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Dance Gavin Dance Shakes The Slowdown!

Story and Photos: Spencer Fleming

Back in late January Dance Gavin Dance (DGD) announced a run of Spring headline dates with Memphis May Fire, Volumes, and Moon Tooth. I was really excited to see that Omaha was on DGD's routing for two reasons. The first was that Omaha's show was going to be at the completely re-modeled Admiral (formerly Sokol Auditorium). The second was that while I had heard the name DGD thrown around in the Coheed & Cambria fan group for years, I had never really taken the time to check them out. This would be the perfect opportunity to see what all the buzz was about.

As the days grew closer several things transpired. First and foremost, I started listening to DGD's music and I fell completely head over heels in love with their style and sound. I've probably clocked over 40 full album listens to their latest release Afterburner and several hours of their older discography. Every day I would listen intently as the date of the show loomed.

About six weeks before the show it was announced that The Admiral had hit supply chain issues and would not be ready for Dance Gavin Dance to play. Alas, the show would be moving to The Slowdown. This was a bit of a bummer because I was really looking forward to seeing the newly remodeled venue, but nothing could have prepared me for what came next.

On April 14 Dance Gavin Dance announced that their longtime bass player and best friend Tim Ferrick passed away. Though I just recently became a fan I was devastated to hear this news. One of the things that drew me into DGD's music was the strong presence of Tim's bass notes. As I mentioned above Afterburner had become a daily escape and "Strawberry's Wake" was and still is one of my absolute favorite songs on the album. I think Tim's funky breakdown before the ultra catchy chorus will be permanently burned into my brain for eternity.

After the announcement an outpouring of love and prayerful thoughts flooded the DGD fan group. Fans made memorials in DGD's hometown of Sacramento and started a GoFundMe for Tim's family. The network of fans was hurting but seeing everyone post their favorite memories of Tim made things just a little easier.

Only a few days later Dance Gavin Dance let their fans know that Swanfest (DGD's own curated festival) would push forward on April 23 and the Spring headline dates would follow in memory of Tim. I was a little shocked to be honest. I would've completely understood had the band canceled everything and taken some time off. Knowing the show was still on I delved into the DGD discography even further to make sure I was prepared.

A few days before the show I was thrown a curveball. Dance Gavin Dance would not be offering any media spots at these headline shows. Oh no! While I completely understood the band's position, with the venue change the capacity was dramatically decreased forcing a sell out. With only days left until the show and no tickets to be had I reached out to my friends on Facebook and in the Dance Gavin Dance group to see if anyone had an extra. Luckily I reached out to the Slowdown and explained my plight and they were able to get me a ticket, huzza! I can't tell you how psyched I was that everything was coming together.

With my ticket secured and my DGD enthusiasm back on track I thought it would be fun to do something special for the show in Tim's memory. My wife and Stories from the Crowd Co-Founder Virginia is an amazing graphic designer. She quickly worked up some strawberry stickers and we had them printed the night before the show.

With stickers in hand I arrived at the Slowdown hoping to find a giant line of rabid DGD fans who would be clamoring for a custom strawberry. Unfortunately due to the terrible Midwest Spring weather, there were only about 20 people braving the cold. That's ok, I pushed on and handed out strawberry Tim stickers as more fans trickled into the line.

While I was waiting I ran into our buddies the Midwest Metal Family. Nebraska's most famous metal eight year old Jax was excited to see Memphis May Fire and had already gotten a picture with them outside. Seeing as how Jax has rocked on stage with dozens of bands in his relatively short existence I was hoping to see it happen with Memphis May Fire.

I made my way into the venue and grabbed a spot right behind Jax and his family. It was a trip going back to the early days of my journalistic journey. No pro gear, no media pass, just the trusty iPhone and a spot up front close to the barricade.

The first band up was Moon Tooth from Long Island.

These guys had an upbeat Mastodon feel. With ripping guitars and some proggy bass they fit right in. Moon Tooth's guitarist was sporting a tucked in Motorhead shirt and flowing mane. These guys got the crowd moving but the circle pits were still bubbling beneath the surface.

After Moon Tooth it was time for some heavy breakdowns and karate kicks via the band Volumes from Los Angeles.

Volumes brought the tuned down guitars, heavy screams, and just a light dusting of metalcore choruses. By now the circle pit was in full motion. Of course there's always one really big guy who's being a little too aggressive. Luckily his buddies pulled him aside and apologized to everyone around him. I think he was hitting the PBRs pretty hard early on. After his buddies talked to him things actually smoothed over and he was pretty calm for the rest of the show. I looked behind to see him passionately singing along to Volumes. Good for you big dude in the pit!

After Volumes it was time for the direct support from Memphis May Fire. Little Jax was fired up and ready to rock out. I watched as his hair whipped into his dad Bryan's face over and over. Bryan stoically stood watch over his family making sure they weren't pummeled by crowd surfers or a wayward mosher.

The lead singer of Memphis May Fire made a point to interact with Jax, even putting the mic in front of him so he could rock out.

Memphis May Fire definitely leaned more metalcore with lots of melodies and sing along choruses, but that's not to say they didn't have their heavier moments. At one point the lead singer said "Let's take it back to some old school Memphis May Fire songs. All the old school fans, let's show these new fans how we get down".

Things started raging as the circle behind me erupted in a flurry of whipping hair and splashing drinks. At one point someone was holding up a lost blue shoe. After about thirty seconds of just pumping the shoe in the air it went flying into the crowd. Hopefully no one walked out with just one lonely blue shoe at the end of the night.

Memphis May Fire had a lot of crowd support and there were several songs that rang a small bell like I had heard them before. I'm sure I have but everything starts to blur together after so many shows. If you're a fan of southern fried metalcore Memphis May Fire might be up your alley.

As we waited for Dance Gavin Dance we were treated to a playlist of all 90s hits from bands like Deep Blue Something, Wheatus, Third Eye Blind, and the New Radicals. As the crew removed the black curtain a giant banner for Dance Gavin Dance's forthcoming album Jackpot Juicer was revealed and sent the crowd into absolute hysterics. The cheering was at deafening levels.

After holding my spot for so long I was starting to get really anxious. As the house speakers started to play "What's Up?" by 4 Non-Blondes I thought:

Luckily, only a few seconds into "What's Up" the lights went down and some ethereal, spacy sounds came over the speakers. Dance Gavin Dance stepped out and kicked right into "Synergy" from their yet-to-be-released album Jackpot Juicer.

The crowd was already locked in singing every word. The dynamic duo of Tilian Pearson and Jon Mess were on fire trading verses back and forth and showing off their sweet dance moves. They both had killer outfits too, with Jon sporting an awesome Gremlins shirt and Tilian a slick black button up with a tiger on the back.

This band has it all, powerful funky rhythms, weedly weedily guitars, amazing pop vocals, and post-hardcore screams. It's like jamming an everything bagel into your ear holes.

As DGD launched into "Lyrics Lie" the circle pit was raging. I think I was lulled into a false sense of security with "Synergy". Everyone was singing and dancing having a great time, no pushing or shoving, just pure boogie. Boy how things quickly changed. For the rest of the set I was dodging moshers but luckily I only had one crowd surfer come over my head. I felt really bad too. I was concentrating on trying to get some good shots on my phone and didn't realize the surfer was coming my way. Luckily they got pulled over the railing by security but I was no help whatsoever.

I did my best to hang out up front even with the pit raging behind me. At one point, I'm pretty sure it was during "Chucky vs. The Giant Tortoise" the room split and just collided into oblivion. I snapped away trying to catch the chaos as it was unfolding. Forgive the blurriness, it was absolute madness!

Shortly after the pit of chaos I made my way to the back to enjoy the rest of the show. Real quick though, can we just take a second and appreciate "Uneasy Hearts Weigh The Most"? My goodness, if that song isn't just the slickest thing ever? I'm so glad I got to catch it live. For being a new fan I was completely satisfied with the setlist. There were newer cuts from Afterburner (I know, probably not the "best" album for all the old school fans out there) but I absolutely love it, sue me. There were a few older cuts like "Count Bassy", "Suspended In This Disaster", and "Man Of The Year". Overall a pretty good representation of the band's work. Honestly, no matter what I write someone will complain that they didn't play (insert some crazy song title here).

Anyways, I could go on and on about this band, so I'll just wrap up with this. After having my mind completely melted I was heading outside and this fast moving figure in a trench coat comes flying around the corner. It was my oldest friend Nik! Talk about ending the evening on a high note! His friend was running sound for DGD on tour and he wanted to stop in and say hi while he was in town.

Life can be pretty awesome sometimes. Amazing music, good friends, what else could I possibly ask for? My heart goes out to Tim and his family. Thank you to Dance Gavin Dance for giving your fans this incredible experience during such a time of hardship. May Tim's memory live on forever!

A huge shoutout to 1% Productions and The Slowdown for getting me a spot last minute.

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Dance Gavin Dance

Memphis May Fire


Moon Tooth

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