The Dismemberment Plan – Live In Baltimore Review

About two years ago, I bought tickets for a Dismemberment Plan show in Philadelphia. It was part of their first reunion tour, and I went to college in the area. Unfortunately, I dropped out of college mere weeks after buying those tickets. In retrospect, it’s probably the most disappointing part of my first ill fated attempt at college. I know that sounds patently ridiculous, but seriously: I really regretted missing them. I still have the tickets for that show, and they have been torturing me every day since.

That is, until the D-Plan announced two tiny shows—one of which was in Baltimore at the Metro Gallery. Naturally, I snapped up tickets (and I had to, the show sold out in 15 minutes). The Dismemberment Plan! Playing Baltimore! Finally!

As I walked into the Metro Gallery on Friday night, I only really wanted one thing: I wanted to hear some Dismemberment Plan songs. As obvious and stupid as that sounds, that’s all I cared about. I needed to hear my favorite songs live, and I didn’t really care how much effort the band put into it. As long as they played say, “Gyroscope,” with at least some of the energy that characterized it on Emergency & I, I ‘d be pretty happy. If we got an “Ice of Boston” stage rush to go with it, hey, that was all gravy to me.

And, after a pretty enjoyable opening set from D.C. indie outfit Deleted Scenes, that seemed to be what I was getting. The Plan opened with the prickly rocker “What Do You Want Me To Say?,” followed by the humorous indie-rock-crowd screed “Do the Standing Still” (which, of course, had the crowd dancing). They sounded great, and I had a pretty good feeling that the show was going to live up to the Plan’s strong live performance reputation.

Then came the third song. I didn’t recognize it. I figured it had to be something from !, as I’m not super familiar with the record. I also noted that the entire crowd seemed unfamiliar with the song, as nobody was singing along (I have a weird thing about checking to see if other people know songs when I don’t know them. Makes me feel better when nobody else knows them either). This struck me as kinda odd: the kind of people who would wake up to buy D-Plan tickets had to be the kind of people that know every word to every single song, right?

I quickly found out why. Nobody knew this song because it was a new song. Lead singer Travis Morrison quickly explained that it was called “White Collar White Trash” and was about Northern Virginia. He asked us if we liked it. We screamed back in the affirmative.

Not a single thing in the world could have prepared me for what happened for the rest of the night. The Plan didn’t play just one new song, they played seven. And these didn’t sound like songs quickly whipped together after an eight year break—they all sounded fully formed, with the same mix of pop and idiosyncratic weirdness that characterized the two masterpieces that the band produced at the end of their career. “Daddy Was a Real Good Dancer” sounded a bit like a sped up version of “The City.” One song prominently featured a very strange, metallic-sounding electronic drum. A few sounded more like the airy, funky pop that was prevalent on Change. All of them, every single one, ruled. 

The band played other songs, of course. “Back and Forth,” “The City,” “You Are Invited,” “The Face of the Earth,” the requisite ”Ice of Boston” encore (though without the typical stage rush, as the Metro has a tiny stage). They closed, as they usually do, with “Ok Joke’s Over,” which featured a small part of the Fiona Apple song “Every Single Night” as the traditional mid-song cover. 

I suppose I should have more to say about the D-Plan playing their old songs. But then, they’ve always been known to put on a fantastic live show. This was no exception. They even had their required equipment breakdowns and malfunctions.

Had I only heard these old songs, this show would have easily gone down as one of the better shows I’ve attended. Instead, it’ll go down as maybe the best show I’ve ever seen. Maybe I’m wrong, but I felt absolutely privileged to have been at this concert. I got to hear one of my favorite bands of all time debut new songs for the first time ever. And they weren’t watered down attempts at recapturing former glory (here’s looking at you, Billy Corgan), they were honest-to-God gems that easily stand up to anything that the band has ever done. 

I sincerely hope that the Plan go through with recording a new album. Travis has indicated that they don’t have any plans to record at this time. I hope he changes his mind. I’m sure I’ve got a bit of “holy shit my favorite band are debuting their first new songs in eight years in my hometown” bias going on, but the songs were seriously great. People need to hear them on something other than YouTube videos.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Radiohead Live Review

I’m not a hardcore Radiohead fan. While I certainly know more than just Creep and Karma Police, the only Radiohead albums I’ve returned to multiple times are OK Computer, The Bends and In Rainbows.

