Monday, May 27, 2013

Concert Review: The Dillinger Escape Plan @ Reggie's Rock Club - 05.08.13

When somebody begins to talk to me about how amazingly intense whomever was at last nights concert, or how so-and-so absolutely “destroyed” said venue and it was the best show they’d ever seen, I usually tend to shine them off because they’ve never seen the Dillinger Escape Plan live. If they had they wouldn’t be talking such nonsense. Because that’s the problem with a Dillinger Escape Plan show, they set the bar so goddamn high that it sucks the energy out of every other band you saw and will ever see that you thought/would think was awesome. I’ve been out and about checking out live rock and metal shows and what-have-you since 1991. Though I’ve been listening to them since 1999, I’ve only seen Dillinger 5 times in that tenure – it should have been a lot more but for awhile there I was starting to think greater powers that be were preventing me from immersing myself in such chaos. Shows were canceled, family members died, trucks jack-knifed on highways blocking all four lanes of traffic, etc.  Of all the concerts I’ve been to and all the bands I’ve seen, four of the top 5 all-time best are occupied by The Dillinger Escape Plan, the show last night at Reggie’s Rock Club in Chicago lands at #1. I know the math doesn’t add up – chill out…The only show to not make the list was when I saw them open for Deftones at the Riviera Theatre. Though still an amazing performance, the bands intensity was stifled from the large size of the venue as well as a lackluster crowd of confused looks who didn’t know what to make of them. Watching TDEP perform anywhere that puts the stage further than an arms reach away from their audience is like watching sharks try to have a feeding frenzy in the woods – still amazing to see, but just seems a bit unnatural.  Later on that evening they shot across town over to the Bottom Lounge to do a full set that would become legendary amongst fans of the band as well as the band themselves. There’s even a Facebook page specifically dedicated to it, seriously. I fucking stuck around to watch the fucking Deftones play because I really fucking like the Deftones and never fucking saw them before and fucking missed it. Fuck.
I listen to music for the emotion behind it or the emotion it stirs. As a fan of music I’m generally in the minority as I believe the live show should represent the songs on the record, only played – well, live. Others believe, that a studio recording should capture  what a live song sounds like only played in the studio. You follow? Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Being able to convey the emotion that fuels a band’s sound live is something that’s very important to me in a performance. Arguably, anger and/or aggressiveness, translates a whole lot easier than other states of the human emotional spectrum, and can also be triggered a whole lot easier when you believe with conviction in what you’re performing night after night. Nobody does this better than The Dillinger Escape Plan, and if they did you’d have heard about it. Dillinger thrives on playing in small places and they know it. With each release and each subsequent touring cycle the band is naturally inching it’s way up the popularity platform. They’ve played the Conan O’Brien Show, got invited to The Revolver Golden Gods gig, are headlining this years Summer Slaughter tour, and lead singer Greg Puciato was recently placed number one on a list of top 25 current metal frontmen. Last nights show was sold out, and both of last years shows at Reggie’s were sold out. At current status they could easily play a place like The Metro but still stick to the smaller joints because they get off on their own intensity as much as their fans do. You’ve gotta love a band that’s at where they’re at and still take the time to play an occasional basement show. Sure I’m a fan of Dillinger, but 50% of that reason (maybe 43% ha!) is because of their live show. It’s become what they’re known for and rightfully so. Lately it seems like half the crowd at these shows are fans and the other half were either dragged their by their friend to see the spectacle or were simply curious about what the word-of-mouth-big-deal was, both halves can usually be seen walking out of the show with mouths gaped open.
Reggie’s Rock Club is a small venue with a floor and a bit of balcony space. On either side of the stage about 15 feet up are VIP booths with chain-link fence running across them. The only thing between the floor crowd and the band is a welded pipe bar that runs across the length of the stage. Last night’s security planted himself at stage-right and simply bounced people back who were close to falling onstage. Drink every time I say stage. Backed with spastic strobes, and launching themselves off of steel box ramps planted strategically around the stage, the band kicked things off with the song “Prancer”, a track from the new album “One Of Us Is The Killer” that gets released next week. In all of about one note the air gets sucked out of the room and the crowed gets vacuum sealed against the stage, packed like pissed off sardines fighting off the urge to traumatically asphyxiate. “Farewell Mona Lisa” followed allowing for only a moments breath during the opening riff before the purge continued. “Sugar Coated Sour” started just like this, and “Room Full Of Eyes” only loosened it’s grip half-way through so bassist Liam Wilson could work out his continuous bass pedal issues before the song breaks down into total sonic catharsis.
By the time they finished blazing through the song "Milk Lizard", it wouldn't be much of an exaggeration to say the band was spending more time in the audience than they were on the actual stage. Halfway through "Sunshine The Werewolf", during the dark little jazzy interlude - Puciato acknowledged how stubborn security was being, "They won't let you up here, I'll just come down there". He then proceeded to part the crowd like Moses did the Red Sea, and gallop to the middle of the pit where he bellowed out the leviathan of an ending to that song before the audience picked him up and spat him back onto the stage. "Calculating Infinity" was a surprising little highlight for me, an instrumental number from the group's debut that on this evening acted like an almost halftime show, instead of focusing on the audience for a song they played a bit off of each other in a sort of technical-punk-thrash jam, bassist Liam Wilson seemed absolutely absorbed with the music, doing his demented little crab bounce to the off-kilter beat. The energy was symbiotic that evening, and the band seemed to be having a genuine blast, smiles on their faces as they dove into the crowd, laughing and vibing off of each other. What has become the band's signature closer, '43% Burnt', took whatever fun was being had and turned it into one last violent burst. While the audience were mustering up the last remaining fumes in the tank, Puciato scaled across the chainlink fence at the top of the aforemetioned VIP section and from there gibboned his way onto one of the venue's main speaker systems that was suspended from the ceiling. He then crawled across an I-beam and dropped into the crowd, all the while the stomp continued on stage without missing a beat, and then they were through - no bullshit chanting and cheering to get an encore, no fucking with the audience, no time off for a breather. The Dillinger Escape Plan encapsulate a modern day punk rock energy from a band flirting with mainstream success in the Heavy Metal genre, and they don't let that balance on the cusp push them into losing the vision of who they are or the force their band has become. They've never lost sight of the intimate energy that they create through their music and especially through their live show that's both brought them to where they are and at the same time kept them one of the best kept secrets in extreme music. Here's to hoping no necks get broken in at least the next 20 years.

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