My arrival was quite late unfortunately, to the sendoff aka The Dillinger Escape Plan’s possible (and probable) last Dallas show ever. Accompanying acts were local politically fueled band American Shit Storm, or A.S.S. for short, (Yes, you can giggle) progressive tech metal act Entheos, the rather heavy Cult Leader, and O’Brother, a band who heavily redeemed themselves in my eyes tonight.
The opening band was local act American Shit Storm, a politically fueled punk band rather dedicated to bringing the insanity early on. Throwing patriotic balloons and flags into the crowd throughout their set, the product of a former Dead Kennedys tribute band made an impression and got people fired up for what was to come.
Next up was Entheos, a progressive supergroup featuring ex and current members of The Faceless, and Animosity / Animals as Leaders / Fleshwrought. It was their first show in Dallas featuring their new guitarist Travis LeVrier, formerly of Scale the Summit, and his talent was without question. They ran through with highly energetic, awesomely heavy and technical progressive music, opening up with the song “Perpetual Miscalculations”, into “Primal” and “New Light”. Fading between the songs, there was a short interlude-like jam session, keeping the energy alive and the set moving along. Next up were the tracks “The Infinite Nothing” and “An Ever Expanding Human”, leading into a crazy drum solo by Navene. Utilizing his entire body while blasting away at his drums, his body language throughout showed just how much fun he was having alongside their vocalist Chaney, who body-banged throughout their set as well.
Following Entheos was progressive crust band Cult Leader. Opening with a ridiculously heavy, sludgy intro, they launched full force into the song “Great I Am”. The backdrop of a massive skull in a star of Babylon suggested they’d be filthy, but I couldn’t have expected to what intensity. I became an instant fan, whether it be due to the gnarly deep and distorted torment the vocalist let loose, or the blast beats and slow hits the drummer brought forth, managing to break 3 sticks within what felt like 30 seconds. These guys brought their A-game, a mixture of darkness and pure aggression. Something to demolish faces to. Playing through the next song, “Suffer Louder”, there was a moment nearing the end that turned almost into down-tempo; so ridiculously heavy and angry that regardless of who you are or where you’re from, it was impossible to resist bobbing your head along. Punishing the crowd further, they played through songs such as “Broken Blades”, “Flightless Birds”, “A Good Life”, and “Hate Offering”. At the helm of the final song, the vocalist spoke to the crowd, dedicating it to sufferers of depression. “Just know, you’re not alone” he reassured, seconds before picking back up for one final song.
After a short intermission, O’Brother were set to take the stage. Unfortunately, my last time seeing this band was on the farewell tour with Thrice, to which I didn’t really enjoy them at all. Trying to keep an open mind, I watched as they took the stage and began what sounded like a droney, almost Nirvana-turned-metal sounding intro. It took next to no time to find that either I had changed my taste, or they’d gotten a billion times more enjoyable. Opening with song “I Am (Become Death)”, the vocalist came packing crystal clean vocals when necessary, and fuzzy distorted grunge like vocals when not. Toting 3 guitarists, their music featured heavy emphasis on being riff oriented while not overdoing it, with tons of room to build atmosphere and emotion in just the right way. Pairing the airy, delayed guitars with haunting vocals worked well for them, as it kept the listener entranced when needed, and helped transition when not. At the moments when heaviness became necessity, they did it well. Drone elements were abundant, with the drummer actually breaking the cymbal stand, not the cymbal, leading to believe he was beating those drums with everything he had. O’Brother played a relatively short set, but it felt like it lasted a decent while, featuring songs “Lay Down”, “Complicated End Times”, “Bloodlines”, and “Machines” part 1 and 2 to finish out. Nearing the end of their final song, it began to sound similar to a dreamlike lullaby, as the vocalist’s vibrato truly shined. Their set came boasting quite an array of elements, many of which I find paramount for emotional yet darkly driven music; the droning, scathing, and beautiful melodies dispersed intermittently between each other proved that this band is worth every second of your attention.