Due to this, I walked into the Verizon Center with a bit of trepidation. Judging by the set lists I was seeing online, Radiohead were leaning heavily on The King of Limbs, along with the numerous songs they’ve released since. This had me worried: When I first listened to that album I found it, for lack of a better word, boring. I wanted this concert to be a number of things, boring was not one of them.

The beginning of the show did nothing to assuage my fears. The band opened with TKOL cut “Bloom,” a glitchy, drum-heavy song that was just as boring live as it was on record. While the song is impressive live (they used three drum kits here, and at one point in the show used four), it didn’t exactly inspire excitement among the crowd.

Just as I was preparing myself for an onslaught of syncopated bleh, Radiohead did something entirely unexpected: they launched into OK Computer opener “Airbag.”

Over the course of about two hours and two encores, the band played a much more varied set list than I had expected, drawing from as far back as OK Computer (“Paranoid Android,” the previously mentioned “Airbag”) to post-TKOL cuts (“Staircase,” “Identikit”).

Thom Yorke also surprised me. For a guy that seems rather standoffish whenever I see him interviewed, he (and his terrible ponytail) seemed to be having a great time out on stage. He sang, he danced, he joked around with the crowd. It was pretty refreshing to see.

The band itself was tight all night, and they managed to quickly go from song to song all while switching between about a dozen different guitars, drums, and keyboards. The stage itself was impressive, consisting of one giant screen situated behind the band and around eight smaller ones that were suspended on wires.

The best songs of the night generally fell into two categories: they were either all out rockers (“Bodysnatchers,” “Paranoid Android”) or slower, balladesque numbers (“Nude,” “Codex”). My favorite song of the night was either “The National Anthem” or “You and Whose Army?” The former in particular was absolutely wonderful; the song’s pulsing bassline filled the Verizon Center easily, and lead guitarist Jonny Greenwood seemed to be playing some kind of old radio (heh) in order to simulate some of the song’s more esoteric sounds.

The night wasn’t all wonderful, however. While the band played a pretty varied setlist, they did play something like 7 songs from The King of Limbs, along with two or three newer songs. While I enjoy some of TKOL material on it’s own, when you hear “Feral” sandwiched between “Go to Sleep” and “There There,” or “Supercollider” between “15 Step” and “Paranoid Android,” it becomes readily apparent just how weak Radiohead’s recent material is. Also notable is the lack of anything from The Bends, something that is very frustrating considering how good that album is.

Radiohead put on a good show. I had fun, and I’m very glad I went. That being said, for a band as venerated as they are, there were quite a few moments where I was just kind of bored. I appreciate that Radiohead want to experiment with new sounds, but the fact remains that their new sounds aren’t particularly engaging. I’d definitely see this tour if it comes through your area, but I wouldn’t expect anything truly mind blowing.

Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

DIY article

(I wrote an article on DIY music. A version of it as published in the DFP, but when it was edited there were some factual inaccuracies made and some things were removed for sake of space. I wanted this version preserved somewhere, so here it is)

When we arrive at The Democracy Center, I notice that there’s a line snaking around the small building. I’ve never seen this before. As we walk past the hedge at the corner of Harvard Avenue and Mt. Auburn Street, my friend looks at me and says, “I hope we can get in.”

Ceremony, a California hardcore band, is playing at the Democracy Center. Normally, this would be the perfect venue for the band—all ages, no booze, show’s over by 11. But the situation isn’t normal. Ceremony is now on Matador Records; they’re getting coverage in the mainstream press. Quite simply, they’re getting big. They don’t belong at the Democracy Center anymore.

This isn’t a question of punk ethics. It’s simple fact: there are far more people who want to see Ceremony then there is room in The Democracy Center’s cramped ballroom.

I happen to be lucky enough to get in. As I pay my 10 dollars—the entrance fee is 7-10 dollars, though they prefer that you donate up—I look over at the promoter. She’s the one who put this show, and countless others like it, together. She does this on her own time. I get my wristband and walk away to watch the first band.

At some point I come back to the entrance of the building. People are still filing in. Walking over to the table set up by the door, I ask the promoter what she’s capping the show’s attendance at. She looks up at me. Pointing at the blue wristbands lying on the table in front of her, she says, “Until we run out.”

