Goth-rockers Stolen Babies opened, a gig of technical and progressive music steeped in hardcore. Why they opened tonight would perhaps be more to do with their drummers (Gil Sharone joined the Dillinger Escape Plan in 2007) than their musical leanings. However, their decidedly un-punishing gothery is enjoyable enough, playing keyboard-heavy dark rock in the brand of Jack Off Jill going to the circus, or the first Marilyn Manson lineup. They weren't ignored by the crowd but didn't really arouse much interest with their cutesy and fun -- if clichéd -- stylings. That is, until a song called "Tablescrap" was played, a ska-goth number that seemed to bring a smile to some of the crowd. They're certainly an odd band considering the other two, but could be perhaps be viewed as the light-entertainment segment of the evening.
Last year, Between the Buried and Me put out a truly astounding album called Colors. It was genre-leaping prog-rock with a hardcore heart; some songs lasted over 11 minutes but every minute seemed to bring something wonderful, heavy and new. Musically, BTBAM are brain-melting. Stunning. The songs seem to works in scenes, effortlessly and astonishingly tied to the next. One thought is they only broke the music into songs so they could select which to play live in their brief half-hour set.
The live affect is close to the album, but sadly with no cigar. Somehow they're forever a moment away from truly hypnotic and euphoric, somehow just missing. I don't know how or why. Maybe it's the shitty, strangely empty sound they start with or perhaps shitty location that is the LA2, with its bizarre maze-like halls and staircases, centre-raised dance floor and large pillars holding up the balcony. Either way, there was just something that holds them back.
The band were welcomed though, embraced and enjoyed by those familiar with their music, but were perhaps found overwhelming by strangers. Even their fans were worn out by the non-stop, jaw-dropping, almost majestic medley of choice picks from Colors: "(B) The Decade of Statues," "Sun of Nothing," "Ants of the Sky" and more.
The Dillinger Escape Plan and Between the Buried and Me come from two different positions in progressive music and yet both seem to be going a similar direction: bigger, louder, and more varied but with a consistent ethereal and violent presence. It's no surprise that BTBAM should work very well as DEP tour support, complementing DEPs more song-based chaos with their structured destruction. But we've had the Romans; here come the Vikings…
As DEP took the stage it dawned on me that strobe lighting is perhaps the perfect onstage tool for the band. The epileptic, fit-inducing light seemed designed for their angular, erratic syncopations.
The stage was bathed in dry ice and warmed by blue lights, with vocalist Greg Puciato, the two guitarists Ben Weiman (the only original member left) and newbie Jeff Tuttle (repleacement for original guitarist Brian Benoit who left because of injury) or bassist Liam Wilson occasionally piercing the smog, creating impressive silhouettes. To be pretentious: like form arising from the chaos, echoing their music.
Puciato spent his time baying the crowd onwards, whipping up the pit or climbing one speaker stack or another and casting a muscular figure not dissimilar to Henry Rollins.
Despite drummer Sharone and Tuttle being such a new replacement (the end of last year), the set took from all releases. Songs that were almost 10 years old, like "Sugar Coated Sour" or "43% Burnt" are welcomed and join young 'uns like "Milk Lizard," "Fix Your Face" and "Lurch" in the destruction of the cramped LA2. The more straightforward songs were heavier than on record but that may be just because it was live.
For the last number, the members of the band decided it would be a nice idea to go for a walkabout. They looked for places to climb, one guitarist managing to make it onto the balcony stage left, finishing the number in a leather chair he steals from a punter. If the band ever got the symbal back that Puciato was waving in the crowd's face -- I don't know.
DEP are a lot to take in and I feel for anybody at the gig who wasn't aware of the sound and what to expect: It must just sound like a mess, but to the knowing it's a precise strike of structured, well-thought out chaos that lasts all too short.