Aveo – Seattle – Experience Music Project, WA – 2002-02-23

Where: Seattle – Experience Music Project, WA.

When: 2002-02-23

There’s something to be said about creating moments. It’s hard, that’s for sure, and when they don’t work out (see: any late Steven Spielberg film), the results are completely ersatz. In the same vein, the people that work the lights at the Seattle’s EMP simply try to create moments out of the music. Pictures of lightning during moments of tension during The Plan isn’t cool. It’s cheesy.

The Experience Music Project was gracious enough to host the opening show of the Death and Dismemberment Tour, featuring Death Cab for Cutie and The Dismemberment Plan, and taking point for the west coast half of the tour was Aveo. Aveo opened the show with an energetic albeit boring presentation. The problem with being in a band with music that lives on the same block as the rest of the indie rock is that you have to put lawn flamingoes in your yard to get noticed. Which is not to say that Aveo puts together altogether run-of-the-mill music; they have a distinct sound, but it tends to echo quite a few other bands (see: The Smiths, The Cure, Radiohead, etc.) while not having a particularly moving cast of characters on stage to entertain. In any case, some music is made to be performed live, some is better enjoyed holed up in your dark, dank room for the 25th day in a row.

With the type of music The Dismemberment Plan has grown into, it’s easy to be performers during the set and to mean it. That rolling lust that has Travis Morrison gyrating his hips all sleazy-like alone is a raison d’etre. The Plan showed up with the same bag of tricks as usual, save for the material from Change, and wooed the crowd into a gentle rhythmic sway. Right when things started to align, though, the light fools at the EMP decided to ignite the stage with a five-pointed ray of light shooting out of little spheres at the back of the stage. Now, just imagine as you slide your head into that bang-your-head-against-the-wall motion, that the aformentioned ray of light shoots from the head of drummer Joe Easley and makes him look exactly like Jesus. There – the forced moment, more than anything else, was distracting.

The Plan’s performance didn’t suffer from any of these distractions (including someone yelling out a request for “Track 3”), and it’s probably a bit unnecessary to quibble about lights and annoying crowds. The band played a proper mix of old and new and ended with some impromptu (or so it seemed) Jay-Z and Tomorrow (from Annie) lyrics that were enjoyable for the kitsch. Despite the vocals suffering a bit with the lack of harmonizing overdubs and the sound being a little off during a few of the songs with synth, The Plan played a decent show while by far not their best. The crowd’s participation was more obnoxious than anything else, which can alter a performance a thousandfold.

The show went on as Death Cab for Cutie took the stage. Death Cab has never really done it for me live, executing some tight (which used to be not-so-tight mainly due to the drums dragging when Michael Schorr first joined the group) performances with a good amount of energy despite lackluster results in the overall entertainment aspect. With this particular performance being filmed for an upcoming documentary of the band, the boys were pretty on, but they seemed a little nervous and – here it comes again – unnatural. Things seemed a little bit forced at times.

You might have noticed that The Photo Album is quite a bit different from Death Cab’s earlier albums. One of the primary divergences is the lack of subtlety that the music starts to show. The literary style still exists, and some of it works very well, but for some reason, the blatant lyrics and forwardness of certain songs (“Why You’d Want to Live Here,” “Styrofoam Plates”) simply doesn’t translate well to live shows. Admittedly, they didn’t play the latter, but the former was played and the energy they put into that was admirable. The highlight of their set, though, lived in the same highlights of the album – where there was conflict that leaked but didn’t pour.

The live version of “Blacking Out the Friction” takes on a more somber persona and adds a Joy Division homage near the end, making use of the same enormous and genuine sense of strain and catharsis that is heard on other of their slow-core opuses (“Song for Kelly Huckaby,” “Prove My Hypotheses”). Right there, these were points the selling points for the business at hand. The venue, however, seemed to be sucking some sense of community from the band and the fans. It didn’t help that some kid kept yelling SDRE out for some reason. Chris joked that the kid was speaking an alien language (esdiaria), and the kid got really sore about it and yelled, “SUNNY DAY FUCKING REAL ESTATE, GAWD!”

Being entirely too fastidious for my own good, the show filled my expectations as much as it could have, given the circumstances: everyone knows when you’re trying too hard, and half the people at the show were doing just that. That coercion was an epidemic that spread through the area and diminished some of what could have been so much better. Thankfully, the bands were better than that, and the insurance paid off, while not even being remotely accidental.