Review: The Dismemberment Plan takes Union Transfer on a time machine to the 90s

Dismemberment plan | Photo by Jennifer Brady | photos by Jennifer Brady |

When The Dismemberment Plan formed in 1993 (in Washington, D.C., as frontman Travis Morrison is fond of constantly reminding us), who knew that choosing a band name based on a throwaway line in Groundhog Day would prove so apt? Twenty years later, with almost a decade of downtime intervening, the foursome arrived at Union Transfer sounding like not a day had passed.

Other than the new songs from their latest, poppiest album, Uncanney Valley, the set was a time machine to the late ‘90s, down to the spastic, arms-crossed dance moves of the audience. A great deal of that is down to the fact that Morrison retains his quirky, boyish charm; after the first three songs on Saturday, he stepped to the microphone to announce that he’d just discovered his fly was down – and was slightly disappointed that no one had noticed.

While it touched on each of their five releases, the 19-song set was dominated by tunes – seven apiece – from the new album and from 1999’s Emergency & I, which remains the band’s defining moment. Live, the songs from Emergency – the tense, stuttering “Girl O’Clock,” the surreal anthem “You Are Invited,” or the stirring, swelling “What Do You Want Me To Say?” – spotlight the locked-in ferocity of the rhythm section, especially drummer Joe Easley’s taut, eccentric grooves.

With the intimacy of the half-full Union Transfer, the band quickly established a goofy rapport with their assembled fans, whether polling the crowd for jokes or reminiscing about their last local appearance during a brutal “snowpocalypse.” The communion came to a head during their three-song encore, when the stage was flooded with fans bouncing along to “The Ice of Boston,” leaving bassist Eric Axelson relieved that the stage didn’t collapse before the evening concluded with “OK, Joke’s Over.”


Tonight’s Concert Picks: XPN Welcomes The Dismemberment Plan at Union Transfer, XPN Welcomes Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside at North Star Bar and more

Photo by Shervin Lainez
Photo by Shervin Lainez

XPN welcomes The Dismemberment Plan to Union Transfer tonight.  The D.C. indie rock band’s latest record Uncanney Valley dropped in October, ending a twelve year recording break that allowed band members to explore other interests.  The broadened horizons are audible on the record, which stretches it’s influences from Jackson Browne to R&B.  Tickets and information for tonight’s show with Yellow Ostrich can be found here.  Below, watch The Dismemberment Plan perform “The City” live in D.C.

XPN welcomes Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside to the North Star Bar.  Ford and her band of retro rockers have been in town a few times lately, performing a late night set at May’s Non-COMMvention and making a stop at Milkboy in July.  During her last stay in Philly, Ford recorded a video of “Roll Around” with Out of Town Films on Quince Street.  Watch the video below. Tickets and information for tonight’s 21+ show with Mount Moriah and Pine Barons can be found here.

Also Playing:

Big Freedia at Underground Arts (8:00 p.m., 21+, $14)

Tom Rush at World Cafe Live (6:00 p.m., all ages, $30)


Stream the long awaited new Dismemberment Plan album, Uncanney Valley (XPN Welcomes the band to Union Transfer on 11/3)

Photo by Shervin Lainez
Photo by Shervin Lainez
After a 12 year recording hiatus, the Washington D.C. band The Dismemberment Plan release their new album, Uncanney Valley on Tuesday, October 15th. While lead singer Travis Morrison and his band mates pursued careers outside of rock and roll, the band did a show at the Roots’ picnic in June, 2011 during which bassist Eric Axelson told me, “Everyone’s pretty open to whatever happens,” when asked what the future for the band looked like. At the time Axelson said, “if we write, it’ll be fun, but we don’t want to force it.” Clearly not forced, the long wait for new D-Plan music is over with the release of their new album.

Stephen Thompson of NPR Music says Uncanney Valley “finds the band comfortably wearing its most playful face yet. Throughout the album, Morrison remains a wryly funny, deadpan-candid craftsman where words are concerned, while the band backs him with alternately loose and jittery arrangements.”

Listen to Uncanney Valley in its entirety here.

WXPN Welcomes The D-Plan to Union Transfer on Sunday, November 3rd. Go here for tickets.


