The Dillinger Escape Plan, A Life Once Lost and Genghis Tron at Headliners in Louisville
Live shows are always about taking the good with the bad. December 6th at Headliners Music Hall in Louisville, KY would be no different. The bad things: Severely insufficient parking, The long, seemingly endless line to the door in the blustery cold, outrageous alcohol prices, fans trying to scream through their cell phone rather than taking in the performances, young couples bickering and opinionated Machine Head fans. This is all normal. Fortunately the bands came through in spades. A toasty venue, responsive bartenders, and expedient band crews didn’t hurt matters either.
Genghis Tron stepped meekly onto the stage, opening with droney, cyclical soundscapes that recalled the oppressive Moog synths used in A Clockwork Orange. Any confusion on the crowd’s part was short lived as vocalist Mookie Singerman launched into one of the most unhinged and ferocious vocal assaults of the evening, sounding like a hybrid of Jacob Bannon (Converge) and an irate, all-screaming all-hating Darryl Pulumbo (GlassJaw). The band's opening track (presumably “Board up the House” from the forthcoming album of the same name) was nothing short of mesmerizing. Even attendees who had never heard of the band were transfixed. Guitarist Hamilton Jordan and Keyboardist/drum programmer Michael Sochynsky added chaos to the fury with violent rhythms and tempos shifts all too appropriate for an audience primed for the Dillinger Escape Plan. Though the band played with a drum machine backing them, one would never have guessed it. The drums, though perhaps a bit fixed sounding, were clear, powerful and bursting with personality. Of the three bands that would play this evening, Genghis Tron would sound most like their studio recordings with the added live punch to make it a truly gripping experience.
Strong performances were not in short supply this evening, however. A Life Once Lost sprung to the stage with a tenacious, bordering on hungry fervor. Channeling Pantera’s groove metal vibe via Unearth’s metalcore bombast, A Life Once Lost had little trouble conjuring a massive front and center pit that would percolate throughout the set. Though they were the most straight forward band on the bill, A Life Once Lost brought a fervor that would leave few bored or distracted. The band borrowed generously from fan favorite album "Hunter" but made room for new cuts from "Iron Gag." Proven tracks from "A Great Artist" were in evidence as well. A warning to fans contemplating this tour--A Life Once Lost play loud, as in Ministry loud. Whether this was due to acoustics, or sound issues (the din of the guitars and cymbals often smothered the vocals). The band truly took this one up to 11. I blame a Life Once Lost for the ear ringing that would plague me for three days.
A brief respite was allowed after A Life Once Lost for ears to recover, and drinks to be consumed. The Dillinger Escape Plan didn’t keep their fans waiting long though. After a quick and even entertaining soundcheck, Dillinger marched onto the stage with a purposeful confidence. The moment every band member had collected their instrument, the band tore into "Miss Machine" opener “Panasonic Youth”. Henry Rollins-like vocalist Greg Puciato was in rare form. Though not jogging across the heads and shoulders of the audience (there is amazing Youtube footage of this), both his vocal and physical presence dominated the proceedings. Despite a very enclosed stage, the rest of the band managed to thrash and flail about while playing note for note. The audience responded by surging toward the stage in a tangled mass of limbs, eventually parting to become a pit that would remain open and active for the remainder of the evening. Dillinger added fuel to the fire, with seizure-inducing cuts like classics “43% Burnt” and “Sugarcoated Sour” as well as “Fix Your Face” from the new album, "Ire Works." Making time for the crowd to catch their breath, the band played the eerie instrumental “When Acting as a Particle” midway through the set. It was during and after this relatively mild moment that I got the sense that the instruments weren’t mixing properly. Gil Sharone’s (a fantastic replacement for the god-like Chris Pennie) drums and Greg Puciatos vocals were too high in the mix. While Ben Weinman and Jeff Tutle (guitars) and Liam Wilson (bass) seemed a notch down. The mix wasn’t terrible, just noticeable. It was clear that the band made a calculated decision to avoid the full on melody of songs like “Black Bubblegum” and “Unretrofied”, opting instead for cuts like “Milk Lizard” and “Setting Fire to Sleeping Giants”, which boast catchy choruses but gatling gun instrumentation. Having injected multiple songs from every album, even “When Good Dogs do Bad Things” from the "Irony is a Dead Scene" EP, The band closed with the furious fan favorite “Sunshine the Werewolf.”
I would strongly recommend this tour if you are a fan of any or all of the bands. Those interested in checking out the band for a first time would be well served too. Convulsive, high energy performances aren’t a rare thing but few do it better than Dillinger. As far as support acts go, Genghis Tron and A Life Once Lost delivered 110%. Hopefully the soundman will have his act together or other venues will have more forgiving acoustics. Still, it was easily the best show I’ve seen in 2 years.
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