Emo music is not for quitters. This might seem counterintuitive, but emo bands continue to make records and play shows despite how popular it is to hate them. Furthermore, a number of emo songs are about believing in things long after everyone else has given up on them. These folks are not throwing in the towel just because of general disinterest.
Emo poster boys Chris Conley (the distinctive voice of Saves the Day) and Chris Carrabba (aka Dashboard Confessional) made a visit to Neumo’s recently to relive their past glory. It seems strange to base your career on whiny songs about girls, but it has served these two gentlemen well for the past ten years. There’s something universally identifiable about their work that propelled them to stardom in 2001 and continues to draw crowds today.
Conley played Saves the Day songs on simple acoustic guitar. Between songs, we shouted out our favorites and the set developed along the lines of our requests. Some requests were denied as “needing the full band” but, in general, the crowd seemed pleased with the selections.
Conley’s uncanny, high and nasal voice was clear and strong as he powered through our requests, mostly from Saves the Day’s biggest release, Stay What You Are. My favorite song, This is Not an Exit, was played early on, with its positive, reassuring ending line “Just know you did it all the best that you knew how” being followed by a sincere “I love you guys” from Conley. Near the end of his set, he announced that Saves the Day would be releasing a new record soon.
The tour is based on the ten-year anniversary of Dashboard Confessional’s release The Swiss Army Romance. As such, Carrabba was here to play the entirety of his first full length to promote its re-release as a limited edition box set. He went on to play for nearly two hours, a feat that I would think his voice could not handle. However, the last song was just as strong as the first song, even though he appears to strain terribly to reach his high notes. His guitar was spot on and even without a backing band, the songs still packed their usual punch.
One of the secrets to Carrabba’s longevity is that he takes lots of breaks during his set by simply not singing. Hardcore punk vocalists learned this trick back in the ’80s when they would hold the microphone out to the crowd and let them do the singing for a bit, conserving their voice and making the crowd feel like a part of the band. Carrabba took these types of pauses in his lyrics to allow our voices to shine. When Carrabba complimented us on our singing, a feisty crowd member replied “You should try it!” I, however, welcome the encouragement for singing along. When I saw Dashboard Confessional at the sold out Northgate Theatre in 2002, I got yelled at by teenage fangirls for singing along.
The audience/backing choir was loudest for songs from the first two records as well as a few singles from Dashboard Confessional’s more recent releases. He also included most of the songs from what I consider to be his best release: the So Impossible EP. Perhaps I enjoy this release so much because Dan Hoerner, guitarist for Sunny Day Real Estate, collaborated on it. However, I think that the real reason I love it is because Carrabba loves it. These songs mean something to him. They commemorate an actual event that he feels deeply about and that comes through in the recording and live. He ended the evening with Hands Down, a song about “the best day I ever had.” We felt this enthusiasm and sang along like we remembered our best day from ten years ago, too.
To really participate in this show, I feel like you had to be there. This sounds trite for a show reviewer, but I mean it in a larger sense. You had to be there in 2001 and be deep in the midst of some soul crushing heartbreak. You had to be there when that heartbreak faded out and your last four records just haven’t been as powerful. You had to sing along at this show looking back and remembering how the songs were such a big part of your life that you can choose to revisit or choose to leave on the CD rack. That crowd is getting smaller every year, and Dashboard Confessional is fading from relevancy. We’re getting old and whiny songs about girls just don’t cut into the heartbreak like they used to. We still love you, Dashboard Confessional, we just don’t want to be with you. It’s not you, it’s us. It’s not that we’re quitting, it’s just that we’re saying goodbye.