Desoto Records Showcase
featuring the Dismemberment Plan, Burning Airlines, Black Beetle, and the Eternals
NYU Thompson Center, New York City, NY • October 20, 2000
Having run into problems getting into venues due to overcrowding on the first night of CMJ, I grudgingly decided to forego any other shows the second night in order to ensure I wouldn’t miss one of my absolutely-must-see bands, the Dismemberment Plan, who were “headlining” the Desoto Showcase at the Thompson Center. While that ended up being a non-issue (as it turned out, Thompson Center was the only venue all week to give preferential treatment to people with the outrageously expensive badges, other venues choosing to leave those people in the cold and take additional money from walk-up concert-goers, instead), I didn’t regret my decision, as I enjoyed most of the rest of the show, despite the fatigue I felt after two days of walking and two nights of next-to-no sleep, and despite little-to-no knowledge of the other bands on the bill (something I intend to change). Moreover, even if I’d hated the rest of the bill, the Dismemberment Plan would have been well worth the wait.
The lone exception to the rule was the Eternals. While I appreciated the fact that they were trying to do something a little different that the other bands on the bill (all of whom played some derivation of indie rock), and they were obviously very good at what the did, it just wasn’t doing anything for me. Perhaps it didn’t help that their jazzy music was somewhat sleepy, and I was already very tired, but frankly, they had me dozing within a few minutes.
Black Beetle were the evening’s only act not on Desoto. An “indie supergroup” (to quote their Web site), Black Beetle are largely made up of people that were in some way affiliated with the late Jeff Buckley. Singer/guitarist/violinist Joan Wasser (ex- of the Dambuilders) was Buckley’s girlfriend, while vocalist/guitarist Michael Tighe and drummer Parker Kindred were members of Buckley’s band. Ex-Lounge Lizard Oren Bloedow completes the band, and while they didn’t remind me all that much of Buckley, they do share a certain ethereal quality. Mostly, though, I just liked the interplay of male and female voices and the non-traditional use of the violin. They were very good, and I’d definitely be interested in hearing more.
Burning Airlines were everytthing you’d expect from J. Robbins and crew. While not familiar with much of BA’s music, I do know Robbins both as a producer and as an ex-member of Jawbox, and assumed that Burning Airlines would be extremely capable of putting on a good show. I wasn’t disappointed, as their energetic, raw set had me on my feet for the first time that evening. An excellent set that served to wake me up and get my blood pumping for the Plan.
True to my expectations, the Dismemberment Plan proved to be nothing short of a revelation! I’d been tipped to expect a lot of new material in their set, but thanks to the show starting a bit late, the DP had a shorter set than expected, and thus chose to stick with more well-known songs, largely drawing from their last album, Emergency & I. The crowd was instantly on their feet, dancing and singing in unison, and I was no exception, my weariness gone as I shouted along to songs like “A Life of Possibilities,” “Gyroscope,” and “Spider in the Snow.” Everyone even seemed to know comparitively obscure songs like “The Dismemberment Plan Gets Rich!” (at the time only available on an import seven-inch, though it’ll be on their next full-length), and new material like “Superhero” and “Time Bomb” was well-received. The band was amazingly kinetic, frontman Travis Morrison singing with his hands as often as he’d play his guitar, and the other band members switching instruments at the drop of a hat. The mood was nothing short of celebratory; the rapport between band and audience, magical.
Unfortunately, it did have to come to an end, and more quickly than anyone hoped. Thompson Center seems to be some kind of Christian center on the NYU campus and, as such, was probably the only venue at CMJ that had a strict curfew on when the performance had to end (on the plus side, though, it was the only venue all week that didn’t allow smoking or drinking — a nice change!). While the Plan were slated for an hour, they actually only got about forty-five minutes. Travis called to the crowd to choose the last song, and popular opinion went with the driving “What Do You Want Me to Say?,” a rousing close to an exciting night.I walked out giddy with excitement, eager to share the evening’s magic with friends, and desperate to see the Plan again. After two nights, the entertainment at CMJ was batting 1000. Could it continue?