Michael Jackson would have to rise from the grave and release a new album as good as "Off the Wall" for another music story to generate as much breathless hype around these parts as the reunion of the Dismemberment Plan, the beloved, wildly inventive D.C. indie art-punk-funk quartet. After nearly eight years away (save for a pair of benefit gigs in 2007), the group reconvened for a string of shows preceded by a performance on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" last Thursday.
A few spins of "Emergency & I" - the 1999 album on which the Plan's legacy now largely rests; newly released on vinyl, occasioning the tour - was all it took to prime a novice (hey, some of us had important TLC albums to listen to back in the Clinton years!) for Friday night's Black Cat show, a benefit for Fort Reno and the charity organization We Are Family. One needn't have been present the first time around to feel the warmth and excitement of the homecoming. (The Plan also headlined the larger 9:30 Club on Saturday and Sunday nights.)
No one wept with joy that I saw, and a few 30-somethings groused that standing at concerts hurts more than it used to. But from the moment frontman Travis Morrison spoke the Plan's friendly battle cry - "We're the Dismemberment Plan, and we're from Washington, D.C." - the crowd seemed to ripple as one organism for the whole of the loose, 110-minute set. Pleading the flu, bassist Eric Axelson spent a good chunk of the show sitting down, but rallied to his feet for "Do the Standing Still," an indictment of too-cool-for-school, arms-folded show watchers.
With the exception of that one, and "Ice of Boston," which prompted its customary stage invasion, it was the "Emergency" tunes that elicited the most enthusiastic response. The gig's apex may have come with the oblique self-affirmation anthem "You Are Invited," when someone fired off a can of silly string overhead. Goofy and inclusive, the moment made a newbie grateful to be there, and a little sad for all the shows he'd missed.