At long last, it was time to say goodbye to The Dillinger Escape Plan. I was mildly anxious, to be honest. Their live performances have a reputation for being quite violent, and this being their probable last tour in Dallas, it seemed tonight would be doubly so. Touring in support of their final album, “Dissociation”, I fully expected it to be an emotional and aggressive night. I couldn’t have been more right.
The stage curtains kept closed as I heard the dull hiss of smoke machines running on overdrive, and an ambient electronic intro began pulsing behind. As the bass hits came louder and louder, the lights began to pulse behind the curtains, showing full immersion of smoke and building anticipation for the sudden onset of insanity they were sure to incite. As the curtains pulled back, exactly that happened; the first song from the new album, titled “Limerant Death” began, and the entire band began their assault on the senses of all in attendance. Guitarist Ben Weinman followed suit in his usual style, flailing his guitar in every direction so violently I’m uncertain how he still plays the crazy riffs so accurately. It seemed, maybe just to me, that they brought every last bit of energy they had left for TDEP’s final show here. Dillinger is mania personified. Many moments throughout the set I should’ve feared for my safety, such as the moment Ben jumped from stage, to the trademark Tree pillar at Tree’s, and into the crowd with his guitar. I just couldn’t make myself care.
From the moment they began their final performance here, I lost all sense but immersion in what was happening directly in front of me, something they’ve been able to do for me before and the number one reason why I still find their live shows to be my favorite. Drenched in sweat that couldn’t possibly be all mine, almost everyone there screamed the words alongside, trying to stay afloat in a sea of thrashing bodies. Leading into songs “Panasonic Youth”, “Symptom of Terminal Illness”, and “Farewell, Mona Lisa”, there wasn’t a single moment I pinpointed where the room relented, whether it be the people on stage or those on the floor. There were people emulating the vocalist, Greg, and jumping from the high balconies! As “When I Lost My Bet” began, the synchronization of fists in the air to the off time stop and go beats was robotic in accuracy but fluid in movement. Violence and crushing bodies upon bodies continued, with at least 2-3 crowd surfers guaranteed per song.
Later in the set began one of my favorites, “Black Bubblegum”, and I almost felt my throat well up as the entire room sang along the sassy, funky clean vocals. When “Hero Of The Soviet Union” neared the end, shouting the words “You are the scum of the earth” felt almost therapeutic, as my ties to said song reminded me how helpful this band had remained through rough times in my life. The fan favorite “Milk Lizard” played to a crowd that somehow managed to double their energy. Nearing this point, I felt like my body was beginning to fall apart, as I’d had a wisdom tooth removed the day before (likely not smart, but there’s no way I was missing this show). They played through a massive setlist, following with “Low Feels Blvd”, “One of Us Is The Killer”, “Nothing to Forget”, and ending with “Prancer”. After the song ended, they dropped their instruments and left the stage to a feedback and flashing lights, dragging out for a long while to the chant of their band name. As time passed at a snails pace, they took back to the stage for an encore; the song “Mouth of Ghosts” with Ben playing the piano. The next two songs sort of blended together, as they demanded half the crowd join them onstage; “Sunshine the Werewolf” and the fan favorite “43% Burnt” to finish out. As they played through these final songs, the stage was crowded with those in attendance and packed so tightly, at one moment Ben was crowd surfing and playing riffs ON STAGE. My jaw dropped a little, I’ve never seen anything so ridiculous at a show and probably won’t for a long, long time.
Dillinger’s performance was the culmination of a lot of buried anger, and the resolution to it all. The violent tendencies they display as a band came to a head and were let loose upon all in attendance. Afterwards, a sense of relief. The band shared the stage with the crowd to remind us how grateful they are for the years they’d been given, to share the anger and the pain and the violence with the people so grateful for their existence, and to find resolution in bringing this tumultuous ride to a close. The Dillinger Escape Plan is a band that set themselves apart in almost every way possible, and to see them taking a bow at the height of their career is respectable above all other things. You won’t see a band this crazy bowing out from behind someone else, or fading out after getting too old or too tired of the life that they unceremoniously disappear. With a band as crazy as they are, the only thing that made sense was to one last time, give it their absolute all and destroy everything in their path.
And that’s exactly what they did.
RIP The Dillinger Escape Plan.
1997 – 2016/17.