Listen to The Dismemberment Plan’s new song “Daddy Was a Real Good Dancer” (playing Union Transfer on 11/3)


The Dismemberment Plan have shared another new song off of their upcoming new album, this time with “Daddy Was a Real Good Dancer.”  Compared to its August counterpart “Invisible,” this new track is upbeat and rocking with roadhouse undertones.  The variation in sound on the new album, called Uncanny Valley, is likely a result of the band’s hiatus during the years between 2003 and 2010.  The time off and apart let the The Washington, DC natives explore their own interests outside of music and brought new experiences to the collaboration when it was time to record Valley.  The Dismemberment Plan will play Union Transfer on November 3rd; tickets and information can be found here.  Listen to “Daddy Was a Real Good Dancer” below.


Listen to “Invisible,” a new single from The Dismemberment Plan (playing Union Transfer on 11/3)

dismembermentplan-1374511628For a return to the public ear, the new music we’ve been hearing from The Dismemberment Plan like the guys haven’t missed a beat in their near-deade hiatus. The new single “Invisible”, released today, begins on a warped violin sample – a minor key scale ascends, and loops to intense effect as Travis Morrison sings a verse overtop. The drums and guitars barrel in, and it kicks into classic DisPlan mode: a little bit askew, very poppy on the refrain, a first-person observational perspective, the stream of consciousness thoughts of a hyper-introvert: “Yeah, that’s me. Of course it gets a little lonely. One day I’m gonna find my groove.” Listen to it below. The Dismemberment Plan plays Union Transfer on Nov. 3; tickets and information can be found here.


Cult fave experimental punks The Dismemberment Plan will play Union Transfer 11/3 (watch video of them at Roots Picnic in 2011)

dismemberment plan

The Dismemberment Plan have been around on-and-off since the early 90s.  The group broke up in 2003 after releasing four solid albums, but it reunited back in 2011 and announced plans to release its first album in ten years, Uncanny Valley, on October 15th.  Known for their high-energy shows and their punk-tinged experimental rock sound, their latest single, “Waiting” shows that they haven’t lost any of that energy in the past decade.  The single is an upbeat danceable rock song, spattered with electronic bleeps.  Check out the single below, watch video of them performing at the Roots Picnic in 2011 and be sure to catch them at Union Transfer November 3rd.


Watch videos from Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros and The Dismemberment Plan from the Roots Picnic

Earlier this month at the Roots Picnic, our friends from Philadelphia Music Magazine filmed some of the performances and interviews we did throughout the day. Below, watch the videos of Edward Sharpe’s performance and interview with WXPN’s Mike Vasilikos and The Dismemberment Plan’s performance and Bruce Warren’s interview with bassist Eric Axelson.

Special thanks to Philadelphia Music Magazine. Check out their web site here and follow them on twitter @phillymusicmag


WXPN and Okayplayer to stream The Roots Picnic main stage performances this Saturday

This Saturday, June 4th, is the fourth annual Roots Picnic at Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing. WXPN, along with Okayplayer, will be streaming the main stage performances starting at 1 p.m. Performers include The Roots, Wiz Khalifa, Nas (backed by The Roots), Esperanza Spalding (backed by The Roots), Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, The Dismemberment Plan, and Little Dragon. The broadcast will be hosted by WXPN’s Bruce Warren and Mike Vasilikos, and will feature live performances from the main stage (as well as interviews with some of the bands who are performing on the second stage). Philly’s own DJ Afrodjiak will join Mike and Bruce during the webcast to cover all of the festivities and chat with artists throughout the day. DJ Afrodjiak is the producer and music director of the popular event series Inside The Studio as well as the co-founder and publisher of Philadelphia Music Magazine. WXPN is also collaborating with Philadelphia Music Magazine to produce video features of a select group of bands performing at this year’s Roots Picnic.

The Roots Picnic is this Saturday, June 4th, at noon at Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing. Tickets from Ticketmaster are $79.75 (price includes service charge). Tickets are also available at the Live Nation Box Office (111 Presidential Blvd, Bala Cynwyd), Festival Pier (Columbus Blvd & Spring Garden Street; day-of-show only) or by-phone at 800-745-3000.