The phenomenon of the Democracy Center is actually quite rare. It is, by all accounts, a real venue. It may be small, there may be no stage or sound booth, but it is legal. Many other DIY shows—held in quaintly named spaces such as What We Talk About When We Talk About Us and The Secret House of Pancakes—are much less, for lack of a better word, official.

If you were to attend one of these shows, your probably wouldn’t get a wristband. You might get a mark on one of your hands—a line, a number—to indicate that you did indeed pay to get in. These shows also aren’t going to have a headliner as well known as Ceremony. Instead, you’re like to see bands with names like Ex-Magicians, Lube and Puppy Mill. And, of course, these shows aren’t exactly legal.

“The Democracy Center is legal, which is great…but these other spaces, they’re in warehouses and stuff, the cops can come and shut them down if they want,” says Ali Donohue. “Usually it doesn’t happen, because they have bigger fish to fry, but it is an issue.”

Donohue, a BU senior and music director at WTBU, has been involved in the DIY scene for a long time. She originally became a part of it when she was living outside of New Brunswick, New Jersey, a city legendary for its basement shows. When she came to BU in 2008, she was looking for the same thing that she had experienced in New Jersey.

“I didn’t feel socially connected, and I was looking for something like I did back in New Jersey, which was just go to shows all the time. So I started hearing about basement shows and going to those.”

Donohue’s experience is not unique. Many people in Boston—and in other cities across the country—are drawn to DIY shows for the community as much as they drawn to the music.

Rani Gupta, a junior at BU, first started to go to DIY shows for the music. But it soon became something more.

“Initially it was just the music. But then you start talking to people and getting to know them, you start talking about your different views and then you realize that you have a lot of the same views on things.”

Gupta has always been shy—she admits that she’s still meeting new people—but for her DIY is something much more than going to shows in nontraditional spaces.

“It’s not just music. I think for people who just think that DIY is just a style of music, I think that’s really inaccurate,” Gupta says, “DIY is everything. It’s choosing not to go to big chain stores; it’s choosing to not use certain oppressive language, whether it be transphobic, homophobic, racist language.”

Gupta is also an active member of the Center for Gender, Sexuality and Activism at BU. She attended the recent Take Back the Night rally. The idea of resisting oppression is incredibly important to her, and the DIY ethos ties into that.

“As a whole, DIY is resisting different forms of oppression. That’s what it is to me, at least.”

DIY means something different to everyone. At the same time, almost everyone agrees that it’s not just about the music. The music is important, but other ideas—whether it be resisting oppression, progressive ideas, or just the satisfaction of doing something on your own—are just as important.

Donohue knows this first hand. She was involved in the planning of the second annual Smash it Dead Fest, which raised money for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. It took place in various spaces around both Allston and Cambridge. The music was great, but what was far more important was attention they were able to bring to BARCC and the amount of money they raised—about $4,300, all told.

Smash it Dead Fest featured mostly punk and hardcore bands. In fact, the entire DIY ethos is often associated with the punk subculture. But punk bands aren’t the only ones putting on shows in Boston basements.

Liz Pelly, a BU grad who is currently a writer at the Boston Phoenix, knows this as well as anyone. She’s been booking shows since 2010. Originally simply booking them on her own in her living room and at local venue Great Scott, she has since teamed up with her friends from Lorem Ipsum Books in Cambridge to form a sort of booking collective. A DIT, or Do it Together, philosophy, as she calls it. And they don’t just book punk shows.

“There’s also a community of people in Boston who are into experimental electronic but who have the same sort of punk, grassroots ethos, which is pretty fun.”

Liz also works with some of the Boston-based members of the FMLY collective, a group of artists whose music tends to be much more experimental than your average garage punk band. It turns out that Boston, a city long known for its hardcore and punk scenes, has got a little bit of everything. A lot of this is due to the obvious fact that Boston’s youth population is constantly revolving—kids are coming, starting new bands and spaces, graduating, and leaving. It means that not many bands stay together for more than a few years, and most that are serious about making a career out of it tend to move to New York. However, that isn’t always the worst thing in the world.

“I think that it’s really great that there are so many people coming and going too, because you get to meet new people all the time,” says Pelly.

And that’s what it always comes back to: the people. The bands and basements may come and go, but the fact remains that there’s always going to be something going on. And when there’s something going on, there’s a community of people behind it. A community that allows everybody—whether it’s a scared college freshman or a graduate in their mid 20’s—to be part of something.

