Don't cry because the Dillinger Escape Plan are calling it a day; smile because they've somehow managed to stay alive this long. Since first emerging from Morris Plains, New Jersey, in 1997, the radically experimental hardcore/jazz/metal quintet has played every show with a complete and utter disregard for their own personal well-being, wowing fans and newcomers alike with the sheer intensity, aggressiveness and (sometimes literal) explosiveness of their unhinged performances.
"I think playing live with this band is the thing I'll miss most about it," says guitarist and DEP co-founder Ben Weinman, the band's only remaining original member. "It's such an 'in-the-moment' experience, where I'm not thinking about anything except the music." And, of course, what he can climb up and jump off of while playing it.
With the band currently in the midst of what will likely be their last North American tour in support of their mind-scrambling new album, Dissociation, Weinman walks us through 10 of the Dillinger Escape Plan's craziest shows.
June 29th, 2000: Toad's Place; New Haven, Connecticut
"There's a lot of crazy footage out there of us," says Weinman, "but there's also so much crazier stuff that never got filmed, especially in the early days." Case in point: the mayhem from this particular gig, which doesn't appear to have been captured on video. "This guy kept fucking with me during our set for some reason, heckling me and talking shit," Weinman remembers. "I was just trying to ignore him, but then he poured beer all over my pedals – I didn't have much money, and they cost a lot to replace. So I slapped him in the face with the headstock of my guitar; I was like, 'Come on, man, I just want to finish the set.' But he kept motioning like he wanted me to come off the stage and fight him, so I told him to come up and get me. I swung my guitar like a baseball bat and caught him in the face; at the same time, our old singer Dimitri [Minakakis] was twirling the microphone and hit him in the back of the head with it. The guy just grabbed his face and ran off the stage; the crowd just opened up for him, and he ran through them all the way out of the club, and we didn't see him again. It was one of those things where, an hour later, we were like, 'Did that really happen?'"
August 2nd, 2002: Furnace Fest; Birmingham, Alabama
As if the Dillinger Escape Plan weren't already enough of a live force to be reckoned with, the addition of vocalist Greg Puciato – who replaced Minakakis in the fall of 2001 – jacked up the insanity meter several additional notches. Still, the band's set at Furnace Fest 2002 was pretty extreme, even by their own wild-eyed standards. "I remember that it was a very Christian festival," says Weinman. "It was in Alabama, there were a lot of Christian bands, and the fire marshals were actually talking to us before we played about what not to do," says Weinman. "So we were kind of like, 'How much can we get away with?' We were all trying to outdo each other; Greg was breathing fire, and I threw my guitar cabinet onto the middle of the stage, and he set it on fire. He set the drums on fire, too, then used a fire extinguisher to put it out, and extinguished the crowd, as well [laughs]. Then he threw the cabinet into the crowd and they completely ripped it up. The cops and fire marshals by the side of the stage just stood there stunned; they didn't know what to do!"
August 25th, 2002: Reading Festival, U.K.
The most infamous moment of the Dillinger Escape Plan's career involved Puciato defecating onstage at England's Reading Festival, a move which nearly got the band banned from the U.K. for violation of public-decency laws (and which, perhaps mercifully, cannot currently be seen on YouTube). "We had talked beforehand about how we were going to make an impression," Weinman explains, "because we were the first band on the main stage at the biggest music festival in the U.K., with all these bands like Slipknot coming on after us. We don't have a stage show, we don't have masks, we don't have lights, and people are just kind of wandering in at the beginning of the day. So Greg started eating all these cans of tuna and PowerBars; and I was like, 'OK, here we go!' [Laughs] He did it into a towel, and then he threw it into the photo pit. And I was like, 'Nuh-uh, you can't waste that! Go down there and get it!' I made Greg go down into the pit, pick it up and bring it back onstage. He was smearing it all over his white shirt; there's audio of the show, and you can hear him gagging while he's singing. … But I didn't realize that they had those giant Jumbotrons on either side of the stage, and the cameras had already caught this really graphic image [of Greg defecating] – it was like a 20-foot butthole on each screen. So we'd already won, but I didn't know it."
When the band returned to Reading this past summer, Puciato chose not to repeat the performance – opting instead for a civilized spot of tea and an idle thumb through the newspaper.
