Sweet Emo(tion)

At a packed Bowery Ballroom two Fridays ago, Dismemberment Plan singer-guitarist Travis Morrison delivered the night's coolest moment when he launched into a free-form version of "Steadier Footing," a track off the most recent album by co-headliners Death Cab for Cutie. Both A-list indie-rock bands, DP and DCFC are from opposite coasts, sport wildly different sounds, and are fronted by young men adept at mining psychodrama from twentysomething commonplaces. In the midst of DP's set-closing freakout, Morrison transmuted Ben Gibbard's dewy-eyed lullaby into a blustery rant about tepid conversation—a diatribe not out of place during an evening that found opener Cex quipping, "For the record, this school sucks." A whiteboy rapper barely out of his teens, Cex also dropped the dreaded "e-word"—emo, that is, the genre in which DP and DCFC are prime-time players if you let certain glossy music mags tell it.

City symphony: Lattner (left) and McGonigle of e-Xplo
photo: Cary Conover
City symphony: Lattner (left) and McGonigle of e-Xplo

Dismemberment Plan actually sound about as emo as the Wu-Tang Clan, having spent nearly a decade honing a thoroughly modern aesthetic that sets Morrison's dexterous vocals atop jazz chords, fragmented songform, and a clutter of samples and keyboard textures. On Thursday their set was hampered by minor fuckups, but Friday their grooves were alternately spazzy and punk-rocky, as Morrison gyrated, broke guitar strings, and improvised his lyrical flow. Ever the introvert, Gibbard turned his back to the crowd when he wasn't singing, and his usual subjects—love gone sour, diary keeping, hating Los Angeles—all got the little-boy-lost treatment, heavy on pretty melodies and gentle Ben's delicate crooning. His mates didn't try to wow the crowd with chops or swagger: They did it with rock-solid rhythm, swirling guitar spills, and a certain grace that seemed the perfect complement to the post-millennial tension of their touring brethren. —Christian Hoard

New Wave Hot Dogs

Jersey City, March 16. WFMU's annual fundraising marathon. As in each of the past six or seven years, Yo La Tengo and former FMU personality "Il Bruce" Bennett (guitar, A-Bones, Gowanus Canal Boys) take requests from listeners pledging $60 or more during a show hosted by pop gourmand Gaylord Fields.

*4:40 p.m. 20 minutes before airtime, Mark from El Paso wants any song by Patti Smith or Aerosmith.
*5 p.m. Guest percusser Hamish Kilgour (Clean, Mad Scene) asks if anyone has seen any good movies. James McNew (bass) suggests Pootie Tang. Hamish agrees to sing ESG's "You're No Good" if James sings too. James pronounces Kinks' "Do You Remember Walter?" a "toughie." Band settles on "Johnny Thunder" as a suitable alternative.
*5:21 p.m. Ira Kaplan (liquid swords): " 'Run, Joey, Run'—I could never do that. 'Itchykoo Park'—too hard. The Feelies' 'Raised Eyebrows.' " James: "Oh shit." (Teaches song to Bruce, recommends stabbing guitar.)
*5:25 p.m. Band plays "Eyebrows," "Rockaway Beach," "20th Century Boy," and, for Ken from Cincinnati (who put out the seven-inch in 1990), "Know It's All Right" by Love Child.
*5:36 p.m. Gaylord says "Tom" will pay $1000 if co-host Hova sings "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" with band. Other requests: "Mama Told Me Not to Come," "Search & Destroy," Thin Lizzie's "Jailbreak." Georgia Hubley (drums) wants to play "Jailbreak." Ira: "I'm not learning that now." Band plays the rest.
*5:57 p.m. Station meets its goal to raise $550,000 over two weeks.
*6:05 p.m. "Meet the Mets" (David from Hoboken) and the Rutles' "Cheese & Onions" (Peter from NYC).
*6:20 p.m. No one remembers verse to "Sonic Reducer." Georgia: "You are all useless."
*6:30 p.m. Eight-year-old Leila's parents pledge $330 so she can sing along on the phone to "I Don't Wanna Walk Around With You." Band also plays "Jailbreak."
*6:42 p.m. For two separate pledgers, James sings "When Doves Cry"; despite having recorded a solo tape of Prince covers, at start of third verse glances frantically around studio, fails to notice SOTC touching if you will my stomach, sings "Dig if you will a picture/ See how it trembles inside."
*6:50 p.m. After "Build Me Up Buttercup" (Georgia: "That song didn't deserve so many bad notes"), BTO, Cheap Trick, band plays "Shotgun," sings parts of other requests ("Schizophrenia," "Another Girl, Another Planet," "Sonic Reducer") over it.
*7:09 p.m. Michael and Sharon from Juneau pay $150 for the final number, "Sudden Organ" by Yo La Tengo. Unfulfilled: "Smooth Criminal," "69 Love Songs," or "Back in Black." —Josh Goldfein

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