It seems that the phrase “DIY” is actually quite strange. Truth is, most people in Boston tend to do it together. The people who live here all tend to agree, there’s simply something about Boston that makes it a great place to make music, go to shows, help causes and be a part of a community. Donohue puts it succinctly:

“There’s a lot of music happening here. There’s a lot of cool people making things happen and I’m just…I’m glad to be in Boston.”

Posted in features | Leave a comment

Best Albums of 2012 (so far)

I’m bored. I should probably be doing something productive, but I’m going to do something fun instead. Here, in no particular order, are my favorite albums of 2012 so far:

The Menzingers – On The Impossible Past: Imagining The Menzingers making a album than Chamberlain Waits is pretty mind boggling. But then again, The Menzingers are probably the best punk band around at the moment, so they did it with ease. Terrifying, dating a waitress, driving a muscle car, Americana-storytelling backed by the best guitar ever, ease.

Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory: This album wasn’t on my radar at all this year, mostly due to the fact that I hadn’t really enjoyed Cloud Nothings previous material. But then Dylan Baldi decided to get an actual band together, listen to a ton of Wipers records and record with Steve Albini. The result? An album that takes all the best parts of 90’s emo, post-hardcore and indie rock and combines them into a muscular, emotional masterpiece. Go listen to “Wasted Days” and tell me I’m wrong.

Joyce Manor – Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired: I’ll get it out of the way right now, because it’s my largest complaint with this album: it’s way too damn short. There’s a good three inches of wasted space on this thing’s B-side. Still, Joyce Manor manage to pack more enjoyable music into 13 minutes than most bands do in 40. They got experimental—-a drum machine on “See How Tame I Can Be,” jangle pop on “Bride of Usher,” a Buggles cover—and for the most part it pays off. It may not be as good as the self-titled, but damn if this band’s style—Weezer cum Guided by Voices with a good bit of Shinobu—doesn’t excite me to no end. Still the best live band I’ve ever seen, too.

Classics of Love – s/t: Jesse Michaels is back. I don’t really know what else to say. He sounds reinvigorated. He sounds good. Most importantly, he sounds like he’s having an absolute blast. Classics of Love’s sound is a bit closer to hardcore than anything Jesse’s ever done, but you should absolutely check this one out.

Death Grips – The Money Store: I still don’t know what the fuck is going on in this record, it’s only been out a week or so. What I do know is this: Death Grips are angry, or frustrated, or they want to cause chaos. I don’t know what they want to do. All I know is that this record rules, and when I have more time to process it I’ll probably have more to say about it.

Spiritualized – Sweet Heart Sweet Light: Jason Pierce is depressed. I’m not really sure about what, exactly. It could be the drugs, it could be old age, it could be almost dying a few years ago. But, whatever it is, it resulted in a great album from a band that pretty much releases nothing but great albums. Paradoxically, the album also manages to make me feel pretty happy. This probably has something to do with just how good Pierce has gotten at making Spiritualized music. On Sweet Heart, Pierce manages to take the best parts of Spiritualized—the long, spaced out stuff from Ladies and Gentlemen… and the more traditional songwriting from more recent albums—and combine them into a nice, cognent whole. Pierce isn’t reinventing the wheel here, by any means. He’s just releasing great music, and I feel very happy when I listen to it.

Anyway, those are my favorite albums of 2012 so far. Honestly, there’s probably one or two I’m missing, but I wrote this on a whim at 11am. Cut me some slack. There’s also a whole ton of music I’m looking forward to. But that music is not out yet, so I can’t talk about it.

Feel free to argue with me and tell me I’m a moron.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ladyfest Article

(this article was originally written for a class)

In Time of Intense Debate, Ladyfest a Success

            In the midst of a tumultuous political climate concerning abortion and women’s rights, Boston’s first Ladyfest took place last weekend, raising over $5,200 for the Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund, organizers confirmed over Facebook.

The festival, which took place at the Cambridge YMCA, was primarily focused on raising awareness for feminism and women’s rights.

All proceeds were donated “…directly to the Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund and the bands,” according to a statement on the festival’s website.

Some 20 bands played over the weekend, featuring a mix of national and local acts. Though the festival was not dedicated to any specific style, all of the acts fell into either the indie or punk genre. In the spirit of the festival, each band had at least one female member.

