Before Pitchfork anointed The Dismemberment Plan‘s third LP Emergency & I as the best album of 1999 (and there were some good ones that year), The Plan were a quirky, well-loved cult band from Washington, DC, but they were hardly a household name even among dedicated indie fans. I first saw them in 1996, around the time of release of !, their first record, when their sound was at its most freeform and spastic. The bill was The Plan, first, then Smart Went Crazy, then Archers of Loaf. Even in that eclectic company, I remember my main impression of The Dismemberment Plan being this band is weird. That late-90s Pitchfork crew weren’t kidding when it came to extolling the band’s uniqueness. They were also right when they foretold the Plan’s influence on a number of sounds that would come to commercial fruition in the coming decade. None of that benefited the band itself much (of course), but all you R&B and dance-copping indie bands of the aughts, you can tip your hats now, thanks.
The Dismemberment Plan, in the end, were way too weird to make it “big” in the way bands of the era like Modest Mouse somehow managed to. However refined the pop technique on Emergency & I and its worthy successor, Change, this was still not a band that fit will onto “alternative” radio or manning huge festival stages. In the same way that cult faves like Neutral Milk Hotel now sell out venues three or four times bigger than what they played during their halcyon days, it felt really weird to see The Dismemberment Plan playing the Bowery Presents‘ midtown behemoth Terminal 5 (albeit with the top balcony closed). But after seeing the band in action in that space, I think I’d sold them short. The band’s four members had more room than they needed on the huge stage, but the sound they put out was massive yet focused enough to give T5 a feel reminiscent of their old club shows. The band — frontman Travis Morrison in particular — not only looks like they’re still on their game, they sound like it.
That’s another critical distinction between The Dismemberment Plan and certain other ’90s acts taking their victory laps. This show wasn’t some nostalgia trip or “one time only” reunion. Rather, The Plan were here for a purpose, promoting their new Partisan Records release Uncanney Valley, an album that’s been well-received to date and stands to add several new standout tracks to the live show. The set opener, “Invisible” was one of my favorites, as was the melancholy, “Daddy Was A Real Good Dancer”. The record grew out of the band’s reunion shows for the Emergency & I vinyl release, after the four discovered they had new ideas to explore. The hope is that Uncanney Valley is the beginning of a new phase, not the end.
Of course, for those nostalgic for older stuff, this 90-minute set hit pretty much all the biggest highlights. For me, that meant “The City”, “You Are Invited” and “What Do You Want Me To Say” from Emergency & I, “Time Bomb” and “The Face of the Earth” from Change, and “OK Jokes Over” from !, among many others. But the set closer — “Ice of Boston” from The Dismemberment Plan Is Terrified, that made for the most Dismemberment Plan-moment of all, as Morrison invited the crowd to join the band onstage. Not every band can turn a song about a cold, depressing New Year’s Eve drinking alone in Boston into an edifying rave-up. But then, no other band is quite like The Plan.
I recorded this set with Schoeps MK41 microphones and a super-clean Sound Devices preamp to capture the maximum amount of clean, direct sound. The recording is excellent. Enjoy!
Thanks to The Dismemberment Plan, their management team, Partisan Records and the Terminal 5 staff for making this possible.
This NYCTaper recording is being hosted on the Live Music Archive. You can stream the entire show by clicking the song titles below or download it via the links provided.
The Dismemberment Plan
New York, NY USA
Hosted at nyctaper.com
Recorded and produced by acidjack
Schoeps MK41 (BOB, DFC, PAS)>KC5>CMC6>Sound Devices USBPre2>Sony PCM-D50>24bit/48kHz WAV>Izotope Ozone 5 (EQ, exciter)>Audacity 2.0.3 (fades, tracking, amplify, balance, downsample)>FLAC ( level 8 )
Tracks [Total Time 1:33:56]
02 Time Bomb
04 Mexico City
05 Spider In the Snow
06 Lets Just Go To the Dogs Tonight
07 The Face of the Earth
08 The City
10 No One’s Saying Nothing
11 A Life of Possibilities
12 Follow Through
13 Do the Standing Still
15 White Collar White Trash
17 You Are Invited
18 Ellen and Ben
19 Daddy Was A Real Good Dancer
20 What Do You Want Me To Say?
22 OK Joke’s Over
23 [encore break]
27 Ice of Boston