with Dismemberment Plan and Polecat
The Breakroom, Seattle, WA • April 21, 1999
Walking into the Breakroom early on a Wednesday usually means no people and a few quiet beers. This Wednesday, I walked into an impressive early evening turnout for local band Polecat, who captured me immediately with their almost emo dynamics. I had heard them on CD previously, but I hadn’t been too impressed. Obviously this band lives for live.
After their drum-crush-bass-grinning assault came Dismemberment Plan, a psychotic spastic rock outfit from Washington, DC. There must be something in that East Coast water supply or something, because every band I’ve seen has this real twitchy jerking stage presence. Regardless of the style of music, the singers always seem to be in the middle of an epileptic seizure for at least one song out of each set. The crowd was growing, and while I personally preferred Polecat, Dismemberment Plan did set a fine stage for the reason I was there… Burning Airlines.
The trio took the stage and filled the now-packed club with the sound usually reserved for bands of four or five. Peter Moffet pounding away on the drums like some escaped convict, Mike, who was Jawbox’s roadie for years, off to the side, casually keeping a steady bass line swimming through the melodics, and of course, J. Robbins spiking the atmosphere with a strong voice and guitar licks that kill. Sticking mostly to material from their Mission: Control! album on DeSoto Records, they also threw out a few tunes that I hadn’t heard before. I was lost in the songs as soon as they sounds hit me. I didn’t need to know them to love them.
Most of the crowd seemed to be waiting for the college radio hit, “The Escape Engine,” which got played fairly early in the evening. J. Robbins thanks the opening bands, with a smile, and yells, “Remember, DC’s in the house tonight!” and they crash, not burn, fueling the energy, back into song. Something about the vocals always seems to hint at a Psychedelic Furs sensibility, but maybe I’m just crazy. Burning Airlines do NOT sound like the Psychedelic Furs, it’s just that sometimes there’s that British pop edge that slips through the post punk emo hardcore rock-and-roll glass edge sharpness. The sound at the Breakroom seemed to accentuate the vocals and drums, but that only served to improve the dynamics when the rock started to roll and the guitar flew alone.
There wasn’t much chatter between songs, and I missed the indie rock spoken word chaos of “my pornograph” (“ovular isn’t even a word!”), but there weren’t any broken strings or awkward moments either. The show was straight through and right on. Burning Airlines held the stage like members of the ruling class, and they knew it. We were, as an audience, in their power, but they were benevolent, thanking us for being there, for being the audience, and they played their best for us, as we listened and enjoyed our best… for them.