The Dillinger Escape Plan

support Between The Buried And Me + Stolen Babies
author AP date 23/02/08 venue Astoria 2, London, UK

This review has been a work in progress for too long now, I know, but hear my excuse. We as scribes strive for those rare, unforgettable moments when a band puts on a show so perfect it brings tears to one's eyes; A show of such spectacular character it takes days to fully grasp; A show so otherworldly it'd be shamed by the mere written words of a review. So, in pondering how best to deliver to you in the confines of a review a gig that will remain imprinted in my memory one of the best, if not the best show of my life, I stumbled across a collection of videos recorded by equally flabbergastered fans gathered there that night to nod in mutual agreement that the reputation, or infamy rather, that precedes The Dillinger Escape Plan is well-earned. I have embedded these videos in this review in order to put you, the reader, there. Enjoy.

Stolen Babies was not a band I was too familiar with prior to the show, but post-gig research has revealed that it is the band from which The Dillinger Escape Plan extracted their current drummer, Gil Sharone, when Chris Pennie bounced. Needless to say, Sharone also remains in charge of drums and percussion for Stolen Babies, who, as they entered the stage to an unamused crowd in London's Astoria 2 (formerly the Mean Fiddler), struck me as the oddest band I've witnessed to date. Picture this if you will: a front woman dressed in extravagant goth attire, wearing a thick layer of corpse paint and glamorous make up, wielding an accordion; a keyboardist clad in black leather and latex, as well as an Axl Rose-isque bandana, equipped with a massive oil barrel to bang, and a bassist I could have sworn was Marilyn Manson in his younger years. Now imagine what the music must sound like. That's exactly how it sounds like; I'm thinking Tim Burton directing a hardcore band. As novel as this may all sound, it quickly wears off partly due to an inexcusably poor sound quality that blurs every cool musical gimmick to a sludgy mess, and partly due to the front woman's unwillingness to appear intriguing. She stands there, jamming away on the harmonica, occasionally taking a few steps back and forth but that's about it. Besides the captivating glare in her eyes and the random banging of the oil barrel, there isn't much here to get excited about.

I don't think there was a soul within the alternative music scene that could question the musical genius of Between The Buried And Me after the release last year of Colors. What blasphemy, then, to allocate such a brief slot for them not to be able to unleash the entirety of the potential tonight. What has me even more puzzled is the seemingly unenthusiastic response they get from the crowd as they sweep through the segment "Sun of Nothing - Ants of the Sky - Prequel to the Sequel" with a precision that has me greened with envy. Or is everyone as perplexed by the beauty of the music as me and content with just receiving it - not living it? But when Tommy announces there's time for one last song, I'm dumbfounded. Surely this can't be it? Fortunately this inventive bunch have a few surprises up their sleeves, launching into a song that to me seems foreign to their discography. Yet when this seemingly improvised segment perfectly flows into the unbelievable intro of "Alaska", the ingenuity of this band becomes a proven fact. Just as it starts, the song also ends in instrumental fiddlery that I imagine is unheard of 'till now. An excellent finale, if to a pathetically short set. Tommy's stage presence mimics his usual dominance, leaning over the barrier, clenching his fists through the set and just generally looking like a mean motherfucker despite his small physique. I'd imagine this band headlining would be an entirely different affair.


BTBAM Setlist:

01. Sun of Nothing

02. Ants of the Sky

03. Prequel to the Sequel

04. Alaska

And now for the main event. It's no overstatement to say that The Dillinger Escape Plan scraped the floor with the two supporting bands. And I believe I speak for everyone in the Mean Fiddler that Saturday when I say holy fuck. Not even the highest of expectations could have predicted the mayhem that was to ensue once lights dim and the eerie footage of a hypnotized woman is projected onto stage. Supposedly, with the soothing words of a psychiatrist, we are "passing into a deep, profound sleep", soundtracked by a haunting ambience. And then, out of the blue, "I'm going to tear your eye lids apart". What follows is absolute pandemonium as The Dillinger Escape Plan enters and launches into "Panasonic Youth" amidst psychotic strobe lights.

