I Woke Up Like This: The Dillinger Escape Plan – “Sugar Coated Sour”

Okay, so I didn’t really wake up with this song stuck in my head, but I did set an alarm for 7am so that I could be ready to buy tickets to Dillinger’s final show. I’m sure I’ve told this story before on here, but I can’t find it, so I’m going to tell it again.

Returning to Pensacola as a college sophomore, well, my first sophomore year, one of my new-found rituals was making the ½ hour trek from campus to a little hole in the wall record store called East Hill CD Exchange. As the name suggests, it was a place where you could buy, sell, and trade music. I recall it looking like one of those house trailers with a small wooden stoop, but my memory is fuzzy. Since this was the late 90s, there wasn’t a record release schedule online, and even if there was, I didn’t have the patience for dial-up or resources to find one, so every time I walked into East Hill I went straight to the Cs of the metal/hardcore/punk, or whatever it may have been, section and looked for a new Coalesce CD. I think I was disappointed every time, but would leave with a used Clutch CD, or a new DJ shadow album since I was 19 and still trying to find my musical footing. I would also browse the 7″s knowing damn well I was never going to buy one, but that’s where I saw a handful of Coalesce records. Hindsight being all that it’s cracked up to be, I really wish I would have bought every Coalesce 7″ I laid my eyes on. I know for sure that East Hill had the splits with Today Is the Day, Converge, and The Get Up Kids.

Anyway, I’m there with, as always, whether I was financially stable enough to make this decision or not, money burning a hole in my pocket. A little research shows that it must have been late September or early October when this happened and not late August when I first returned to school, but I digress. Once again, no new Coalesce record. I asked one of the guys at the counter “Do you have anything that sounds like Coalesce?” He reached into the case and grabs Calculating Infinity and, since Coalesce had signed to Relapse for their (at the time) final album, he said “Here. These guys are on the same label.” Now I knew that Relapse was known for more metal leaning releases than hardcore, and I had a feeling that the clerk did not listen to the Dillinger record, but, a fool to decent salesmanship and my own awkward nervousness, I just bought it.

I wasn’t alone on this mini-adventure. I can’t remember exactly who was with me, but I do remember a freshman, Brett, was at least one of the people who accompanied me. Once we got back into my car I popped in Calculating Infinity. The first song is, of course, the above “Sugar Coated Sour”. None of us got it. The reason I remember Brett so vividly is because during the next song, “43% Burnt”, after the breakdown opening, Dillinger, once again, speeds up the song and then a little jangly guitar transition comes in before the screaming starts back up and during that transition Brett said, with very little enthusiasm, “Here it comes again.”

After a few more weeks of forced listens, I still didn’t get Calculating Infinity. During one of these listens back in my car, my buddy, BG, who is quite the character, was in the passenger seat and “43% Burnt” came on and the line “Spit on yourself” is screamed. Shirtless BG takes this as a command and spit on his own chest.

Some time passed and I read that Torn Apart released a new full length. I loved their EP The Fifty-Ninth Session, so I eventually order Ten Songs for the Bleeding Heart. Since I was in the ordering mood, I took the opportunity to give Dillinger another chance and bought their self titled EP. They both arrived around the same time and I was much more excited about Torn Apart than I was DEP. Well, we all know how expectations aren’t always met, especially when it comes to music, but the Dillinger EP was quite the pleasant surprise. As much as I liked self titled, it also gave me a new perspective of the band and helped me understand Calculating… and the next time I put it on I was like Dorothy opening the door to Oz.

That summer I returned to Virginia and a bunch of my friends and I were excited to see Candiria at Twisters in Richmond, a club where we saw our first exposure to hardcore in the forms of Earth Crisis, VOD, Bloodlet, and Hatebreed. One or 2 of my friends already knew, but the rest I implored to get there early enough for The Dillinger Escape Plan. Obviously I was not in the minority because after what I can see now as a classic Dillinger show with pre-Great White fire-breathing, etc., nearly half the audience left before Candiria took the stage. Maybe it was because VA local boy Brian Benoit was now in DEP, or maybe it was because the evidence of the shift in metallic hardcore was becoming apparent. That was my first Dillinger show. Almost as a nod to how I discovered them, my next DEP experience would feature Sean Ingram on vocals. The next, Greg Puciato’s second show fronting the band. Seventeen more shows later and I just had to wake up early this morning to make sure I secured my tickets to the final show.

So, no, I didn’t wake up like this, but I did wake up for Dillinger, a band that, over the last 18 years, influenced my listening habits, my concert going experiences, and even my own short-lived band, and this was the first song I ever heard by them.

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