It’s incredibly difficult to say goodbye to a favorite band, particularly one with such longevity, quality, and influence as The Dillinger Escape Plan. It’s not an overstatement to say that Dillinger shaped not only my taste in music, but how I listen to, perceive, and think about music. It could even be posited that had I not discovered them and been intrigued enough by the mathematical noise and propensity towards the avant-garde, I may have never further explored extreme and experimental music and formed this very site.
There are very few constants in my revolving library of music from when I started Heavy Blog Is Heavy a little over eight years ago. Between 2007 – 2009, I was consuming music rapidly, as is the case for most teenagers. I had discovered new loves in Protest the Hero (Fortress), Between the Buried and Me (Colors), and Mastodon (Blood Mountain, Crack the Skye). I was breaking out of nu-metal and entry-level metalcore like All That Remains and Killswitch Engage. I believe that one of the things that kickstarted this rapid consumption was discovering The Dillinger Escape Plan through metalcore circles and being astounded by their technicality and thoughtful arrangement of chaos.
My very first taste of The Dillinger Escape Plan was their EP with Mike Patton, Irony Is A Dead Scene, which was a weird place to start, but I was previously a fan of Mike Patton’s work with Faith No More and was curious with how he would sound in the context of extreme music (let’s ignore his work with Zorn and Fantomas, okay? I was a naive summer child). The music on display was so bizarre and off-putting, but challenged me to listen further. Then, I heard the promotional single “Fix Your Face” from a yet-to-be released Ire Works on the band’s MySpace page before visiting Miss Machine for the first time.
From there, I was hooked. I learned to appreciate rhythm over melody, embrace chaos, and understand how time worked in music, and because I had worked so hard to “get it,” I became more deeply passionate about Dillinger than any other band previous. The only band to touch my love of Dillinger was Between the Buried and Me once I finally understood Colors in 2009 — I was late to many trains, as you might have known — but as much as I am a fan of Between the Buried and Me, I admit that their catalogue is not as consistent as Dillinger’s, nor are they as innovative to extreme metal at large.
Few bands are as important to metal today as The Dillinger Escape Plan, and as of around 11:30 PM on December 29th, 2017, they’re fucking gone.
This Feels Like Neverending
The final shows were announced in August of 2018, and were slated for just days after Christmas. I originally had no plan on attending, as my rural midwest / southeast lifestyle has instilled a certain sense of learned helplessness insofar as doing important things like this. A nonstop drive from my home in Eastern Kentucky to Terminal 5 in New York City is 632 miles, about 10 hours deep. A flight would be a must, and that would cost roughly 400 dollars, in addition to hotel and expenses. As a married father of two, I knew money would be tight, especially immediately following the holidays. After all is said and done, it would cost an easy grand easy to attend. I mentally shut out the possibility of attendance.
It was painful. In my decade of die-hard DEP fandom, I had only managed to catch Dillinger once in Covington, KY with The Faceless during the One of Us is The Killer cycle. They were always either too far away or I had another engagement. And besides, Dillinger would always be there, right?
The final show went on sale and sold out within seconds, and I had initially doubled-down on my “aww shucks” mentality and clung to my copy of Dissociation as my last chance at a meaningful goodbye. Then, another show was announced and stayed available for several hours. I grew anxious, and in a moment of weakness, I bought a ticket. Call it insurance. Call it hope. Call it naivete. But I bought one without a plan to follow. Besides, if it didn’t work out, I could easily resell it. Then a third show was announced, and I bought one of those too.
Fortunately, with the encouragement and blessing of my fellow-editor Eden and my wife Angel, I made travel plans. And through a series of fortunate circumstances, I was able to come into possession of a ticket for the final night. Without Eden and Angel, I would not have been able to witness the dissolution of the best live band on the planet in person.
Truth be told, the whole ordeal made me anxious, from conception of the trip to the current drafting and reflection. It was as if participating in the process of Dillinger’s end made it become real, as if burying my head in the sand and playing a passive role would have made a difference. I was disengaged from the process until December 26th when I began to pack, and it began to set in.
A sleepless night, a two hour drive to the closest air port, and two plane flights later, I was in New York City.
And I Hate Long Goodbyes Anyway: DECEMBER 27, 2017
Set One: Irony Is A Dead Scene
Hollywood Squares / When Good Dogs Do Bad Things / Pig Latin / Come To Daddy (Aphex Twin cover / Malpractice (Faith No More cover)
Within the final run of shows, what I was most looking forward to was the special Irony Is A Dead Scene set with Mike Patton. As mentioned previously, this EP was instrumental in developing my listening habits and music taste, and I hold it very near and dear to my heart. This was the must-see event that made the travel and expense absolutely worth it; I had seen Dillinger before, but Mike Patton — the LEGEND himself — had always eluded me. And it did not disappoint.
The reality of the situation set in when Mike and two crew members took the darkened stage to assemble and test a vocal effects console. Mike’s age is starting to show; the glasses and salt-and-pepper hair solidifies a certain aesthetic that only supports his status as a legend. Some bootleg videos can be found online of the Irony tour from 2002, and it appears Mike used a similar set-up then as he would this night; a pedalboard of sorts complete with various effects and a handset so Mike can recreate the strange distortions, delays, and reverb effects that are heard across the EP. They were going to do it right.
