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A killer night with The Dillinger Escape Plan at Webster Hall

The poster for The Dillinger Escape Plan's current tour.
The poster for The Dillinger Escape Plan's current tour.The Dillinger Escape Plan

On April 3, I went to see New Jersey-based mathcore/prog-metal band The Dillinger Escape Plan for the first time at Manhattan's Webster Hall. I’ve been familiar with their style of violent, grinding experimental rock since high school, so I was happy to see them perform it live. I also wanted to see another band that I’m familiar with: Retox, which features Justin Pearson from technical grind band The Locust.

The first act was Shining: a Norwegian four-piece that categorizes their sound as “blackjazz,” citing influences such as John Coltrane, Nine Inch Nails and Brad Paisley. As a result, their heavy sound has an industrial metal vibe, sounding more melodic than the other acts but still fittingly brutal. The lead singer also brought out a saxophone at several parts to bring together the jazz sound and making their brash music sound more distinct.

Up next was Retox: I’ve never seen any of Justin Pearson’s projects live before, so it was really exciting to see his latest noise-punk band. I’d consider Retox similar to The Locust, but more straightforward and less circuitous with their structures. Unlike his bug outfit for The Locust, Pearson sported a pompadour haircut, a black leather jacket, a white T-shirt that said “BAD LUCK” on the back, and tight jeans. He maintained his persona with a perpetual sneer, spitting frequently and not saying a word to the crowd between songs or even at the end, when he simply bowed to signal that it was over. At one point, there was a solo in which everyone but the guitarist paused and stared at the ground as he played an extremely bracing noise improv comparable to Japanese noise artists such as Merzbow or Incapacitants. After the show, I picked up Retox's newest record YPLL on clear vinyl.

I had never heard of the third band Trash Talk, but it’s an experience that I won’t soon forget: nothing could prepare me for that insanity. They’re a Sacremento, California-based hardcore punk/powerviolence band that takes their music incredibly seriously, to the point of demanding audience participation. Many people there were clearly more prepared than I, as they immediately spread out to create a pit that was roughly forty feet long. I’ve never seen so much violent moshing at a show, and since I wear glasses and didn’t want to get knocked out anyway, I sunk into the standing-still crowd around the perimeter. Vocalist Lee Spielman wasn’t happy about this, so he insisted that the moshers move toward the back to get the stiff crowd riled up. I stepped forward to please him... and promptly got knocked to the ground. Some others quickly rescued me, and my arms and leg were sore for a bit, but they got better: I was mostly annoyed to have to sit on the wet, sticky floor for a bit. At one point, they also insisted that everyone that brought weed would light up immediately.

Finally, it was time for The Dillinger Escape Plan, on tour to promote their latest album One of Us Is The Killer. They blasted through six songs from that album, including a mix of older favorites such as “Panasonic Youth” and “43% Burnt.” The crowd didn’t get as physical as they did for Trash Talk’s set, but everyone still got into their grinding math-rock insanity. To complete the aesthetics, they used lots of strobe lights and several projectors looping surreal black-and-white clips from various films. After the show, some people were handing out fliers for an "after-party" show in Brooklyn, where Retox would be playing again with hardcore band Violent Bulls***. I was already pretty exhausted, so I decided to skip it: maybe next time.