Bowery Ballroom is a New York City venue with a spacious floor area but an intimate enough stage size and thankful lack of a barrier. When the Dillinger Escape Plan headlines, you can only hope to be blessed with this type of setting.
The Flashbulb opened things up. It consisted of one sole man, his laptop, and guitar. As you might expect, what he played was an unpredictable array of electronica, a sort of fast-paced trip-hop style that found him occasionally riffing along with the beats. It was mildly interesting, but I almost nodded off standing up near the end of the fourth song. An abrupt Metallica sample drew some applause, as did the guy's obvious focus to his craft, but I wasn't having much of it myself. Boy would the Bronx have made this show...
HORSE the fucking Band was next, and what immediately drew my attention was keyboardist Erik Engstrom; in case you happen to be unaware, the guy is a dead ringer for Napoleon Dynamite sans glasses. He has, however, the hair and all to the point of incredulity. Luckily I was finally past it when the rest of the band took to the stage and busted into the first single off their recent The Mechanical Hand, "Birdo." Front-man Nathan Winneke had a sloppy, grungy stage presence that complemented the band perfectly; he looked like a displaced Guitar Center employee, but it worked somehow. "A Rusty Glove" founds its way into the set as well as a few others from Hand as well as a few unrecognizable cuts from R. Borlax. The band was pretty hilarious with the between-song banter, even if they were usually resorting to clever intepretations of the "where's your band?" response to deflect a consistent smattering of "boos." Engstrom's answer to "You look like Napoleon Dynamite's body double!" was a less thought out, stuttered "Don't be jealous because you didn't star in the most popular movie of the last 5 years...and play keyboards in a band." Where the band's best strengths where were in their energy; rarely do you see a live band with massive amounts of activity from every single band member. It was refreshing to see each and every one give it their all. Definitely an enjoyable performance.
A band who I'd heard plenty about but little of came on soon after, the immensely talented Between the Buried and Me. The metalcore (roughly) act has a few releases under their belts yet still look noticeably young, and was definitely one that turned out to fit in rather well on the bill; they're obviously operating under influence from the headliners, but add their unique flair of jazz touches, sporadic keyboard moments and clean singing. This is a band fully intent on putting their effort into creating creatively heavy music rather than an image, as for the most part, the nearly piercing and tattoo-less band members stood in place to make sure every chord was right on and that every song translated to the live setting affluently and flawlessly. That lack of moving around was made up by the aforementioned spot-on performance. Lead singer and occasional keyboardist Tommy Rodgers' hand motions were usually a bit grandiose, but his powerful and diverse range served the set well, and he made sure to give plenty of crowd participation in the vocal area. One solo from the left-stage guitarist was particularly impressive.
The moment everyone had been waiting for soon arrived. Projected onto a screen prior to the Dillinger Escape Plan taking the stage was a short clip from an old silent movie, which seemed to give instructions to a young woman on how to fall asleep. When it appeared the woman was asleep, the text read "Good. Now I am going to open your eyelids." Hands appeared, and did such, gently. "Are you asleep? Good," the screen read, and it quickly counted down to "one," as the text showed, and DEP walked out onto the stage. I was expecting an immediate transition from the end of the projection footage to a song to break the silence, but it was not in the cards. A transition less sloppy and more akin to the one I'd hoped for would've created quite the volatile start, but after ringing their guitars for several seconds, the band launched into "Panasonic Youth" and barely stopped from there. With the end of the long tour looming, the band usually seemed a step off with a noticeably more dissonant sound almost all throughout, and yet, they were still incredible. Though the dissonance created a unique separation from the record, every performer took to his instrument like a body part. The light show was most effective for the opener and used sparsely afterwards, but during "Panasonic Youth" it helped kick things off well. Greg Puciato moved about the stage plenty, but was outshone a bit by the spastic, impulsive movements from one of the guitarists. At least, until, during the breakdown of one song, Puciato picked up the cymbal stand, brought it the front and smashed it with a drumstick, turned around and proceeded to slam it to the stage. He charged towards the front of the stage with a manic, hazy look in his eye only to turn around and throw it to the projector screen. I honestly couldn't tell where it would end up. While some projecting problems made the set a bit laughable (see: Windows desktop icons floating above the drummer's head, cursors unintentionally on Puciato's nose), the static lines and odd, greyscale cloudy skies during slower parts of songs gave the set an eerie aura. "Sugar Coated Sour" (towards the end), "43% Burnt," The Mullet Burden," "Sunshine the Werewolf," "We Are the Storm," "Setting Fire to Sleeping Giants," and "Baby's First Coffin" all definitely found their way into the set list, definitely among a few others I'm sure to be missing. "Unretrofied," interestingly, was not played, nor was an encore. While the screen flashing the Dillinger Escape Plan logo during the last song was a bit cheesy, and the second-long flash of a red font stating "Buy merch" at its endpoint was amusing at best, it couldn't help detract from the powerful finish to an intense set and its final few anguished, manic screams and ruptured chords.
The Dillinger Escape Plan is an act not to miss, even when they're weathered from weeks on the road. Hopefully you caught this on one of its legs and somehow managed to get out with both of yours intact.