Dillinger Four 25th anniversary show @ First Avenue
Dillinger Four, Pegboy, The Brokedowns, Partial Traces
December 14, 2019
I would never call Dillinger Four a soft-spoken band, but they are also very modest one. This was one full display again last night for their 25th anniversary show at First Avenue in Minneapolis -- a large local stage that the hometown band hasn’t played (to my knowledge) since the release of Situationalist Comedy in 2002. It was a party show; it was a celebration. But, in tune with the final night of the Triple Rock, it was also business first. It was a celebration through music instated of an egofest.
The night started with a chill set by Partial Traces, who feature a lot of familiar faces (members of The Gateway District, Benner Pilot, and Soviettes among others), and play a synth-influenced calm alt rock that’s more interested in tonal experiences and crafty songwriting than in singalong melodies. They were a nice change of pace band to get things started as the crowd filed in.
The Brokedowns took the stage next, and the tempo and volume bumped up a notch. They balanced their unique blend of shouty-yet-harmonic punk with a pummeling feedback and coarse but sweet jams, to the backdrop of some sassy stage chatter. Both of the first two bands also highlight D4’s ongoing commitment to sharing larger stages with lesser known bands.
Then Pegboy took the stage, with Larry Damore immediately straddling the barrier and uniting band with audience in a way that pushed the evening into a new gear. It was their first time in Minneapolis since 1994 (the year D4 formed), so they commandeered the 25-year theme and made the night their own for a lengthy, energetic set. The first two bands may be (somewhat) younger, but Damore was the most energetic of the evening by far: crowd antics only being a part of it. Their Chicago-style melodies were on display and carried an extra wallop in a live setting, It was high energy, but down to earth, giving a low key, personal feel even though the room was packed.
For featuring four punk(ish) bands in a larger room, one of the bigger accomplishments of the night was that each band kept that low key vibe throughout the whole room, with as many reunions happening among the crowd on the floor as there were onstage. Later in the night, Erik of D4 expressed his brotherly love for his bandmates in a way befitting of a group hug -- the same could be said among the clusters of friends gathered on the floor, most of whom have probably seen the band dozens of times since the 1990s.
"We could have been a more professional band and played more. But fuck that."
While there were certainly asides, thank yous, and recognition of the milestone, in many ways (as referred to earlier), the show was business as usual. The band let the music and the communal vibes of a punk rock show serve as metaphor for their accomplishment. Sure, they could have made a bunch of ‘90s jokes and talked all night (and it wouldn’t be the first time), but for the most part the band ripped through a set heavy in Midwestern Songs and Versus God material, with intermissions to chat up the crowd with a mix of classic Paddy witticisms and reflection.
There were a lot of nice song intros that went beyond what you’d see at a “typical” D4 show, talking about inspiration of the tracks but with added context that put a time, place and even faces to the lyrics. There were a few tracklist additions from early 7”s as well, and more Erik and Billy-fronted songs than I’d say the average D4 setlist presents. A few were notably songs that don’t get the live treatment often, and they were a little bit, um, rusty in their delivery. But, all in all, it was a big show to celebrate a big accomplishment. The band are clearly still having fun doing what they do. Bands, and people, change with time. Through all the life events of a quarter-century, D4 are still a band with a stage presence that unites audience and performer instead of taking the rock star angle. It’s music first but, just as much, it’s about the whole room instead of those four people standing on the state. It’s friendly and relatable, cathartic and celebratory.
In many ways, Dillinger Four’s 25th anniversary set was just like their regular shows. Because that’s the way it should be.
Read SPB’s interview with D4.
Photos by Loren Green