same audience member a "dumbfuck" for breaking his free mug and repeatedly ribbing Axelson for a finger injury that had him bleeding on his bass and keyboard (for the art, for the art!).

Of course, it wouldn't be a Dismemberment Plan show without a lengthy improvised version of "OK Jokes Over" with Morrison (ever the pop music aficionado) doing a wild tongue-in-cheek mid-song rendition of whatever the big top-40 tune of the day is.  Naturally, we got Lorde's "Royals" - which did bring a smile to my face.  I immediately remembered when he did Tweet's "Oops Oh My" in 2002.  Ah, time sure flies.  Welcome back Dismemberment Plan - stay for a while.   

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