An objective review of the Dismemberment Plan: Showbox Sodo, 3/12/2011

[Eds. note: I wrote this for ballofwax.org, but there was enough ink spilt about the Dismemberment Plan already, everywhere, by everyone, and they didn’t need the publicity. And, it’s not that great of writing. So why post it here? Because I can. I also started using the word ‘natch’ in this piece, and that needed to be documented (natch).]

Unlike certain people on the staff here, I don’t maintain a very expansive knowledge of important indie rock bands, music, and history. What I knew of the Dismemberment Plan before Saturday was that “You Are Invited” song, plus a memory of them being big back when I was first learning about indie pop (hat tip to long-defunct indiepopradio.com on that count). Also the “Death and Dismemberment” tour, whose name was pithy and memorable. Well done, marketing people.

My friend Brian had extra tickets to their show at Showbox Sodo, so I went. What better introduction to a famous and popular group? And who better to give an objective review? Enough rhetorical questions.

In short, the band was great. I hate it when people describe a musical experience as “amazing,” so I won’t do that, but I will say that the group exhibited that rare quality you sometimes see with musicians that have played for a long time, and performed their songs many times, yet still enjoy playing them. It’s a combination of passion and competence that’s very fun to watch. And that drummer. Hot damn! That’s 50% of the band right there. Such precision, power, and intricacy, yet relaxed in the groove. The rest of the band: perfectly serviceable. It would not, however, be unfair to say their main job is to back up singer Travis Morrison.

I’m not sure I’ve seen someone use his voice quite like Morrision does. He goes from ballad-crooning to full-on screaming, but then he also.. is it quite right to call it rapping? A lot of words real fast on the meter. I don’t know what he was saying, but there was a lot of it. And he could keep all of this up without fatigue for almost 2 hours.

Also, the man is entertaining. But then they all were. Everyone was getting into the stage banter thing (except, notably, the drummer), and while that can get tiresome pretty fast, it was clear these guys were happy to be there, and the good feelings onstage were shared by the audience. Which is important. This positive atmosphere seems to have been missed in a lot of indie pop star reunions lately (see “ment, Pave”).

What can I say of the music… it’s hard to go into a concert cold, without knowing the songs beforehand. I don’t have anything specific ringing in my head afterward (except “You Are Invited,” natch), though they succeeded in making me want to go to my local library and learn more about their band. I can say that at various times I was reminded of the Death and Dismemberment thing, because a number of the songs sound like Photo Album-era Death Cab For Cutie. Given the timeline though, it may be more accurate to say that Death Cab sounded like them. This music was more complex, with lots of parts and turn-on-a-dime time signature shifts. Lots of that. They clearly like messing around with time.

Somewhere halfway through the set they turned into Fugazi, with the energy, tempo, screaminess, and avant factors being increased beyond what had occurred heretofore. I wouldn’t be surprised if these people came from hardcore, which would also make sense as they’re from DC. They dialed it down again some toward the end, but the entire set was high-energy and avoided introspection. Sadly, I can only speak in these broad strokes, as everything bled together for me, and writing about music is hard. But it was easy to tell which were the hits from the fan reaction. I didn’t know they had that many hits.

On the downside, they played one of those prescribed encores, which are always lame. On the plus side, the only did it once, and a large number of audience members then got on stage with them for one song (you can sort of see this in the picture above). Which was a cool fun thing to have happen, though I was worried the stage might collapse.

And that was it. Famous reunited rock band was pretty badass, even to the uninitiated.

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