The band took the stage and without much fuss, tore through “Hollywood Squares,” just as potent as it ever was. The band and crowd were as expected; frenetic in momentum against a backdrop of noisy guitars, howls, and a strobing light show. During “When Good Dogs Do Bad Things,” former guitarist Brian Benoit (who performed with Dillinger up until the Miss Machine cycle) reunited with the band on stage for the duration of the Irony set for a nice reunion to make the evening more sentimental.
Truth be told, the Irony set wasn’t perfect. Mike Patton forgot or omitted lyrics and missed rhythms. The clean guitar melody in “Pig Latin” was inaudible. But it didn’t matter; the sheer magnitude of the event precluded any expectation of pitch-perfect recital. Mike Patton was before us, screeching “chinga!” into a microphone, and that’s all that mattered. It was glorious despite missing lines or inconsistent mixing, because we were witnessing something special as a one-time event as a band performed a set of songs for the first time in over a decade, and the last time ever.
Following a triumphant and dizzying performance of “Come To Daddy,” the band ended the Patton set with a faithful rendition of Faith No More’s “Malpractice,” one of the most fitting tracks Dillinger could have picked for a cover, and it sounded massive, and with Faith No More’s status perpetually in question, seeing Mike Patton perform the track was an unexpected treat worthy of admission by itself.
As the set came to a close, the crowd roared with applause and chants of “Thank you, Mike!” as the man himself reciprocated with a nod and a wave. It was more than a little bit emotional, as it was never more real than in this moment that this was never going to happen again, and we got to see it happen.
Panasonic Youth / Destro’s Secret / Setting Fire To Sleeping Giants / Surrogate / Sugar Coated Sour / Weekend Sex Change / Hero of the Soviet Union / Dead As History / Fix Your Face / Farewell, Mona Lisa / When I Lost My Bet // Limerent Death / Sunshine The Werewolf
After a wait that felt like another twenty years, the venue lights dimmed to roars from the crowd. The stage lights pulsated to surging bass drops. The band took the stage for their second set of the night with longtime vocalist Greg Puciato donning a Santa hat, wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year before quoting Die Hard — “Now I have a machine gun!” — and taking perch on the barrier in front of the stage. The band tore into “Panasonic Youth” and it was on. It took mere seconds for bodies to start piling on top of each other. A fitting beginning to the end as any.
Their stage presence, as always, was a sight to behold. Greg, still in Santa hat, thrusting the mic stand into the sky; Ben and Kevin thrashing around the stage; bassist Liam Wilson rocking in his groove; Billy Rhymer cementing his status as one of the best active drummers in metal. They were present and energetic, as was the crowd. It was clear early on that they weren’t going to phone in these final performances, and made several acknowledgements across the weekend to those who flew in from all over the world to attend. Greg made jokes to the other members about how cool the night was, and at one point asked Liam if he’d be coming back tomorrow.
Night One’s set was diverse, yet energetic. Old favorites like “Destro’s Secret” and “Sugar Coated Sour” kept the pace up and kept people moving. “Setting Fire To Sleeping Giants” was a nice touch that provided the rare extended singalong party considering the tracks to follow. Tracks like “Hero of the Soviet Union” and my personal favorite “Fix Your Face” were nice surprises outside of the obvious that kept things exciting and did their part to bring the venue crumbling to the ground. “Dead As History” would provide a mid-to-late-set emotional respite from the constant motion and violence with its slower, melodic nature that drew attention to the finality of the week.
The one-two punch of “Farewell, Mona Lisa” and “When I Lost My Bet” brought the pace back up with bodies once again rushing forward, with the latter’s angst-ridden start/stop rhythms synced to strobes providing one of the highlights of the weekend and served as a stopping point before the encore.
Dillinger left the stage and chants of “DILL/IN/GER!” filled the room for a few moments before original vocalist Dimitri Minakakis walked up to greet the crowd.
“I used to sing for this shit show, so…”
Dimitri told a joke at sole remaining founding member Ben Weinman’s expense — “What do you call a monkey with a PhD? Ben Weinman. There you go.” — and introduced Ben’s parents, who were sitting on the second floor balcony. He thanked the crowd for coming, and left.
The band returned for “Limerent Death” and “Sunshine the Werewolf”, the most destructive songs of the night as the band showed no signs of slowing down; Weinman himself made several leaps from his equipment, and during the bridge of “Sunshine,” Greg climbed the rails of the second story, slammed a fan’s beer, and leaped into the crowd for the song’s climax. It was thrilling to see Greg make the leap in person, and I’m sure that every Dillinger fan that wasn’t there that night has already seen photos of Greg hanging in the air. It was such an iconic moment, and I feel blessed to have seen it happen within feet of where I was standing.
The chaos of “Sunshine” roared to a close, and Ben threw a chair into the crowd and climbed on top, held by the crowd. Greg plead the crowd to, “remember what you saw here tonight. Remember what you saw for the last 20 fucking years.” Ben looked around at the crowd nearly in tears, threw his guitar to security, and flipped from the chair into the audience.
It was an emotional end to the first night in a series of sure to be emotional shows. Hearing the fans chanting, exhausted and hungry, with Greg’s pleas for remembrance and Ben visibly struggling with the ending unfolding before him — in addition to the Irony performance with Patton — made it a heavy experience, and worth the price of admission and travel for the closure of night one alone. And there were still two shows left.
The second half of the retrospective for the final Dillinger shows will be posted next week. In the mean time, binge bootleg videos, cradle your music collection, and keep crying bitter tears.