Last Wednesday, I made a firm resolution to myself: I was going to get off the couch, turn off Batman: Arkham City, and leave my apartment for once. It's been a while since I've been to a show, and that sad fact hurts my heart, but the cold hard truth is that it's really difficult to find the time to go out and hang with your crusty bros when you're busy moping and watching Futurama reruns, which are two things that I do very well. But I had to leave the apartment for once, because I was starting to hallucinate the way that cartoon characters do when they're trapped together on an island, going stir crazy. And the first time I saw my wife morph from woman into a roast turkey on a lavish platter, I decided that maybe I should get out and get some fresh air, maybe eat something. I mean, it's not like we're actually on an island; there's a Chinese food restaurant like 20 feet from my apartment, and a Wendy's just beyond.
In other words, just because my clothes are tattered doesn't mean that I have to live the rest of my life like I'm stuck.
So I gathered up one of my metal chums from his American squalor (to be fair, he'd be doing great if he lived in Somalia) and we drove down to the brand new Emo's East on the east side of Austin to go behold the carnage that is a Dillinger Escape Plan show.
Emo's just recently changed locations from the homey dank of downtown Austin's Red River strip to what used to be something called the Backroom. If you're like me and you've never been to the Backroom, you won't see what the issue is. People who have lived in Austin for a while and have some memory of the Backroom, and those among us at the venue who remember seeing shows at the fabled Backroom chose to, instead of enjoying the show, meander around the venue looking bewildered, only taking pause from drinking their $2 Imperial 12oz to mutter "This used to be the Backroom. Weird..." over and over again. Those of us who have no memories of the former venue spent the evening wandering around, looking bewildered, and remarking about how Emo's is way too clean now.
Emo's used to be a very metal friendly place, with a giant, smelly pisstrough filled with cigarette butts in the bathroom and stickers with pictures of penises all over the walls. It was a wonderland! This new iteration of Emo's is an amazing place as well, but it feels perfectly foreign to us who have spend countless hours at the old location, where the audience could easily touch the performing band and were free to get kicked in the face by the performing band if you got too grabby. I've seen it! But now, Emo's has turned itself into a slicked up venue with hanging P.A. speakers and one of those fences in front of the stage, thus protecting the band from the audience and protecting the audience from fun. When I first came wandering in and simultaneously noticed how amazing the place looked and how uncomfortable I was in a place that isn't splattered with blood and urine.
It's a beautiful and confusing place, and it wasn't destined to stay blood free for too long.
I only got to hear the end of the first band, locals The Brigade, and was impressed with the fevered passion that they played despite the fact that there were maybe 20 people paying attention, with the rest of us clustered around the merch tables talking shit about each others t-shirts and slapping five all around. Many of us were getting done catching up when The Brigade finished up, and since I was busy talking about chocolate with Josh from Lions of Tsavo, I managed to keep from retaining anything about the first band other than the fact that their singer had a beard (I think). So far, the night was a smashing success.
Lions of Tsavo took the stage second, and played a set that could only be described as "crushing," and "horrible for epileptics," what with Emo's new stage lights. Boasting an interesting mix of Deathrash, doom, and Ulcerate/Neurosis-style angular dissonance, I managed to stave off seizures long enough to enjoy their set, and only swallowed my tongue once, and only partially, because I'm really bad with my esophagus after about two beers and a little dissonant skronk. Kill the Client was up next, and though they were inexplicably given 45 minutes to play (to quote Champ Morgan: "I think they wanted us to play every song we've ever written"), they played a solid 19 song set, so after 22 minutes of raw power, they were done, Morgan having conquered the moat by simply leaping over it. In the frantic kerfuffle that followed, somebody caught something to their face and proceeded to go get the bathroom into a state that more closely resembles an Emo's bathroom, splattering blood all over the floor and making it look like some kind of back alley abortion took place there. Now it's starting to feel like Emo's!
As an aside, I'd like to point out how much I admire Brian Fajardo, who is not only a whirlwind on the drums, but manages to play an entire set of blistering grind without changing his facial expression, which can only be described as "what any normal person looks like when they're reading a mildly interesting instructional manual." It's impressive.
Finally Dillinger took the stage, and their performance simultaneously reminded me why I love them and why I hate their other fans. It was hipster city in Emo's after Kill the Client finished up, and the band looked like the kings of the hipsters. The crowd was dancing to the beat, even though the beat is usually not a dancing beat, and when I say "dancing," I mean Dancing with the Stars dancing. The mosh pit was a flurry of elbows and surprisingly well-choreographed tango routines shared between men with deep V-neck shirts and boat shoes. Greg Puciato put on an amazing performance, full of acrobatics, crowd surfing, and cursing the Emo's moat, all of which he did while dressed like a stereotypical gay man. Guitars were flailing and flying, swinging to and fro and proving that Dillinger is one of the most entertaining live bands there is, and their reputation for being a group of whirling dervishes is quite well-deserved. They played my favorite songs ("43% Burnt" and "Milk Lizard") as well as some other stuff that I am pretty partial to, all things considered. As I skulked out of the venue and warned my buddy that I wasn't going to bail him out of jail for taking a piss on the wall of a carniceria, I was glad that I got to make it out, and though my disorientation with such a new and slick venue was unsettling, I felt a little better after some guy got blood everywhere and my friend pissed just outside as the show's crowd milled around Dillinger's tour bus.