The Dismemberment Plan at the Black Cat, 4/27/07
Strange days, lately. I haven’t been focusing so much on rock music as I’ve been preoccupied with things like gearing up for turning 30, and debating what to do about whether to stay in school or not. I’ve been seriously burned out just at the time when I want to be renewed — it’s spring and I’m soon about to start a whole new, rather grown-up decade of my life. And somewhere in the middle of that, I had a few guests visit me to relive old times, and we went to see the Dismemberment Plan once again.
I’ve often found that life takes you back to places from your past even when you don’t expect it to. I wrote a song about it once where I said that “my orbit isn’t circular, but usually it does form an ellipse” and I think going back to see the Dismemberment Plan was definitely part of that strange loop of life.
I’ve already commented on this blog some of my thoughts about the Plan, so I will just limit myself here to a show review. Basically, the show was a blast but the performance was pretty shaky. I guess that’s what I expected. I abandoned my friends who were acting all tricenarian and sitting in the back of the club (admittedly, we had been drinking all day long beforehand) and went up to where the action was, near the stage on the right. The crowd was excited, moderately dancey, and somewhat younger than I expected, so there was a lot of energy for the Plan.
They played most of the songs I wanted to hear, and it was funny to watch them because, although I had seen them many times before, I actually know their songs better now than I did back then. Well enough to notice lots of flubs, especially when Travis forgot the lyrics or sang the wrong part. I can understand how that happens — I forget my own lyrics all the time, and they are usually a lot simpler than those long Morrison screeds. They also played some songs that I didn’t especially need to hear, and I saw all the same things in the performance that I disliked about the Dismemberment Plan all along. I don’t like when they try to get funky, I don’t like when the vocals turn all Eminem-slash-jazz-scat, but I love it when they play pretty guitar parts and sing about broken hearts.
I think the band was gratified to see so many fans still cared about them, and the group of people who took the stage during “Ice of Boston” was truly impressive. They seemed to have fun playing together again, it has to be nice to be a rock star again for a weekend after getting used to day jobs and such. I wouldn’t mind trying it out sometime. But it didn’t really take me back in time; I don’t think that is really possible after all. The records transport me back in a way, but the concert was just another fun show amid all the other fun shows I’ve attended.
The New York Times had an recent article about rock-band reunions, but I continue to have doubts about the concept. Indie-rock reunions are an iffy proposition, I think, and while the Plan did it right (reuniting for a very good cause), I’m glad they’re not going on tour or anything.
Here’s the thing. You either were there for a band in its prime, or you weren’t. There’s no shame in being too young to have seen a great band, it happens all the time. Take the Pixies. I was alive when the Pixies were around the first time, and I totally missed it, barely knowing that they existed. I didn’t get into them until later, and I came to love them, but I didn’t really need to go see them live. I am content with having missed them — it wasn’t my fault, it is just something that happened.
I can’t go back to 1988 to see the Pixies is in the day, or to 1984 to see vintage Hüsker Dü, or to 1970 to see Led Zeppelin, or whatever. Oh well. That’s how time works, it’s one-directional. But I have the opportunity right now to go see countless amazing bands of today, and I should go take advantage of it. I was interested in seeing the Dismemberment Plan again because they mattered to me in the past — I didn’t miss them when they were at their peak. But I am not that interested in seeing reunions of the bands I missed out on. There is so much great music that we should keep looking forward, not back.
Another good example is the current reunion of the Jesus and Mary Chain. I started to get into this band in the late ’90s, just as they were winding down their career. I am intrigued by the idea of seeing them if they happened to swing into town, but I am not really sure I’d bother. It’s one of those things from the past, and I missed it, but that’s fine. Also when Slint reunited, I was like, “hmm interesting” but I felt that it was from the past, not something I had to go see.
The thing is, I am a fan of the J&M Chain, the Pixies, and Slint, but I don’t have any nostalgia towards these bands because I simply missed them when they were most active. And I think reunions are about the nostalgia. They are a chance to have fun and relax in the memories of times past, to let the past sweep over you and remember your youth. This is not a bad thing. But it is a small pleasure, not something to get too excited about; fun, not life-changing. The band that will change your life is one that is of today — a band that works hard and moves you and speaks directly to you and your peers. I might recommend Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, for example. But leave the Dismemberment Plan to old folks like me…
“Spider in the Snow” (this camera must have been right near where I was standing):
“You Are Invited”:
And here’s one of my least favorite songs of theirs (but maybe you will like it), “The Dismemberment Plan Gets Rich”: