Pitchfork Music Festival 2011, Saturday: The Dismemberment Plan
If I were forced to wear a pair of those noise-canceling ear mufflers that workers wear on airport runways (Or that you see indie babies wearing at Pitchfork. Seriously, cool dads, spare your 18-month-olds Gang Gang Dance), I could still tell you who the best bands are at a festival just by watching the feet.
It's all in the feet. Map the footprints that a band leaves on a stage. It should look like a Pollack painting. The more steps the better. Move. And get off your heels. The Dismemberment Plan spends half of its time onstage on the tippie toes of its casual sneakers. As I watched the feet, I thought of Fugazi. Like this. Seeing guys from D.C., up on their toes, on a scuffed, buckling, gray platform, snaked with cables, really struck me as Fugazish. Like this. And being reminded of Fugazi at a festival where coeds in tank tops are wandering around offering you squirts of Axe Body Spray is an achievement.
Look, I could go way over my word count simply talking about what the Dismemberment Plan said, how the four moved, the looks on their faces, the looks on the crowd's faces. The reunited spazz-pop band had more charisma, one-liners, crowd sing-alongs, hooks, breakdancing, ridiculous rhythm section skill and sheer, unadulterated joy than the rest of bill combined. And words. Travis Morrison always had more words than any other band. He spits hundred of them in "The Dismemberment Plan Gets Rich" and "I Love a Magician." It's all that hip-hop he listens to.
I wasn't expecting it all to hit me this hard. The Dismemberment Plan is a band I've seen more than any other. Probably close to 15 times now. There's no way this show could compare to that legendary Fireside Bowl gig, I figured. And it didn't. But the quartet was as giddy and tight as I've ever seen them. Looking at the photos above, they look like slick pros, making that kinda gross O-face, which does no justice to how silly and ecstatic they were.
Travis Morrison glows. Give the guy credit for coming to a festival put on by snarky dudes who gave his first solo album a 0.0 rating, and then crushing it.
"It's HAWT," he says. "Like, people die in this shit." He notes that in the South (eh, D.C. is sort of the South), people are used to this. But they're not stupid enough to stay out in it for an hour. But we all do. He and bassist Eric Axelson wear cold towels on their head. Morrison wears a pair of sunglasses he borrowed from Gang Gang Dance. Later, in a fit of passion, throws them about 55 feet. He realizes what he's done a couple of songs later and apologizes. And laughs. He laughs a lot. And plays a keyboard with his forehead.
Guitarist Jason Caddell sweats so much, his shades slip off his face. He asks the crowd for a pair of Froggies sunglasses straps. "You guys are too young to remember Froggies," he cracks. They seem too young to know so many words from a record that came out 12 years ago. But some kid tosses up Froggies, and all the kids belt out the lyrics.
"This is fun!" Morrison exclaims. Yes! Fun! That's what festival are about, right? They are having so much fun. We are all having so much fun. Our intern, barely drinking age, laments to me: "It must have been so awesome seeing groups like this inthe '90s." He's blown away, and kinda sad about the current state of music, and just thrilled he got once chance to see the Dismemberment Plan. I read that same look on everyone in the audience, on all those twentysomething pushed up against the barrier.
The set draws heavily from 1999's adored Emergency & I, with which the newbies are most familiar. When the group closes with "OK Jokes Over," from its debut, !, as it so often did a decade ago, those that shouted along to "What Do You Want Me To Say?" seem somewhat befuddled. As usual, Morrison drops in some improvised vocals from a pop song he loves. This time it's a Robyn tune.
By the end, I was deep in love with this band again. I felt like a teenager. I was up on my toes, leaning into it.