The audience stepped out of its funk to greet local heroes Proudentall with open arms. After shuffling through several lineups and musical moods, the group seems to have decided on a solid ensemble. Still, technical problems always seem to plague the band. After its first song, bassist Billy Ning broke a string, which led to a very uncomfortable jamming session that eventually evolved into a 20-minute interlude that brought the band's momentum to a virtual standstill. However, Proudentall recovered and started charging through songs from its newly released CD, What's Happening Here. The highlight of the show occurred when the group broke into an unnamed new song that started with a hook from a Lionel Richie song. Singer Matt Dunehoo gazed into the crowd, then asked, "Hello? Is it me you're looking for?" The song swiftly shifted directions and turned into a chaotic yet focused battle. The band wasn't especially engaged in the crowd or in its set, but an off night for Proudentall is the best of nights for many bands.
The crowd seemed to clear out a bit after Proudentall's show, and those who remained seemed to be Dismemberment Plan virgins. This was understandable, as the last time the group stopped through town (late 1998 at the Replay Lounge), there were about 20 fans in attendance. On this night, there were about 200 wide-eye people milling about The Bottleneck, filling the club with a sense of curious expectation as they waited for a group most knew by name or by recorded material only. The Dismemberment Plan did more than re-create the songs from its album -- it reanimated them like some sort of Dr. Frankenstein monster, plumping them up with enough hyperactivity, sweat, and charge to make even the most skeptical concertgoer begin to take notice. The band started its set with the opening track from the Emergency and I record, "A Life Of Possibilities," which provided an ideal showcase for the Dismemberment Plan to demonstrate how it can combine guitar, drums, and keyboards in a strange, unique, and truly beautiful fashion. When the group slowed down quickly toward the dynamic bridge of the song, the club became totally silent in anticipation of the distortion-heavy ending. The band continued through a strong set, focusing mainly on songs from Emergency and I but also including older selections and a new song from an upcoming seven-inch titled "The Dismemberment Plan Gets Rich." This moan-along pop anthem, which featured goofy keyboard-created horns and an insane drum beat, was quite beyond the realm of the describable. Shaking off any possible categorizations, the Dismemberment Plan does the macarena through a library full of prog-rock dorks right before driving through the hip-hop-listening ghetto while blasting AC/DC and wearing Jawbox T-shirts. Its live show is equally disorienting, as its members switch instruments incessantly while frontman Travis Morrison occasionally spazzes out like a hyperactive child. At other times, he held the room captive with a sparse and sarcastic "You are invited." Finally, the band ripped through one last song, a crazy jumble that had the musicians jumping all over the stage as if they had pests scrambling up their pantlegs. Morrison quoted Juvenile's "Back That Azz Up" before unleashing a spastic screaming fit that solidified this as one of the most charismatic breakdowns in recent memory. The expressions on the faces of the exiting fans, who broke into a cathartic frenzy during the closing tune, validated what those in the know have been swearing by for some time: It's nearly impossible to walk out of a Dismemberment Plan show feeling unsatisfied.