July 6th, 2004: Quart Festival; Kristiansand, Norway
One of the rare times Dillinger Escape Plan have ever been upstaged occurred at Norway's Quart Festival in 2004, when a band called the Cumshots was joined onstage by a pair of eco-porn activists who proceeded to go at it doggy-style in front of the entire festival audience. "Slipknot were also on the bill that day," Weinman recalls. "We'd played many times with them and had become friends, and me and Clown from Slipknot were standing at the side of the stage, watching this band play. We were getting ready to go on next, when all of a sudden I see this hippie chick backstage, and she's blowing some guy. I didn't have any problem with that, but it seemed like kind of a weird place to do it. But then I realized that she was fluffing him, getting him ready; they went out onstage, she put her leg up on the monitor, and they just started going at it. It turns out that these people were from a group called Fuck for Forest, who were doing porn to raise environmental awareness. Clown and I just looked at each other and were like, 'Well, we can't top that!'"
January 20th, 2005: Virgin Megastore, New York
The band's 40-minute in-store performance at the Virgin Megastore at Times Square in New York City began with Puciato charging like a fullback into the audience at the start of "Sugar Coated Sour," and never really let up from there. "That wasn't untypical of our shows, as far as Greg running into the crowd and climbing over people," Weinman reflects. "What was great about that one was that we were playing in the book section of the store, and people were coming down the escalator expecting to pick up a book and have a quiet cup of coffee in the café. But when they realized what was happening, you could see them actually turning around and trying to run back up the escalator to get away from us."
November 22nd, 2005: Chain Reaction; Anaheim, California
Dillinger Escape Plan have played this all-ages venue many times, but none of their shows there are quite as memorable as the one where Weinman slammed his head on an overhead monitor, fracturing a vertebrae in his neck and leaving a gash in his head that would require seven staples to close. "It all happened in like the first 20 seconds of the show," he says. "The side of the stage at Chain Reaction is right up against the wall; maybe it's from being a skateboarder when I was a kid, but I decided I was going to try to 'wall-walk' towards the soundboard and see how far I could get. Unfortunately, it was dark, and I couldn't see that there was a speaker hanging over the stage; so here I am, running and jumping as hard as I can, and I just knocked myself out on the speaker. It was like I was shot down; I woke up a few seconds later and just started playing my part like nothing happened, but I was bleeding like crazy. I played the whole show, though!"
February 23rd, 2008: Astoria 2, London
The raucous finale of the band's headlining show at the Astoria saw Puciato destroying drummer Gil Sharone's kit, while Weinman and fellow guitarist Jeff Tuttle took their respective instruments with them while climbing up to the balconies nearest the stage. "We look at every venue like a big playground," says Weinman. "So a place like that, with those big, beautiful balconies, I immediately start thinking, 'How can I get up there and make use of that?'"
August 5th, 2008: House of Blues, West Hollywood
When the band opened for the Cavalera Conspiracy at the House of Blues, Puciato leapt into the club's VIP section and (according to eyewitnesses) tossed a chair in the direction of a security guard who was roughing up a fan. A near-riot ensued, and the police were called. "I'm not sure how it got started," says Weinman. "I just remember security trying to drag Greg off the stage, and I'm like, 'Hey, that's our guy, and this is our stage – you can't do that to us!' So I'm grabbing his leg, trying to drag him back, and Greg is totally freaking out. We're finishing the set, and as we're playing, I tell him, 'Run out the stage door exit and get in a cab – I'll meet up with you later.' Which he did; there was a cab right there waiting, and he took off. So when the police came to our dressing room later looking for him, we were like, 'We don't know where he is.'"
February 8th, 2009: New Brunswick, New Jersey
The night after decimating The Studio at NYC's Webster Hall, the DEP played a secret basement show in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The space was so packed that, for once, the wildly mobile band was unable to move more than a few steps in either direction. Still, Weinman remembers the gig fondly. "It was a lot of fun for me, because that was the kind of scene I was from," he says. "You'd be hanging out at somebody's house, and then you'd play, and you'd hang out some more. A lot of our early shows were like that. But we were already playing much bigger places by the time Greg, and then our drummer Billy [Ryman], joined the band, so they'd never experienced anything like that before."
May 2nd, 2013: Golden Gods Awards, Los Angeles
Revolver magazine's fifth annual Golden Gods Awards show featured performances by Metallica, Danzig and Anthrax, but it was the Dillinger Escape Plan who stole the show. Puciato, who was bleeding profusely from his head, breathed fire, destroyed Ryman's drum kit and sent Deftones singer Chino Moreno – who had joined the band for a brutal cover of Depeche Mode's "Behind the Wheel" – running for cover. "It was one of those things where it was like, 'People are already looking at us like we've got two heads, so we may as well really give them something to freak out about,'" Weinman recalls. I'm not sure what Greg did to himself to make him bleed like that … but when he started breathing fire, you could see Chino thinking, 'I like you guys, but fuck this – I'm out of here!'"