Back in 1993 my housemates and I were planning our next party when we asked our friend's band to play in the basement. They were new and had only played one other show. We didn't mind though. We were just happy to have a little live entertainment (and they'd play for free). Plus, they had a funny name: The Dismemberment Plan. After seeing them kill it in our basement, I was a fan from the get go. Over the years, I've been to many, many of their shows. Needless to say, I was excited when Eric emailed me about their reunion benefit for Callum Robbins. I wasn't surprised they were getting back together for a good cause. The Plan are good people, as my Mom would say. However, I was a little surprised at the overwhelming buzz for their runion shows.
Knowing the hype surrounding the reunion, we figured it be a mob scene at the Black Cat. We got early and were happy to see it wasn't crowded at all. We managed to get some stools and sit by the bar before heading up to see The Oranges Band. They only played for 25 minutes - a criminally short set. However, considering the circumstances, it was understandable. As awesome as they are, people did not come out to see The Oranges Band. The wanted to see The Dismemberment Plan.
Before the Plan took the stage, J. Robbins came out to offer thanks, and to talk about Callum, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, and the fight against SMA. It was clearly very difficult for J. to discuss. I can't imagine a greater pain than seeing your child suffer. It was heartbreaking, but inspiring to see him doing everything in his power to help Cal.
After his heartfelt speech, J. introduced the Dismemberment Plan and the club erupted. Travis took the stage and addressed the crowd with his usual opening line, "Hi! We're the Dismemberment Plan from Washington, DC". They opened with Life of Possibilities and the energetic crowd dove right in. Halfway through the song, I noticed all four guys in the band had huge smiles on their faces. That's one of the great things about the band. You know they're having a blast onstage and the crowd feeds off of that.
I wasn't paying too close attention to the set list. I just know they went through all their best songs and played as if they hadn't taken a day off, much less 4 years. Seeing them live again made me realize how much I loved their shows. Few bands create such energy. Each concert seemed like an event where anything could happen. For example: Porn Cake. A fan traded a "adult-themed" cake in exchange for a ticket. They passed the cake throughout the crowd. Hundreds of people dug their hands in for a taste (including Potsy and me). I'm sure that was the most sanitary thing to do, but it made sense at the time.
Okay, since I'm doing a shitty job of describing the music, here's a clip of them playing "Pay For The Piano".
I could go on and on heaping praise (I'll do more of that in my review of Saturday's show), so let me point out a few things that weren't so great. First, Travis seemed determined not to sing any song as it had been recorded. Having been to a number of Plan shows, I knew this wasn't unusual. He was just having fun and going where the song took him. However, it made it difficult for the people to sing along, which people seemed very, very anxious to do. There were some technical difficulties which slowed the show a bit and lead to an excess of onstage banter. "Ok Jokes Over" didn't really bring down the house the way it did in the past. It was always the highlight of their shows (for me). I loved the way they improvised the song for up to 10 or 12 minutes, worked in a eclectic mix of lyrics, all the time building up anticipation for the big finish. For some reason, their version on Friday just lacked that special something. I'm nitpicking here though. I doubt many other people took notice.
Overall, the show lived up to my lofty expectations. Sure, there were a few technical difficulties, but it's rare to go to a show with such force and potency. There was a big buzz leading up to the weekend and everyone had to agree that the Plan delivered. Although when I was walking home, I couldn't help but feel I was in store for an even better show on Saturday night. Thankfully, I was right.