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  THE DISMEMBERMENT PLAN w/ El Guapo and Cex  
  The Esho Lounge  
  East Atlanta, GA  
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Iíve seen The Dismemberment Plan several times throughout the years; normally their live shows are some of the most energetic and compelling things Iíve seen. Likewise, Iíve always loved their albums from their early more punk days up to the more mellow and mature Change. So when, earlier this year, I heard that this band was breaking up, I was quite sad. Luckily for us fans, The Plan decided to do one last tour, and it was pretty much a sure thing that I and some of the other Minions would be there.

We arrived at The Echo Lounge relatively early at 9:30 pm, and found out that we had missed the first opening band. However, we got there just in time for the second act, Cex. This was something of a surprise to me; I was expecting Miss Spice and the Malenium Band, who I had heard described as a go-go band. Instead, we got Cex. After some 5 minutes of his set, I was ready to yell out, ďWhere the hell is my go-go band?Ē But no, Iím stuck listening to a young white guy in red underwear singing what may or may not be ďrap.Ē And Iíve got to say: Iíve seen Cex before. I didnít like him then; I donít like him now. Maybe itís parochial and middle school, but throbbing drum beats and theoretically humorous rapping doesnít do anything for me. Itís nothing personal; I just donít get it.

After what seemed like a relatively short set, Cex left the stage and we waited for the next band, El Guapo. Like Cex, they had opened for The Plan before and, from what I remember, I think they were a straight up math band. However, just prior to their set, PostLibyan turned to me and said, ďIíve heard their new stuff is more electronic.Ē Now, usually when someone tells me ďelectronicĒ I think of laptops and special lighting effects. However, El Guapo didnít sound like that. Instead, they added some slightly giddy keyboards and synthetic beats underneath much of their music. And, believe it or not, it really seemed to increase my enjoyment of El Guapo. Or maybe I was just happy to not have to listen to Cex again.

Of course, the fact that he had left the stage over an hour ago didnít mean that we were done with the tall, blond, underwear-clad schtick artist Cex. Nope, he was back in time for The Dismemberment Planís set, roaming the audience with a microphone an hanging out with the kids. In and of itself, this wasnít a bad thing. However, the chaos he engendered seemed to be a reflection of the chaos of The Plan itself.

I mean, musically The Plan seemed to have it together mostly. Yeah, the bass was a little soft, and I couldnít really hear the guitar at all. But those vagaries of sound can happen at any venue. And they did seem to be playing a little by the numbers, and not throwing themselves into the music in the same way I remember. But this could be accounted for by the relative heat inside the venue as well the fact that this was one of the first dates on The Planís tour. Instead, what was most memorable about The Planís set was the fact that after playing 3 or 4 songs, they announced they didnít have a setlist, and were instead going to play requests from the audience. In theory, this may be a good idea: itís their last tour, so let the fans throw out their suggestions.

However, in practice, in this venue, it came across to me as an abject failure. First and foremost, the time the band spent listening to the audience, trying to get an acceptable request, detracted from the energy level of the show (and energy level is the one attribute on which the band has always relied). Furthermore, if a band says that theyíll play requests, they ought to make damn sure they know their own catalogue. Over the course of the evening, I got really tired of hearing the requests for earlier, more punk Plan material getting shot down. And in essence, it seemed like the requests they did take were mostly off the last two albums, with the more popular songs from ! and Is Terrified thrown in. In other words, their ďall requestĒ setlist sounded just like the set list from last fall, or the one from last springÖ.or basically any set list in the post-Change era. So whatís the point? If thatís what The Dismemberment Plan wanted to play, they should just do it, and give up the populist pretext.

In the end, despite hearing all of my favorite Plan songs (including First Anniversary of Your Last Phone Call and Onward Fat Girl), I was very disappointed in the show. I suppose some of this was because of the afore-mentioned energy level. But most of it dealt with the format and performance itself, which proved ultimately frustrating. However, Iím glad I went to the show, if only because for a long time The Dismemberment Plan were one of the best touring live bands Iíve seen and it likely be a long time before I hear anything like them again.

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The Plan and El Guapo also played together in 2001, and The Plan and Cex played together in 2002. (We didn't care for either opener those times either, although at least those shows The Plan did actually play a set!)


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