Disclaimer: I can’t write objectively about Dance Gavin Dance and this post is all over the place because I’m like a little kid who just ate three meals of candy.
Before I get into the juicy details of last week’s Dance Gavin Dance show, please indulge me while I explain the sordid history of this band and what it has been like to be a fan: I go through a lot of phases, musically, but my love for Dance Gavin Dance has only gotten stronger over the years. From the moment I first heard them in my car, driving home from Cincinnati in the winter of 2008, I was entranced. I had just randomly downloaded a bunch of their stuff based on their band name and the fact that they were listed on PureVolume as post-hardcore and that is MY FAVORITE GENRE. (The amount of times I have struggled to explain what ‘post-hardcore” means to people at work is hilarious; it’s kind of like the new “wtf is emo?” in that it’s almost impossible for me to put into layman’s terms. Wiki it, I guess? Good luck!) Downtown Battle Mountain is right up there on my Stranded on an Island album list.
This was also, sadly, the start of a 7-year relationship-threatening obsession with their original clean vocalist, Jonny Craig. Thankfully, he’s no longer in DGD, which is great because I hate him now and he could have easily destroyed DGD.
To this day, I have yet to hear another band that sounds even remotely like them and, in my opinion, they have only gotten better with age. The only time my love for them was strained was after they kicked out Jonny for the first time and replaced him with Kurt Travis for two albums. Look, I LOVE Kurt Travis. But during that time, their screamer Jon Mess had also left the band and his role has always been one of my favorite parts of DGD. (In fact, I think I actually fangirl over Jon more than anyone else in the band.) I only saw them live twice during the Kurt Travis-era, and ironically once was a tour where past, present and future DGD vocalists were all on: Jonny Craig was there with Emarosa, Kurt with DGD, and Tilian was there with Tides of Man. (This was in 2009, and it was also the first time I ever saw Of Mice & Men and then fell in love with Of Machines, who are sadly no longer together.) It just didn’t click with me, though I have much more appreciation for the Kurt albums now than I did then.
The summer of 2010, they brought Jonny back for a new album and a tour and this was supposed to be their swan song; Jon Mess came back too and it was like the biggest music orgasm for me. I got to see Jonny perform with DGD twice after that and it was like a dream come true, and then they announced that they were going to write another new album with Jonny and it seemed like their future was so bright. Except that Jonny is a forever fuck-up and they ended up having to kick him out again, in the middle of a tour. It seemed like this was it for them for sure. Maybe Jon, Will, and Matt would just make their side project, Secret Band, their priority.
But then they announced that Tilian Pearson, formerly of Tides of Man, would be their new singer. I was on the fence. In 2011, I saw Emarosa with Tilian as an interim singer; Jonny, who was trying to be in Emarosa and DGD at the same time that year, was forced off the Emarosa tour and into detox on the same day as the Pittsburgh show. Tilian’s brother’s band at the time was also on that tour, so I guess that’s how Tilian came into play. Tilian did fine…but he wasn’t Jonny. And this is how I felt the first time I saw him with DGD at the Altar Bar. It felt wrong to me. But you guys, when they eventually recorded new music with Tilian, everything fell into place and I made a statement that I never thought I would say: Tilian is my favorite DGD singer. They just sound so cohesive with him, and he has really gotten more comfortable with performing the old stuff too. All of that said, it has been a really rewarding time to be a DGD fan. I’m Team Tilian, and DGD remains one of my favorite bands of all time.
(Henry is probably reading this and thinking, “Trust me, this is the short version.”)
ANYWAY! I’m so excited because their second album with Tilian just came out in April and they were here in Pittsburgh last Sunday! I had butterflies in my stomach all weekend and kept shouting, “AREN’T YOU SO EXCITED?!?” in Henry’s face. Surprisingly, he doesn’t hate them like you would expect him to. He admitted a few years ago that he kind of liked them and I just knew it. The Robot With Human Hair Pt 2 was his ringtone for me for awhile, for Christ’s sake! He just doesn’t like being the token Old Man at all of their shows, is all.
- Henry was annoyed because instead of sitting in the car and waiting for doors to open, he had to stand in line with all of the kids. To be fair, the average age was probably about 24, but I guess when you’re as old as Henry, even that constitutes as a “kid.” There was this one teenage boy in front of us, though. His name was Collin and I know this because his mom pulled up alongside the line in her mom-wagon and started shouting, “Collin! Collin! COLLIN!” until he dejectedly left the line and walked over to her car with his head down. “I can’t wait to do that shit to Chooch,” I laughed. “Yeah, except you’ll be calling from another part of the line,” Henry mumbled. And this is probably true. Unless he starts listening to crappy bands when he’s older.
- I had a tiny container of miniature Altoids, and I tried to get Henry to pretend like they were Grown-Up drugs with me, but he was like, “Don’t be stupid.”
