It was odd sitting in the Bottleneck and watching everyone come in. It seemed like I knew half the people, and the other half I recognized. Most of them I hadn't seen in a while and I wondered where they had been hiding out. Then I had a revelation; they probably hadn't been hiding at all, but rather they've been at the Bottleneck every weekend while I've been out at El Torreon or The River Market or The Pirate House or wherever the good rock hides. Maybe the people who come out to the Bottleneck for live music aren't doing so because they wanted to see the bands, but rather because it's just the Bottleneck on a Friday night. Sure touring DC artists The Dismemberment Plan were responsible for bringing out a big percentage of the crowd, but I'm starting to realize the Lawrence music scene might be based on socialization and alcohol more than a love for the music. I'm probably way behind the curve on this one.
The ever maturing Palindromes began the night at the Bottleneck by commanding the audience to the front of the stage, and then apologizing for starting so late; I didn't notice. What I did notice is how much vocalist/guitarist has refined his craft. Although his vocals are still dry and largely apathetic he has begun to take control of his voice. Not only is he exploring his range a bit, and taking greater controls his dynamics, but there is a smug playfulness and a sly smile lurking behind his vocals now.
One thing hasn't changed however, the band still wears its on homage to Pavement its sleeve. And while for many this is an impasse, others insist you can't get too much of a good thing. I suppose you'll find me somewhere in the middle, but anyone should be able to appreciate the bouncy bass lines, and the bright open guitar lines which form the crux of this young band's pop appeal.
Proudentall were up next playing the role of local boys done good. The band recently returned from a few weeks on the road promoting their new album, and it looks like the time away has done them good. The band were tight, the silliest of Matt's banter had cut out, and the delays were minimal to none. In short, their stage show was much more effective than it has been in the fast.
Although the band's bounding and relentless take on indie rock is not an entirely new formula, they have a sound easily distinguished by Matt's jagged guitar style... almost to a fault. In a long set, previous guitar themes seem to return in later songs, and although always placed well, there are songs that sound undeniably similar in structure and sentiment to others. However what makes this band worthy of praise is the way the band plays together, and nothing can bring a band together (or push them further apart) than a few weeks in a smelly van, malnourishment, sleep deprivation, and empty venues.
The supportive local crowd of friendly faces as well as another 200 enthused concert-goers had to be a nice welcome home party and the band made the most of it playing largely from the new CD, but also catering to the fans who have supported them for years by playing several requested old songs.
The Dismemberment Plan have become near regulars in Lawrence with a gig every 6 months or so. It wasn't terribly surprising then to see over 200 people in the bar; the mix of the audience was a little surprising though. Although not many in the audience had actually heard The Dismemberment Plan, and many less considered themselves fans, the band's reputation as a live act and personal recommendations seemed to have brought the college kids in by the truckload. Everyone seemed to be there because they thought they should be.
The audience were immediately introduced to the band's quirky style of mis-arrangements, rapid fire vocals, and a hectic underbelly that is nearly danceable, although no one was sure how you could dance to that. Vocalist/guitarist Travis Morrison was a commanding showman from the beginning and set a tone for the show which let the audience know first, that this was a professional and polished touring rock and roll troop, and two, that the audience was part of a trans-solar entertainment spectacle.
By constantly rotating a keyboard, guitar, & bass between members Jason Caddell and Eric Axelson, The D Plan kept every song different. Travis's vocals were lively and quick, so quick that I was sure they were digitally manipulated when I heard them recorded, he proved me wrong live and in person though. Joe Easley's drumming is truly versatile; from incredibly simple to jaw-dropping complex. All the players are ingenious musicians, so what are they doing in an experimental (if not campy or downright goofy) rock band?
Plainly put, they are rocking the audience and bringing the odd, outrageous and bold indie rock of outsiders to the mainstream. Somehow (and without diluting the brew), The Dismemberment Plan are able to take insupportable song structures that feature the oddest of noises in the most peculiar of arrangements, and make it seem as comfortable and rock as a Steve Miller song. It's mind blowing and I have a feeling that the next time the band plays Lawrence I might want to buy my tickets in advance.