Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Dismemberment Plan

OK, so I've been away from Let's Rock the Beach for almost a month now. What have I not chronicled in that time? Hmm...well, one of the best/most important/most memorable concerts of my life.

It was just another Monday at my work last September. Time for my lunch break, so I minimize the spreadsheets and surf over to Pitchfork. And what should appear on my screen, but news that rocked my world, news that I would never have expected, news that almost got me doing cartwheels down the office corridors:

"The Dismemberment Plan Reunite"

I was beside myself. I called my buddy with the ecstatic news and later that week we had our tickets (with hardly a minute to spare: the Plan's initial two shows in our hometown Washington, D.C. were sold out within 10 minutes). Now I just had to wait til January...

In college several years earlier, I had began my fervent love affair with this quirky, keyboard-smearing rock(?) band from Northern Virginia, when I heard "Gyroscope". It was two and a half minutes of tight, smart, absolutely electrifying rock with a catchiness that you couldn't shake off. Soon I was listening to Emergency & I religiously for its unique sound that was also so irresistibly melodic and fun. But it was once I started to really dig into what this Travis guy was sing-talking about that I realized Emergency & I was my absolute favorite album. 

Travis Morrison's plainly worded observations on the insanities of everyday life sounded like musings that had crossed my mind countless times. The sudden realization of social isolation in "Life of Possibilities", the spelling-it-out anthem of "What Do You Want Me to Say?", the frustrations of relationships nixed in a transient urban life ("The City"). In a nutshell, it was everything that living through my 20s has been and continues to be. And it wasn't just Emergency & I; the Plan's more composed final album Change and previous records The Dismemberment Plan is Terrified and ! all spoke to the anxieties of growing up, facing the uncertainties of the post-college world, and hoping you don't wake up one day and, as Travis puts it, "don't know how you picked the wrong life".

But what ultimately makes this band so incredibly special and important for me is that the music faces these challenges, absorbs the pain and confusion, and decides to press forward, at times bravely so (I mean, what else are you going to do?). They're not always confident, but neither are we. We all have our doubts in times of depression, but the Plan knows that if we stick with this whole "life" thing, we'll eventually pull ourselves out of the doldrums, and not simply live again, but thrive. It's the unceasing humanity of the Dismemberment Plan that makes them so special.

The Dismemberment Plan

...So January 22, 2011 arrived, and here I was at the 9:30 club seeing a concert I never thought I'd be able to see. The show was incredible, as expected, and as the band returned to the stage for the encore, I could sense what was coming next. One of the Plan's best concert traditions occurs when they play "The Ice of Boston", a track from Is Terrified that is one of the band's best and most hilarious tunes. It is customary for dozens of audience members to jump on stage to dance around and sing along to Travis's bizarre Bostonian New Year's story. When I heard the song's distinctively sharp guitar pluck, it was time to push to the front. And sure enough, I was living a dream: I was among the onstage mass of the 9:30 club belting out the words to "Ice of Boston" with the Dismemberment Plan. ("All fine mom...HOW'S WASHINGTON!!"). 

Emergency & I came out in 1999, and the Plan's last original music followed just two years later. But as I navigate the glorious highs and deflating lows of my 20s, their music becomes all the more relevant and resonating each day. And for speaking to my life in a way that perhaps no other band has, I'd like to say:

Thank you, Dismemberment Plan.

"and sometimes that music drifts through my car
on a spring night when anything is possible
and I close my eyes and I nod my head and I wonder how you been
and I count to a hundred and ten
because you'll always be my hero
even if I never see you again."

The Dismemberment Plan

Photos from Pitchfork and mehan (1) and (2) on Flickr.

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