Dillinger Escape Plan House of Blues July 26, 2013
The Dillinger Escape Plan are the best live band around right now. I'm putting that right out there straight away, because I believe it to be true. There is nothing to match their intensity, their musicianship, the sheer magnetism they create between band and audience. You can try, as this concert did, to derail the show - put them in a venue that says they can't go out into the audience or the show will be stopped, put nine (NINE!) bands on before them, have the whole evening finished with by eleven at night. They're still going to put on a show that's the musical equivalent of a runaway train that you're directly in the path of, tied to the rails.
Let's go from the beginning. One cannot attend a DEP gig sober. I'm pretty sure that anyone attending a DEP show while entirely in their right mind would have a terrible evening. Thus, it is perfectly acceptable to exchange the nine support bands for a nearby bar. Much as I would like to have seen Periphery, the need to be suitably tanked before having one's face melted by the incomprehensible assault of five enthusiastic men from New Jersey is overwhelming.
Stumbling from West End Pub towards the House of Blues at about the time we guessed DEP would take the stage, we encounter no one and see no one. The foot traffic in the supposed tourist attraction of the West End, despite the perfect hour and day, is still evidently not up to standard. although by this stage it might be the blinkers effect of an excess of liquor. Falling into the House of Blues during a set change to the DEP, we arrive in time to see their logo hoisted onto the back of the stage, and this whole evening is on.
I should explain that the last time DEP were in Dallas, they went through Prophet Bar on an off-night from supporting Mastodon, and the whole concert was legendary in its insanity. It was on one of the nights where the Rangers were in the World Series, and it wasn't particularly publicized (the concert, not the World Series, everyone's seen that), so there were about fifty people in attendance, at most. There was no security beyond mob rule.
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Within possibly five seconds of the start of the first song, backflip stagediving started. At some point, a drunk guy who had been punching everyone near the front stormed the stage to confront Ben Weinman, the guitar player, during a rare introspective keyboard solo. Rather than call for security or flip out, Weinman tore the drunkard's shirt clean off (you know how Hulk Hogan used to tear his shirt off? It was like that, only Ben wasn't wearing the shirt and it wasn't staged) and physically threw the guy back where he came from, at which point he was fantastically "escorted out" by the mob rule that was in charge of the venue. This one incident tells you all you need to know about DEP. There are some bands who stage this sort of untouchable intensity, but when it comes down to no security, fifty fans, and stage invasions with bad intentions, would announce they're getting the fuck out if everyone doesn't calm down.
DEP are not that sort of band. Within about fifteen seconds of them taking the stage on Friday night, it was perfectly clear that they were intent, as they seem to be every night, on melting the faces and crushing the skulls of everyone in a ten-mile radius. The opening 1-2-3 punch of new single "Prancer," last album's tale of annihilation "Farewell, Mona Lisa," and all-time favorite "Milk Lizard" is the opening fusilade to end all opening fusilades. By the time the smoke from that opening triumvirate clears, the look on people's faces is one of utter terror and confusion, as if they've just witnessed the beginning of an unexpected war. And they have.
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Frontman Greg Puciato holds the mic using his teeth and screams into it. Weinman jumps off about six amp stacks a minute and throws his guitar around his body as if it was a star that gravity constantly required to orbit. The relentless tempo never lets up. It's not just 4/4 thrash, either - DEP pioneer some genre called "mathcore," and this basically entails them using more time signatures than you were aware existed in each and every song. As such, as well as being intense, the band's members are musicians beyond compare - jumping off amp stacks while calculating the speed they need to play the next riff in their heads.
The thing is, it's just not the venue for them. It's a good crowd, but it's not as packed as a Dada or even a Granada might have been. The audience manfully struggles to connect - one person crowdsurfs in a wheelchair, one person jumps the barrier onto the stage and dives into the crowd with such speed and grace that in our addled states we're not even entirely sure it happened, but certainly security can't catch him in time. In the right room, with the right crowd, DEP is the most transcendent, don't-give-a-fuck, smash everything around you gig experience you can have. It's the essence of what is supposed to be punk, but it's somehow been distilled into a band who really enjoy time signatures that most prog bands would balk at.
Should you go and see DEP live? Will the sun rise tomorrow? Are bears familiar with wooded areas? When the band come back round this way, no matter what day of the week it is, you must go. It's like primal scream therapy, only much cheaper, and you don't have to go see a professional, just five guys from New Jersey who make a noise loud enough to tear buildings apart. Any obstacles that are put in their way, DEP will overcome. You should be the same.