The Dillinger Escape Plan, O’Brother, Cult Leader, Entheos
White Oak Music Hall
November 6, 2016
Sheer unpredictability has always been a hallmark of Dillinger Escape Plan shows. You never quite know when one of the band members might leap from a balcony, eat a fan’s cheeseburger or even hurl his own waste into the crowd. Sure, usually they put on a relatively normal, if intensely frenetic, performance. But sometimes they get weird and dangerous. And now that it’s been announced that they’re breaking up at the end of their current tour, there’s virtually no telling how far they’ll go before the final curtain drops.
A large, juiced-up crowd turned out at White Oak Music Hall on Sunday in an attempt to find out. Some of them, surely, were there to see DEP for the first time, but the majority of the audience had the look of longtime scene veterans. One gets the sense that, just as Dillinger Escape Plan is threatening to age past being able to reliably deliver the sort of odd-time mayhem that they’re known for, their fans are starting to slow down a little, too. A lot of those one-time “hardcore kids” have mortgages and health insurance. Some of them brought their kids to the show. Young or old, though, everyone in attendance was visibly excited for one more go-round with the Massachusetts mathcore monsters.
First, there was the small matter of the openers. When snappy, angular metal band Entheos went on at 8 p.m., the Music Hall’s large room was almost full already. It was heady, challenging material, and quite brutal to boot. The excruciatingly heavy metalcore act Cult Leader continued the guttural crunch up next, followed by O’Brother, the post-alternative (coined!) group from Atlanta that gave the audience a blessed reprieve from the violent china-cymbal mauling.
It was a solid undercard that was well-received. In truth, they had to be damn good simply to avoid being blown offstage by the headliner. Once the lights went down and the strange, ambient noises went up for Dillinger’s set, everybody forgot all about how cool Entheos’s bassist sounded and what interesting harmonies O’Brother was cranking out and started worrying about getting moshed on.
If DEP is feeling sentimental on this last trek across the country, it didn’t show on Sunday night. There wasn’t much stage banter; no stories about past trips through Texas or partying with Dimebag Darrell. They probably needed to conserve their breath just to survive playing a marathon set through their eye-twitching back catalog.
New single “Limerant Death” opened their show, lit blindingly by the band’s copious strobes. The fans were happy to see them, certainly, whipping up a pit in no time. But things picked up speed in a hurry for 2004’s “Panasonic Youth” next, and they didn’t slow down much afterwards. Dillinger seemed determined to play everybody’s favorite song (mine, “Sugar Coated Sour,” arrived in the first 30 minutes) since they aren’t likely ever to play most of them again — nowhere near Houston, anyways. Some fans leaped off the stage, some slammed and swung into each other, and some just crushed in as close as they could to singer Greg Puciato, hoping to get a turn to scream into the mike.
It was mayhem, but the carefully orchestrated kind. DEP did not arrive in town looking to prove something or to go out with a bang. They simply played all their best shit and screamed and played their guts out under the seizure-inducing lights, and that was plenty. Guitarist Ben Weinman, as usual, stole the show with his guitar twirling and pirouetting, somehow seeming to never miss a note.
“43% Burnt,” the group’s most legendary tune, was saved for last, and most of the crowd climbed onstage to help them crank it out. The band members were mobbed, naturally, but they seemed to enjoy themselves the most amidst the craziness. DEP has always been at their live best when there’s a real danger something could go terribly wrong, and Sunday night was no exception. But nothing did go wrong. It couldn’t. DEP’s legend is made, and they knew that coming into town. All they had to do was show up, one final time. We’ll miss ’em.
Personal Bias: 43 percent exhausted.
The Crowd: Not as spry as we used to be.
Overheard in the Crowd: “I think something’s in this beer.”
Random Notebook Dump: White Oak Music Hall is the prettiest venue in town, but there was a severe shortage of rafters for climbing on Sunday.