Dillinger Executes Their Escape Plan Perfectly
NEW YORK CITY – 2017 has seen some very sad and tragic losses in the music world, but in this writer and fan’s opinion, none will reverberate more than the vacuum like hole that will be left by The Dillinger Escape Plan ending their run in 2017. (Before you all lose your shit, I’m not, in anyway minimizing the suicide deaths of Cornell and Bennington by saying this. Those two events devastated me as a fan of music and as a human, but this is a different type of thing) The Dillinger Escape Plan has been a massive force swelling from the underground since their inception in 1997, and have just continued to grow unapologetically until pulling the curtain down on their career Friday night (December 29th) at Terminal 5 in NYC.
Dillinger went out with 3 consecutive sold out shows in NYC, with each one of them highlighted by something unpredictable, something you’d expect from DEP. I personally did not have the luxury of being at all 3 shows, I was at the first one, and I can honestly say, I’m glad I ripped the band-aid off and got it over with.
First off, the sheer emotions that coursed through me and everyone around me was really shocking and will stay with me for a long, long time, but like lead vocalist Greg Puciato did into his audiences for 2 decades, I’ll dive into that momentarily.
The Wednesday night performance (December 27th) was very special for me, not only because it was the last time I would see one of my top 5 favorite bands, but one of my favorite vocalists of all time, Mike Patton (Faith No More, Peeping Tom, Mr Bungle, etc.), was going to perform with them doing their EP Irony is a Dead Scene in its entirety for the first, and last time ever. There were forces that prevented me from being at the LAST show ever, so this was the consolation prize, and what a consolation it was as Patton and DEP blew through 25 minutes of blistering songs to open the show.
Patton was his brooding, menacing self as he wore his huge, what I would call, dad glasses because he was clearly reading lyrics and notes from papers he had on a table beside him with his signature gadgets and pedals he uses during his live performances. Despite needing crib notes for the performance, Patton was spot on, both vocally and physically. The performance was everything DEP fans could’ve expected from the great Mike Patton. Closing the set with a cover of Faith No More’s “Malpractice,” was the perfect hors-de-vours, setting us up for the main course, which was in Mike Patton’s words, “the real fucking Dillinger Escape Plan.”
The “real” Dillinger hit the stage to the sound of Ginuwine’s song “Pony” playing over the loud speakers in what was obviously a tongue-in-cheek way to bring them on the stage, for the madness was about to begin. Before the music even kicked in, Greg Puciato was already in the audience. While standing on the audience, he says “Merry Christmas motherfuckers. Happy Chanukah motherfuckers. A very Merry Kwanzaa to you motherfuckers, it’s the most wonderful time of the year…this one’s called “Panasonic Youth”,” and the place went ape-shit like I’ve never seen. A flurry of lights, and mathematical blast beats from drummer Billy Rymer and we were off on an emotional journey.
On that note, the emotions of this night were a bizarre thing to behold all around. It was clear that the guys in the band and on the stage were having a ball. I got a sense of peace by how they performed, to the sounds coming out of them, and aided by interviews I’ve read and heard they too were emotional about saying goodbye to this fan base.
The emotions of the band was not the thing that I found most compelling though, it was the fan base. I have never ever said good bye to a band before. I remember feeling em
otional in 2000 when KISS did their farewell tour, but something about that told me they would be back, and sadly I was right on that. I saw Pantera’s last tour, but no one knew that was their last tour, same with Rage Against the Machine. So that covers a few of my all-time faves that are no longer playing, besides RUSH, but unless you want to put me on suicide watch, let’s not get into that.
So let’s dissect this, The Dillinger Escape Plan is what most would consider a very heavy band and not the type of band that would pull out a lot of emotion and yet, I saw quite a few tears shed on this night. This writer even welled up at the end of “Farewell, Mona Lisa” as it was the last time I’d hear my fave song by them live again. But my God, 30 seconds before the end, I and about a thousand other people were screaming “THOUGHT WE WOULD NEVER LEAVE!!!” like we wanted to say it through somebody. It was quite the roller coaster of emotions to say the least.
Why will this band, which existed on the fringe of all music, leave such a gaping hole in music? If you parachute in on any one Dillinger song, or show, or video, you won’t get it, but if you take in Dillinger as a whole entity, from start to finish, you’d totally get it. I, as a huge fan of the band, only partially got it until recently. I mean, I can say the very obvious things like their lyrics are some of the best in all of music, and musically they are unmatched both as a group and as individuals.
Introspective, political, scathing at times, and positive at times, lyrically Dillinger could be good therapy. Musically, the things they do boggle the mind, from one minute being so dissonant that you can barely stand it, to wonderfully melodic passages that make you forget how painfully dissonant the last stanza was.
Guitarist Ben Weinman will be talked about in music a lot like Dave Grohl is in years to come. He may never see the commercial success of Grohl (he might though), but he will, if not already have, influence a generation of guitarists, songwriters and performers, YES, performers. Ben Weinman is one of the best performing guitarists I’ve ever seen, and his playing is flawless live.
Billy Rymer is hands down a top 10 drummer a live right now, and for way more reasons than his blast beats. Watch one clinic with him and watch him explain how he basically plays poly rhythms in the song “Prancer” (Who plays polys in song? Billy–fucking–Rymer…that’s who).
