At this point in time, a full-on Dismemberment Plan reunion is still pending. Sure, you can call the several live dates the band has scheduled an effective reunion, but really it’s more like a collection of one-offs. As the guys describe it themselves, they’re going to play some dates, see how it goes, and figure things out from there. It has been close th 8 years since they broke up, though at least a couple of the guys have had their own musical projects since then. Travis Morrison went solo, which turned into failure on a massive scale, then formed the Travis Morrison Hellfighters, which went down in flames. That resulted in Morrison officially “retiring” from making music, touring, and other such things in 2010. Clearly that didn’t last too long. Additionally, Eric Axelson spent a couple years playing bass in the band Maritime before leaving to start up Statehood with former D-Plan drummer Joe Easley. At this point, Statehood is on a break, if not permanently disbanded due to the death of singer Clark Sabine. So with all the guys essentially not doing a whole lot these days music-wise, and with Morrison hopefully learning a thing or two from that slice of humble pie served to him courtesy of a not-so-hot solo career, The Dismemberment Plan is tentatively back, at the very least to maybe and briefly cash in on a legacy that was never properly heralded in its time. With reunions all the rage these days, why not? Really they’re claiming that the very few tour dates they’ve played (and the one more still scheduled for March) are more part of a celebration of the “Emergency & I” remastered vinyl reissue that came out last month. Anyways, after returning from a couple days in Japan, the band played two Chicago dates (their only Midwest shows) this past weekend. I was privileged enough to attend the first one on Saturday night, and here’s a brief recap of how that whole thing went down.
One of the really nice things that The Dismemberment Plan did for their Chicago shows was to recruit a couple of local bands to open for them on each of their two nights in town. Saturday night JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound along with Kid You’ll Move Mountains were the chosen ones. I’m familiar with and can recommend both of them, though unfortunately a tight schedule prevented me from seeing their sets on Saturday. Instead, I ran straight inside from the entrance doors just in time to catch The Dismemberment Plan emerging on stage and making a short introduction before launching into “Emergency & I” opener “A Life of Possibilities”. It was a fine choice, particularly considering that it’s a tradition for bands to open with the first track on the album they’re promoting. As the track itself goes, things started out just a little bit slow and sparse, but when the bridge finally hits, it explodes into something magical. And so it went, a pretty verbatim version of the track, if not slightly more energized and refined than before, and the crowd ate it up with the intensity and pleasure you might expect from seeing a great band for either the very first time or the first time in a very long time. Faring even better was “The Face of the Earth”, which haa a great energy about it that got everybody riled up, including the band. One gets the impression from the way the crowd reacted that even sub-par live versions of so many “classic” songs would have satisfied, but thankfully The D-Plan are a better band than that. Despite having only played a handful of shows in the last couple months after years apart, they sounded just about perfect, and every song was either album quality or better, with Morrison’s often bizarre stage antics and some ferocious guitar and drums work.
Speaking of Travis Morrison, his banter was typically witty, first dedicating the show to the union workers in Wisconsin currently staging protest, then demanding that everyone look at his new orange kicks (shoes) and refusing to play another song until everyone did and complimented them. So you know, a little of this, and a little of that. There was some rousing cheering for what amounted to perhaps the most amazing double tambourine attack I’ve ever seen (though it may also be the only double tambourine playing I’ve ever seen), and also a sing-along of Biz Markie’s legendary “Just A Friend” that started on stage between songs as just a joke before the crowd took over and made it something more. But of course there were highlights peppered all throughout the D-Plan’s set, as they pulled from all their albums and even the somewhat rare “The Dismemberment Plan Gets Rich” off their split EP with the band Juno (the song is also available as a bonus on the vinyl reissue of “Emergency & I”). It was really damn exciting to hear thoroughly charged renditions of “Following Through”, “Superpowers” and “Gyroscope”, among others. Naturally though, the band’s most popular songs were the ones that sounded best, from a strong “You Are Invited” to “What Do You Want Me to Say?” and “Time Bomb”. I was exceptionally happy to hear “Ellen and Ben”, which is perhaps my favorite Dismemberment Plan song. They closed out the main set as they typically do, with an extended and oft-improvised version of “OK Joke’s Over” from their first record. Morrison went on and on about a number of things, naturally personalizing it for Chicago and sports and such, while also doing just a touch of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies”. Excellent as usual, and that only extended into the encore. Tons of people got on stage for “The Ice of Boston”, and what shocked me the most about it was that it sounded absolutely perfect both instrumentally and vocally despite the everyone jumping around and singing at the top of their lungs. Moving from that to a scorching version of “The City” was the 1-2 knockout punch of the night. Really the encore handled every last D-Plan highlight you could have wanted that hadn’t already been played. Ending on the “Emergency & I” closer “Back and Forth”, complete with the crowd waving their hands in the air was just sort of a communal coming together and ultimate lovefest. There we all were, a sold out crowd together to celebrate the career of a great band and singing along every step of the way. For that two hour period, though nobody would openly acknowledge it, we were all family.
It is, without a doubt, wonderful to see The Dismemberment Plan together on stage once again and playing a majority of their stellar catalogue. Even if their final scheduled date in Seattle next month is their last, those of us that caught any of the shows in the past couple months hopefully will carry those memories with us for a long time to come. All the guys legitimately looked like they were having fun on stage and it really does sell the idea that they should keep this whole “reunion” train going. If they really wanted to, they could just pull a Pavement and play a bunch of shows over the course of the year before returning to their normal, everyday working lives. Or they could push for something more full time by writing new material and putting out at least one more record. Thinking about it now in the purest of retrospectives, I’ll be highly satisfied whatever they choose to do (or not do) from here on out. If they come back through Chicago I’ll be sure to see them again, and it’d be nice if people in cities other than the few they’ve played had a chance to see them too. If they release a new album, I’ll probably buy it sight unseen and note unheard. But if they want to legitimately retire from music, as Travis Morrison said he’d be doing last year (before any rumors of a reunion ever emerged), at least they popped their collective heads up for one quick go-around. It’s certainly better than the alternative of doing nothing.
A Life of Possibilities
The Face of the Earth
Spider in the Snow
You Are Invited
What Do You Want Me to Say?
That’s When the Party Started
The Dismemberment Plan Gets Rich
Ellen and Ben
Do the Standing Still
OK Joke’s Over
The Ice of Boston
Pay for the Piano
I Love A Magician
Back and Forth
The Dismemberment Plan – The Face of the Earth
The Dismemberment Plan – Time Bomb
The Dismemberment Plan – Ellen and Ben
The Dismemberment Plan – What Do You Want Me to Say?
The Dismemberment Plan – The City
Click through the jump for more photos!