Concert Review - The Dillinger Escape Plan at the Regent in Los Angeles
The title above my seem like hyperbole. But I really do believe that The Dillinger Escape Plan is one of the greatest musical acts of a generation. And few outside the metal community really knows them. And that's a goddamn shame.
I'll get to that later.
Concert review time!
I'm writing the first draft of this the day after the concert. The event was on October 30th, 2016 - the night before Halloween, so of course there were audience members in costume.
One guy wore an old colonial wig. It was pretty cool.
The Regent is a decent venue. The stage is a nice size, there's a large space in front of it for concert goers, and there's a balcony if you just want to chill.
I skipped on merch this time around. Already got a Dillinger shirt I like and it didn't look like they were selling any t-shirts related to the new album (sweaters, yes, but I don't wear those much). Alcohol was being sold on the ground and balcony levels. Alas, I was driving that night and went to the concert alone, so t'was not to be.
There were opening acts - I made the decision to watch them from the balcony, then move down to the pit for Dillinger. They're known for their pretty rowdy mosh pits; it's part of the experience.
The first opening act was a group called Entheos. They were a pretty typical modern metal outfit; not quite death metal, not quite djent, not quite deathcore, but using elements of all the above. Breakdowns, death growls, and little electronic augmentations.
They were pretty good. They weren't spectacular, but I was grooving along to those churning guitars. I have to give props to the vocalist - she was a very talented growler and show-person; she had the unforgiving job of being the first band on the bill and I thought she did a good job keeping her energy up at least.
I wanna take a quick side note to talk about energy. 'Cause Dillinger shows are known for it - both from the band and the audience. During the opening acts, I was getting a little worried - there were a couple pit dogs going at it, but for the most part everyone stood rigid still. Not much grooving along with the music.
I was head-bobbing, swaying my body and doing some questionably sane motions with my fingers, which is pretty mild all things considered, but I felt like I was one of the people who grooved the most during those opening acts.
It was a little odd. But it didn't keep me from swaying and bobbing; that's how I enjoy my music - especially metal. Its a very kinesthetic experience.
So Entheos played and they were decent. I'll give them a bigger look-see at some point, I'm sure.
The second act was Cult Leader. I knew nothing about them, but they were a pretty popular talking point amongst some of the people I heard talking before the show. They were very good and I am definitely a new convert, I have to say. Great riffs, varied song structures, brutal, but willing to mix it up.
That said, I was concerned when they first came out. The whole band was great performance-wise and the vocalist was fun to watch during the songs, but he came across as a bit too try-hardy aggressive between pieces.
I was also worried because the first song they played kinda... sucked. But then the rest of their set was amazing, so crisis averted.
Though I didn't care much for the last song they played either...
In a Cult Leader sandwich, the bread is soggy and limp, but the meat between the bread is flavorful and thick.
So then I moved down to the pit - wanted to be in prime position for Dillinger!
Then the Cult Leader flag against the back wall of the stage was pulled down to reveal one more band's flag atop the Dillinger one.
There was a third opener?
Annoyed, because I just wanted to see Dillinger by that point, I went to the back and sulked. Didn't realize there was a third band (if I'd have payed any sort of attention to my ticket, I'd have known, but ssssh).
I never heard what the band was called - I had to look online afterwards: O'Brother was their name.
I didn't like them.
I'll admit that I'm being unfair with them; I just wanted them to get their set over with so I could see Dillinger and that definitely colored my perception of them. That said, I know they were all good musicians and the singer had a lovely voice. They were certainly the mellow oddball of the groups that came before; it was a nice change of pace.
But I do think I have a legitimate gripe about their song structures. They were very good at doing build up - very good. In dubstep terms, they were fantastic in creating that feeling of "oh shit, here it comes!" before the drop.
Their builds were beautiful and kept rising to great crises. But the actual "drops", the climaxes of their songs, were... underwhelming. It was pretty obvious when they were going into a climactic bit, but it never felt like a full release. Perhaps because the climax immediately started its own build which kept making me think "oh, it's going to get higher!" but nope.
To me, their songs were unsatisfying. Beautiful, but unsatisfying.
O'Brother finished. I got a good spot right in the middle of the pit.
The crowed started to get impatient and excited, shouting "Dillinger! Dillinger! Dillinger!"
I could feel the crackle of electricity in the air. Everyone was prepared to fucking destroy shit.
Then the band comes out with a scorcher off their new album - "Limerent Death" - immediately, the pit goes bonkers.
And I'm right in the middle of it.
Now, I'm a small guy. When I get shoved in a mosh pit, I get sent flying. That wasn't too much of a problem - what was a problem was that I forgot how to not get crushed.
Also, fuck crowd surfers. Scrawny me can't hold you up.
I tried being in the pit for the first two songs, but I had to wimp out and stand near the pit - still close to the stage - but not in the pit.
I was literally getting crushed to the point it was getting hard to breathe. So I wussed out.
I tried jumping back in a couple of times with limited success - I figured out how to hold my own (keep those arms up!) but I tired real easy.
I felt a bit lame. Not even 23 and I can't keep up with a mosh pit no more.