Greg Puciato, who already has other projects going with the super group Killer Be Killed with Max Cavalera, and members of Mastodon, and his electro project The Black Queen, he seems to be on a Mike Patton path of diversity. Vocally, Puciato has the ability to be every bit as diverse and good a singer as anyone. There are times throughput the Dillinger catalog that his ability to go from brutal screams to beautifully sung melodic passages like in “Nothing to Forget” off of the Dissociation album, or “Baby’s First Coffin” from Miss Machine.
I can go on about this band musically for several pages. As a group they are unmatched, they’re song writing is mind boggling, and innovative. With all that said, those are all obvious things that you can say about many bands (good players, good songs, etc.) but the thing about Dillinger is the continuous nature of their work, and how after listening to their last release Dissociation, I can feel that it’s over…musically. Not because it’s a bad release, it’s actually, in my opinion, possibly their best, but in an interview with Ben Weinman and Greg Puciato over the summer they revealed that their whole 20 year career has kind of been just one long piece, and that they never really saw it as each album was its own entity.
In an Instagram post, Ben Weinman said, “The speed and intensity of our music and live shows were a catalyst for pure free expression with very little opportunity to reflect on my other daily stresses or even feel pain or fear.” He even went on to refer to this as extended therapy for him, and I think it was for all of us too. “Thanks to all the people out there who contributed to allowing me this periodic meditation for the past 20 years. I will certainly miss this.”
During the opening salvos of Dillinger’s final set, I saw tears, fist pumps, devil horns, one of the most insane pits I’ve ever seen, and Greg Puciato singing from the audience in a Santa hat, all within the first 30 seconds…this was a special night.
As each song clicked off, and I settled into the dreamlike state of trying to take this all in, I noticed a haze begin to rise. When we all finally got into the venue, everyone was bundled up due to the sub-zero temperatures that were outside in NYC that night. By about mid-set, the sweat and heat of the moment had taken over and there was no more winter as far as we knew. It was like a hazy summer night in that venue.
Every song was just fantastic and a highlight in their own right, but there were certain times when you could feel the momentum of the whole audience, from the floor to the two balconies, the outpouring of energy was indescribable. This show was the first time that I can honestly say, “you had to be there,” in order for you to fully get it.
The pinnacle of the set had to be the monstrous two shot that they closed with which is “Farewell, Mona Lisa” and “When I Lost My Bet.” “Farewell, Mona Lisa” is not only my favorite song, but lyrically and musically this song speaks to my soul. With both anger, and sadness in my voice I shouted the words “What did you expect? That we were nearly home, that we would never leave? What did you expect, that we would never leave home? That we would never leave, that we would never leave, that we would never leave, that we would never leave”.
I can tell you that at the culmination of “Farewell” I was spent, but wait, as relentless as their music has been for 20 years, this show wasn’t letting up off the hook either. After walking off to feedback at the end of “When I Lost My Bet,” the groundswell of emotion erupted in a chant of “DILLINGER! DILLINGER! DILLINGER!”
Former DEP vocalist Dmitri Minakakis came out and spoke to the crowd, roasted the band members and acknowledged Ben Weinman’s parents who were in attendance, and then brought the guys back out for a few more tunes.
As they ripped into “Limerent Death” I thought I was done, but I wasn’t, but then the actual realization that this was almost over set in. I became all too aware of what was coming, the actual end. By the time I snapped out of that and returned to the present, they launched into their final song, “Sunshine the Werewolf.”
This song, and show ending will forever live in my mind, because things happened that I can’t unsee, and still can’t really believe even though I’ve seen it all on video, it takes on a whole new meaning when you see it live. In the middle of the song, Greg Puciato, who has been jumping into the audience the entire show, takes to the 2nd of 3 balconies in the building, with mic in hand and proceeds to Spiderman across to the middle of the audience. He starts asking everyone to gather around as he sets up to jump down. At the same time, to my utter shock and initial horror, a fan jumps from the same balcony height, but on the other side of the venue. I don’t know if that was planned, but he looked like he made it safely from my vantage point and to my delight because it blew my mind on 6 levels, 3 of which being horrifying.
As I’ve seen in many videos before, but have never gotten to see in person, Greg Puciato launched himself off the balcony, onto the crowd and finished the show from there, which in this writer’s opinion is poetic. Ben Weinman sat on a chair that was being held up by the fans at the end, and Greg Puciato was fully engulfed by his fan base. Dillinger has always been a band that’s always been about their fans, but did things their own way, for better or for worse, and now, they are going out that way, for better or for worse.
With all of these monster musicians from Dillinger, I’m sure we’ll be hearing from each of them again, if we’re not already, but the undeniably truth is that whatever they do individually will never measure what The Dillinger Escape Plan was done and meant to the music industry. So I want to thank Ben Weinman, Greg Puciato, Billy Rymer, Liam Wilson, Kevin Antreassian, Chris Pennie, Dmitri Minakakis, and even Mike Patton for all the amazing music, concerts and lore you’ve provided over the last 20 years, and hope to see you guys again, even in a one off show here and there…you will be missed.
Written by Chris Elio for Bloodrock Media on January 19, 2018