The band proceeds to pound through some of their most violent and least comprehensive tracks, "43% Burnt", "Fix Your Face" and "Lurch", and it's not long before Greg's dangling from the metal scaffoldings lining the roof above the crowd, frantically screaming the words to these chaotic tracks. Then the unseen happens: Ben Weinman dives into the crowd, guitar first and is cast around above an entranced crowd whilst flawlessly scaling his technical riffs. It doesn't take a genius to deduce that this looks pretty fucking dangerous, but hey, it's a Dillinger gig and there isn't a soul in the crowd who expects less than to bruise and bleed.

At this point, security hands Greg a slip of paper that reads "If you attempt to climb the scaffoldings again, or if you encourage others to do so, or if your guitarist jumps into the crowd again, we will pull the plug." Greg's infuriating response sounds, "Pull the plug? Pull the plug? I thought this is where the fucking Sex Pistols came from!". Now, this is the first gig I've experienced where security have had to tell the band to calm down. And quite promptly, if only for a moment, the band falls to relative calm playing "Setting Fire To Sleeping Giants". But when Greg notices the maniacal response from the crowd, the band is out and about in no time, the two guitarists and bassist tossing themselves around the stage in frantic spasms.

As "Baby's First Coffin" explodes from the speakers, Greg further defies the restrictions bestowed upon him, climbing a speaker tower and pausing to sit on top it chanting the calmer parts of that song. There isn't one person in the downstairs area of the Mean Fiddler who isn't involved in the violent moshpit it has become, willingly or unwillingly, but there doesn't seem to be too much protest either. A mutual trust lingers in the room as the fans agree this is what they came here to see and to experience.

After pacing through the interlude "When Acting As A Particle", as well as "Nong Eye Gong" and "Milk Lizard" from "Ire Works", Greg hands over the microphone to a fan, asking him if he knows how to start this off; "If you fuck this up, I'm ejecting you". Not surprisingly, he knows what to scream, "I'm the best you'll ever have". It's clear that this is one of those songs that everyone has eagerly anticipated and I don't blame them, "When Good Dogs Do Bad Things" is an amazing track. What follows is the less experimental but equally strange "Black Bubblegum", which sets the mood for the grand finale of the show.

This finale first parallels the chaos of the beginning with "Sugar Coated Sour", "Party Smasher" and then exceeds it with the famed "Sunshine The Werefolf". Now, this is that part that I'll have a hard time putting into words, but I'll make an attempt. Honestly, I don't know what the fuck happens, but towards the end of the song, Greg breaks the drum kit, grabs a symbal and begins to pound it frantically, sometimes in beat, sometimes off beat, before climbing the speaker tower again where he then proceeds to smash the cymbal to pieces. Ben climbs into a tiny hole between the upstairs balcony and the downstairs main area, playing his axe from there, and Jeff climbs into the balcony upstairs on the other side.

I guess all that's left to say is whatever expectations I had for this gig were futile. A show that left me entranced for days. Hell, I'm still suffering from the physical repercussions and I cannot stress enough how complete this show was. I'll also take it as a personal insult if you deliberately miss The Dillinger Escape Plan when they come to play near you, because no excuse save for terminal illness should stop you from experiencing the spectacle that is The Dillinger Escape Plan. And I repeat, holy fuck.



01. Panasonic Youth

02. 43% Burnt

03. Fix Your Face

04. Lurch

05. Setting Fire To Sleeping Giants

06. Baby's First Coffin

07. When Acting As A Particle

08. Nong Eye Gong

09. Milk Lizard

10. When Good Dogs Do Bad Things

11. Black Bubblegum

12. Sugar Coated Sour

13. Party Smasher

14. Sunshine The Werewolf

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