I never listened to a Dismemberment Plan album in my life until a week-and-a-half ago, when I got a copy of Emergency & I to prepare for last weekend’s reunion gigs celebrating the 1999 albums’s new vinyl release. In addition to the Black Cat show I reviewed for the Washington Post on Friday night, I saw the second of The Plan’s two shows at the 9:30 Club, on Sunday. I’m glad I was there.
My review is after the jump.
Michael Jackson would have to rise from the grave and release a new album as good as Off the Wall for another music story to generate as much breathless hype around these parts as the reunion of The Dismemberment Plan — the beloved, wildly inventive DC indie art-punk-funk quartet with the moniker that frontman Travis Morrison once said in This Very Newspaper that he regrets. After nearly eight years away (save for a pair of benefit gigs in 2007), the group has, did you hear, reconvened for a string of shows preceded by a performance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon last Thursday.
Well! If you, like the members of The Plan (did I say that right?), happened to come of age in DC’s Virginia suburbs in the 90s, but spent the band’s 1993-2003 heyday only dimly aware of their existence — and I have it on good authority that such unenlightened wretches exist; some of us had important TLC albums to listen to back in those days, people! — all this hype just might bemuse you. Happily, a few spins of Emergency & I — the 1999 album on which the Plan’s legacy now largely rests; newly released on vinyl, occasioning the tour — was all it took to prime a novice for Friday night’s Black Cat show, a benefit for Fort Reno and the charity organization We Are Family. One needn’t have been present the first time around to feel the warmth and excitement of the homecoming. (The Plan also headlined the larger 9:30 club Saturday and Sunday nights.)
No one wept with joy that I saw, and a few thirtysomethings groused that standing at concerts hurts more than it used to. But from the moment Morrison spoke The Plan’s friendly battle cry — “We’re The Dismemberment Plan, from Washington, DC” — the crowd seemed to ripple as one organism for the whole of the loose, 110-minute set. Pleading the flu, bassist Eric Axelson spent a good chunk of the show sitting down WHEN, EDITORIAL NOTE, HE WAS PLAYING SYNTHESIZER, NOT RESTING, AS I SAW TWO NIGHTS LATER AT THE 9:30 CLUB — STUPID BLACK CAT SIGHTLINES! but rallied to his feet for “Do the Standing Still,” an indictment of too-cool-for-school, arms-folded show watchers. With the exception of that one, and “Ice of Boston,” which prompted its customary stage-invasion, it was the Emergency tunes that elicited the most enthusiastic response. The gig’s apex may have come with the oblique self-affirmation anthem, “You Are Invited”, when someone fired off a can of silly string overhead. Goofy and inclusive, the moment made a newbie grateful to be there, and a little sad for all the shows he’d missed.