Granted, it was great to just watch The Dillinger Escape Plan rock out on stage because they are wonderful performers. Greg Puciato (the vocalist) and Ben Weinman (lead guitarist) were the most fun to watch. The showmanship between the two of them is unparalleled - Ben does acrobatics that shouldn't be attempted with a guitar in one's hands - Greg is just an energetic beast of a man.
Greg also seemed to share my distaste of crowd surfers and would shove them off the stage. Go Greg.
There were a lot of great performer moments with Greg and Ben, but the moment that takes the cake is this:
In the middle of "Prancer" (one of my favorite songs of theirs and the last one before the encore), I heard Greg say, "Hey. Up here! Look up here!"
I and the rest of the crowd turned around and there he was, hanging off the balcony railing.
He sings the last part of the song from there - you know, the part that's a repeated chant of "Fuck you, now try to disbelieve it!" - and then jumps into the crowd, where he's caught.
It. Was. AWESOME.
Also for "Prancer" - it opens with this great, lighting gallop of a guitar riff before launching into that wonderful Greg roar of "HOW COULD IT ALL BEEEEEEE!?!?"
So they play that first riff - there's the beat before the scream and then Greg just says - "Okay goodnight."
The crowd gives a disappointed "awwwwww".
"That'd be pretty funny. Just the biggest, bluest balls. I'd love it.
Nah, I'm just kidding - HOW COULD IT ALL BEEEEEEE?!?!?!"
Love ya, Greg.
I have a list of "I wish's" from this concert.
I wish I'd let it loose a little more.
I wish I'd jumped up on stage at the end (more on that in a minute).
I wish I'd listened to their new (and very likely, last) album more before the show.
I wish I knew more lyrics to their songs because there are so many parts that are prime made to shout along to.
But you know what? That's just me being my overthinking self.
The truth is - I had a blast. Even if I did have a few "I wish's".
They played a lot of stuff off the new album, a lot that I recognized, a few that I didn't and am going to comb through their discography to find. I shouted along to "Farewell Mona Lisa" ("Don't you ever try to be/More than you were destined for/Or anything worth fighting for"), "Black Bubblegum" ("But you forget that in your fairy tale - bitch, I'm the wolf!"), "One of Us is the Killer," "How I lost my Bet," and "Prancer" (it really is one of my favorite songs).
It was the birthday of their bus driver - so they took a break in the middle of the show to sing "Happy Birthday."
The bus driver mushed his cake into the bass player's face. It was awesome.
It was also amusing to see in the corner of the stage a bunch of crew members watching the band in case they did something really dumb and hurt themselves.
Great songs, great performances. The encores were wonderful too - the first one was a mellow tune that I really need to find the name to because it was so moving, but the very last encore...
If you don't know Dillinger, let me educate you.
"43% Burnt" is a song off their first album. It's an audience favorite and one of the songs that put them on the map. It's technically complex and it makes you want to smash things. Eclectic as hell.
So they start with that iconic, squealy riff - the crowd goes nuts. "I smell that whore! Whoa!"
And the rest is history.
It's a berserk song - the band and the audience went appropriately berserk. They started ushering the audience on stage - by the end, there was about fifty people on stage, going nuts to the music.
As the song comes to a close. I see a torch - a goddamn, honest to goodness, lit on fire actual motherfucking torch in Greg's hand.
And he starts fire-breathing.
As the final breakdown plays out and the lights flicker, a plume of flame leaps over the heads of the mass of people onstage.
Back to my Thesis:
The Dillinger Escape Plan is one of the most important bands in recent musical history. You should listen to them, but you probably won't - their music is very harsh, dissonant - frankly, unpleasant to listen to unless you've acquired a taste for that sort of thing.
But this is what makes them brilliant. Metal and punk music has long been about "controlled chaos" - The Dillinger Escape Plan have taken that idea and sharpened it to a fine point. Their songs are chaotic... yet meticulously structured to be so. They are perfectly able to convey the post-modern paradoxes we live in - structure and chaos; animal and human; beauty and ugliness; nature and machine; cohesion and nonsense; love and hate; violence and peace; isolation and community; so many more.
They capture the dichotomies of life more fully than any other musical artist I've listened to.
Their music is alive. It's harsh because life is harsh. It's beautiful for the same reason.
Their whole catalog is wonderful. This last album is amazing. They're taking a hiatus - they don't want to keep churning out music that slowly gets worse and worse - they want to quit while they're ahead.
Ben and Greg are going to still be around in the music industry, that's for sure. Nobody could get rid of these two even if they wanted to.
But I will miss The Dillinger Escape Plan. I'm glad I got to see what could very well be their last ever tour.
When you walked away
I breathed your name
If I've convinced you to give them a listen, here's a list of songs to start with:
Mellow(ish) songs - "Widower" "Parasitic Twins" "Unretrofied" "Black Bubblegum" "One of Us is the Killer"
Ear-breaking songs - "Limerent Death" "Prancer" "43% Burnt" "Farewell Mona Lisa" "Panasonic Youth" "Chinese Whispers"