Some bands that played included DC hardcore band Sick Fix, Pennsylvania indie band Slingshot Dakota, Chicago punk group This is my Fist! and Waxahatchee, the solo project of P.S. Eliot lead singer Katie Crutchfield. Massachusetts hardcore outfit Ampere closed the festival.

Music was not the only thing showcased at the festival, which also featured workshops and speakers. These included workshop on comics called “Putting Your Life Into Little Boxes: How to Make Autobiographical Comics” hosted by local artist Liz Prince and an appearance by legendary LA punk figure Alice Bag, reading from her book Violence Girl.

Organized in the middle of intense debates over such subjects as the funding of Planned Parenthood and abortion, the organizers sought to “…engender change, to think about how we can accomplish that which seems truly impossible” by “…rooting out truly progressive minded individuals and creating an informed and active community,” according to the festival’s website.

Many of the bands that played the fest shared the same strong political views as the festivals organizers. “Politically, we are a very strong band,” said Meredith Graves, lead singer and guitarist of Syracuse hardcore band Shoppers, “We try to put feminist politics and gender politics among pretty much everything else.”

In the face of what some view as a lull in feminist politics, the festival organizers sought to raise awareness and activity in the Boston area. To this end, the first meeting of Permanent Wave Boston took place directly after the festival ended Sunday afternoon. Permanent Wave describes itself as “a network of feminist artists and activists. We want to challenge gender inequality as it manifests itself in art, politics, and our personal lives…” according to the group’s Facebook page.

While the group already has a presence in New York City, the new Boston group hopes to regularly promote feminist events in the Boston area. On their Facebook page, they state, “an overarching goal is for permanent wave boston to be a collaborative collective of feminists who are interested in promoting female presence, and positive images of women in the arts. we are a group who see women as peers and collaborators, NOT as rivals! [sic]”

Though this is the first Ladyfest in the Boston area, it is not a first for the state of Massachusetts. Other Ladyfests have taken place previously, such as Ladyfest Easthampton, which took place last year.

The success of the Boston festival indicates that, despite what some see as a lull in its visibility, the feminist movement is alive and well.  “I think people definitely go through fits and starts when they want to view it [feminism] as a trend,” Graves said. “But those people I think have the wrong idea about it because we’ve been here the whole time.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Weezer: Pinkerton/Death to False Metal – Review

Pinkerton, for all intents and purposes, is an absolute mess of an album. The majority of the songs are composed of washes of feedback, combined with very, very messy chord progressions and unconventional solos. Lyrically, it is also a mess. The album is a fairly loose album about a character probably called “Pinkerton”. Really it’s just Rivers Cuomo lamenting about his relationships. Be it complaining about meaningless sex in the opener “Tired of Sex”, his fear of leaving a girl he doesn’t really like in “No Other One”, him being to terrified to talk to his crush in, “El Scorcho”, or him complaining about how the girl of his dreams had the gall to be a lesbian in “Pink Triangle”, the album is a mess of emotions. It’s not helped by the fact that Rivers can be incredibly hard to like in the album. He complains about meaningless sex in the album opener, and once he finally finds a relationship, he ends it with meaningless sex (“Falling For You” and “Butterfly”). Finally, and most controversially, he discusses his sniffing of a letter from a Japanese fan, in (honestly one of the albums best songs) “Across the Sea”, which includes the wonderful line “I wonder what clothes you wear to school/I wonder how you decorate your room/I wonder how you touch yourself/and curse myself for being across the sea.” Yeah, this album can be kind of hard to like, particularly in comparison to Weezer’s debut. The general public agreed, the album failed commercially, Weezer went into hiatus, returned in 2000, and have pretty much sucked since then.

Continue reading

Posted in Reviews | Tagged | Leave a comment

Radiohead: The King of Limbs – Review

I need to preface this review with something: I’m not the biggest Radiohead fan. I do love the band, but I don’t hang on to everything they do. My two favorite albums are The Bends and OK Computer, but I haven’t yet been able to get through either In Rainbows or Kid A, and I haven’t even touched Amnesiac or Hail to the Thief. That being said, it’s hard not to get excited about a Radiohead release. So, like all of the hardcore Radiohead fans out there (Radioheaders? I don’t know), when I woke up on February 18th (to catch a train to New York, as it were) and found that the band had released the album a day early, I excitedly downloaded it and put it on my Zune.
Posted in Reviews | Tagged | Leave a comment