- As soon as we got inside Mr. Small’s, I saw Christopher Kim at the Polyphia merch booth and I got so excited! He recently made waves for leaving Jonny Craig’s current band, Slaves, and has been pretty candid on Twitter about how fucked that band is so of course I love him because Team Anyone But Slaves. I was too shy to say anything to him so I took the creepy way out and tweeted about seeing him and then he favorited it so basically, we met.
- Henry plied me with Angry Orchard in an attempt to get me to stop talking a mile a minute. I WAS SO EXCITED!!!!
- Stolas was the opening band. We saw them last September with Hail the Sun and Icarus the Owl and I loved them immediately. They’re on Will Swan’s label, Blue Swan, and are part of this intricate, technical post-hardcore sub genre that I feel like DGD should take full credit for; they’re the godfathers of this style at this point. I’ve never been a fan of prog-rock in the traditional sense, but when elements of this style is car-crashed with a post-hardcore foundation, it makes me want to start punching faces. Stolas was the perfect way to start this night. My favorite part about them is that some parts of their songs downright sound like incantations. Henry’s review: “No.”
- I like to call Henry “bae” sometimes, ironically of course, just to annoy him. But when I’m really giddy, and I was Really Giddy, I apparently called him my ride or die. “Can I choose ‘or die’?” he mumbled, while continuing to look at whatever uninteresting info his phone was showing him.
- A band I used to love was playing whilePolyphia was setting up and I played Henry’s favorite game with him, which is “Trying to Get Henry to Guess the Band & Making Him Feel Like Shit When He Fails.” Here are the clues I gave him:
- This album is called The Ugly Organ.
- Henry hates them.
- Tim Kasher is their singer.
- His other band is The Good Life.
- We saw them at Coachella in 2004.
- “My ego’s like my stomach– it keeps shitting what I feed it.”
- If you guessed Cursive, then you have one more point than Henry does.
- Hail the Sun is amazing. That’s literally the note I wrote myself in my phone. This was my fourth time seeing them and they just keep getting better. We saw their drummer/singer Donovan outside of the venue when we were in line and even Henry knew who he was because HE CAN’T ESCAPE THIS SCENE. Imagine how boring his life would be if he was with a girl who only listened to the radio. Boring, but probably a lot happier and with less headaches, haha. Henry’s review: “*shrugged* It’s too early in the morning for this. You should have been a news reporter.”
- The crowd was so much better than at the Circa Survive show earlier in the week. I was basically in love with every one there. Maybe those really were Grown-Up Drugs in my Altoids tin….
- The cider also helped.
- Polyphia, holy shit. This was my first time seeing them and they blew my fucking mind. Like CHON, they’re also 100% instrumental. The crowd went apeshit over them and I think it says a lot about the talent of a band when they can capture the attention of young people without gimmicks or, you know, a vocalist. Henry did not like them, but that means nothing.
Here are the notes I had in my phone:
- THUG CITY
- EVERYTHING IS AMAZING
- PERFECT CROWD
- JONNY WHO
- TILIAN IS THE BEST
Oh no, tangent: What I love the most about DGD fans is that most of them are music geeks in that they understand and appreciate the technicality involved in DGD’s music. These are the kinds of people who want to meet Will Swan after the show to talk about time signatures and ask him about his pedals. This is why I think that DGD is so fucking underrated. They’ve been unfairly marginalized and stuffed into a generic scene pigeonhole, which is why I think that their fan base remains young. Young people keep their minds open when it comes to music. Granted, there were some people at the show around my age, but it made me wonder: why hasn’t their fan base grown with them? Why do people hit a certain age in their 20s and just abandon what they used to love? I hope that doesn’t happen to me, ever.
DON’T PANIC, I’VE GOT A PLAN:
Tilian can sing any of the Jonny-era songs with motherfucking panache.
I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT ELSE TO SAY! This post is all over the place, just like their music, and just like my brain. One of the things that I miss most about Barb not working at The Law Firm anymore is that I wasn’t able to go to work the next day and vomit all of my feelings onto her desk. She was always so good about patiently listening to me jaw off about DGD! I remember telling her a long time ago that I liked this music because it panders to the dysfunction in my head; it’s what my brain would play if you plopped it on a turntable and put the needle down.
“I just love Jon Mess so much!” I shouted to Henry. “Did you know he’s a genius?” I LOVE REMINDING HENRY OF THAT! I have never loved a screamer so much before.
I didn’t stop moving the entire night and my body spent the next two days reminding me of Sunday’s perfection. I think I smiled all day long on Monday. MONDAY! Come at me, work week; I just saw DGD.
I’m so proud of this band for powering through all of the shit and turmoil and managing to create two beautiful works of art with Tilian. It feels so good to be a DGD fan. One of these days, I’m going to finally get that Robot with Human Hair tattoo. He might be holding a sword-speared strawberry.
Henry’s review: “I’ve heard all of these songs. Many times.”