About two years ago, I bought tickets for a Dismemberment Plan show in Philadelphia. It was part of their first reunion tour, and I went to college in the area. Unfortunately, I dropped out of college mere weeks after buying those tickets. In retrospect, it's probably the most disappointing part of my first ill fated attempt at college. I know that sounds patently ridiculous, but seriously: I really regretted missing them. I still have the tickets for that show, and they have been torturing me every day since.
That is, until the D-Plan announced two tiny shows–one of which was in Baltimore at the Metro Gallery. Naturally, I snapped up tickets (and I had to, the show sold out in 15 minutes). The Dismemberment Plan! Playing Baltimore! Finally!
As I walked into the Metro Gallery on Friday night, I only really wanted one thing: I wanted to hear some Dismemberment Plan songs. As obvious and stupid as that sounds, that's all I cared about. I needed to hear my favorite songs live, and I didn't really care how much effort the band put into it. As long as they played say, "Gyroscope," with at least some of the energy that characterized it on Emergency & I, I â??d be pretty happy. If we got an "Ice of Boston" stage rush to go with it, hey, that was all gravy to me.
And, after a pretty enjoyable opening set from D.C. indie outfit Deleted Scenes, that seemed to be what I was getting. The Plan opened with the prickly rocker "What Do You Want Me To Say?," followed by the humorous indie-rock-crowd screed "Do the Standing Still" (which, of course, had the crowd dancing). They sounded great, and I had a pretty good feeling that the show was going to live up to the Plan's strong live performance reputation.
Then came the third song. I didn't recognize it. I figured it had to be something from !, as I'm not super familiar with the record. I also noted that the entire crowd seemed unfamiliar with the song, as nobody was singing along (I have a weird thing about checking to see if other people know songs when I don't know them. Makes me feel better when nobody else knows them either). This struck me as kinda odd: the kind of people who would wake up to buy D-Plan tickets had to be the kind of people that know every word to every single song, right?
I quickly found out why. Nobody knew this song because it was a new song. Lead singer Travis Morrison quickly explained that it was called "White Collar White Trash" and was about Northern Virginia. He asked us if we liked it. We screamed back in the affirmative.
Not a single thing in the world could have prepared me for what happened for the rest of the night. The Plan didn't play just one new song, they played seven. And these didn't sound like songs quickly whipped together after an eight year break–they all sounded fully formed, with the same mix of pop and idiosyncratic weirdness that characterized the two masterpieces that the band produced at the end of their career. "Daddy Was a Real Good Dancer" sounded a bit like a sped up version of "The City." One song prominently featured a very strange, metallic-sounding electronic drum. A few sounded more like the airy, funky pop that was prevalent on Change. All of them, every single one, ruled.
The band played other songs, of course. "Back and Forth," "The City," "You Are Invited," "The Face of the Earth," the requisite "Ice of Boston" encore (though without the typical stage rush, as the Metro has a tiny stage). They closed, as they usually do, with "Ok Joke's Over," which featured a small part of the Fiona Apple song "Every Single Night" as the traditional mid-song cover.
I suppose I should have more to say about the D-Plan playing their old songs. But then, they've always been known to put on a fantastic live show. This was no exception. They even had their required equipment breakdowns and malfunctions.
Had I only heard these old songs, this show would have easily gone down as one of the better shows I've attended. Instead, it'll go down as maybe the best show I've ever seen. Maybe I'm wrong, but I felt absolutely privileged to have been at this concert. I got to hear one of my favorite bands of all time debut new songs for the first time ever. And they weren't watered down attempts at recapturing former glory (here's looking at you, Billy Corgan), they were honest-to-God gems that easily stand up to anything that the band has ever done.
I sincerely hope that the Plan go through with recording a new album. Travis has indicated that they don't have any plans to record at this time. I hope he changes his mind. I'm sure I've got a bit of "holy shit my favorite band are debuting their first new songs in eight years in my hometown" bias going on, but the songs were seriously great. People need to hear them on something other than YouTube videos.