The Dismemberment Plan bids farewell to Boston
When Washington, D.C.'s well-liked indie-rock-cum-recent-MTV-near-breakouts The Dismemberment Plan announced their breakup in January, I had a moment of distress before it was made known that they would honor the remaining handful of engagements supporting their newest album, "Change". Musically genial, arty without being overly complex, lyrically engaging; from 1993 to the present, through a series of solid albums (1995's "!", 1997's "...Is Terrified", 1999's "Emergency & I" and 2001's "Juno"), the Dismemberment Plan cast a very positive national light on D.C.'s music scene. Accordingly, the Roxy in Boston was packed tight for their second-to-last scheduled show ever.
Boston's The Damn Personals were likeable and energetic, vaguely Sloan-y, and not especially tight...but in a purposefully unpolished way. They named-dropped Joe Strummer and declared that coming up were "two of the best bands in the country". Brooklyn's Les Savy Fav trooped onstage and promptly made a liar of them with a passable but ultimately wearying bouncy-rock number which remained entertaining only due to the antics of singer Tim Harrington. The bearded and sweaty Harrington made up for his slurry vocal stylings by engaging the crowd in a professionally unprofessional manner. Between stealing the WIZARD SECURITY shirt off a guard's back and swinging from a ceiling-mounted chain (while an ominous snowfall of plaster bits dusted the crowd), Harrington spent more time amidst the throng than he did onstage.
Outside of the vocals, Les Savy Fav's stage performance wasn't bad at all. Its homogeneity was aggravating, though, and after hearing the third identical-sounding song in a row, I was ready for the Dismemberment Plan.
Les Savy Fav's physicality made them a great opening band, though. The audience was still revved up from dodging spinning mikes and flailing arms by the time the boys took the stage stage. The crowd was perhaps overly restless, as people continued to jostle and chatter until the Plan brought out the big guns early: "Time Bomb" as the second song of the set. It was a smart move on their part. The crowd turned their eyes frontward and (a bit beatifically) upward for the rest of the show.
The Dismemberment Plan seemed determined to hammer out as complete a show as possible. They played twenty songs chosen from their entire oeuvre, pausing here and there for some well-received stage patter (such as vocalist/guitarist Travis Morrison ribbing fans who had been standing
in line outside and couldn't ID him to the club's surly bouncer when he tried to re-enter). Yet the issue of the band's breakup was elided in a manner so professional I didn't notice that it hadn't been dwelt on and joked about until they'd departed the stage.
It was certainly unfortunate that Morrison's vocals didn't always come across clearly--not Les-Savy-Fav-level mushmouthing, exactly; more like the soundman was working overtime trying to properly mic a singer whose vox switched from barely whispered to agonizingly screamed and back again several times per song. More often than not, though, the audience was willing and able to pick up the slack. This was never more evident than during "The Ice of Boston", which came late in the set. As Dismemberment Plan tradition dictated, the audience flooded the stage to dance and sing along (and at times join Morrison in a scream: "All right, Mom...HOW'S WASHINGTON?!"). The song really didn't come across too well, though, as the instruments missed notes and the vocals only surfaced sporadically. It was obviously the fault of the shoving crowd, however, and as the song ended and security guards began to clear the stage (one enterprising fan managed to seize the mike and shout his website address before being booed away), I pondered if the party ambience the stage-rushing provided outweighed the resultant poor sound.
That question was answered as the Plan rocked through their last handful of songs with total crowd support. They wrapped up the set with a medley of Police songs that were pleasingly indie-rockified and couched within "OK Joke's Over". I strained to catch a glimpse of emotion in their faces as they filed back onstage for an encore, but to no avail! Slashing through the guitars of "Onward Fat Girl", the band seemed determined to fulfill their tourdate obligations with quality and without flash.
Then it was done, and hands were waved, brief bows taken, and the stage vacated. The crowd surged to the merch tables with a passion not usually reserved for purchasing and chattered enthusiastically, leaving me no doubt that, should the band ever decide to reunite for a one-off or two, there will be no lack of takers for tickets.
- Alex Driver | 2003-02-12
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