Friday April 29th, 2005
Dashboard Confessional/Hot Rod Circuit/ John Ralston
Thompson Gym, Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown, PA
Before I start this review I must admit something: As of late I admittedly have not been the biggest Dashboard fan. I was a huge fan of the Summers Kiss EP as well as the first two full lengths Swiss Army Romance and The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most, but lead singer Chris Carrabba disappointed me with his latest foray into the more radio friendly sound of a full band with A Mission, A Mark, A Brand, A Scar. Despite this, I was willing to spend the extra money to see him live, based on glowing reviews from several of my friends who had seen Dashboard in concert.
I was not disappointed.
The show was advertised as a “special acoustic set” by Chris sans backing band, being that on Saturday he was playing yet another special set with his former band, Further Seems Forever, at the Bamboozle music festival in New Jersey. However, the opening act of John Ralston started the evening off with a full band (complete with female violinist) and a rousing set of songs primarily off his latest release, Needle Bed. A pleasant, yet sometimes cutting mix between Ben Folds, Kevin Devine and The Rocket Summer, he managed to win the primarily high school age crowd over with his charismatic performance. Nevertheless, it probably didn’t hurt that Chris himself made an appearance and joined in on one of the songs, much to the delight of the audience.
Next to perform was Hot Rod Circuit; a band whom I enjoy, but generally lump into the generic pop-punk category. Their performance was purely acoustic, like Dashboard’s was slated to be, which gave them an uncharacteristic almost-country feel on many of their songs. Despite this, they still put on a good set, with the audience singing along to one of their most popular songs, “The Pharmacist.”
Finally, Chris Carrabba himself, armed with only an acoustic guitar, took the stage to the raucous screams of the crowd. After marginal stage banter, he roared through almost two straight hours of story telling and music playing. Attending a Dashboard show, I soon learned, is akin to a religious experience, with the crowd chanting and singing along quite possibly more than the revered singer himself. Chris put together several medleys of songs, one of which included a cover of Weezer’s “Jamie” and another that ended with a nod to the popular show The OC with a portion of Phantom Planet’s “California.” After playing most of his two newest albums and then some, he left the stage, then returned in about 5 minutes for an encore performance in response to the cheering from the crowd. This time, he brought friends. John Ralston and his band joined him onstage for a full out onslaught on one’s ears with a rendition of the hit from the soundtrack for Spiderman-2, “Vindicated”, and Chris brought an end to his set (and the night) with an emotional “Hands Down.” After two hours of an electric performance by Dashboard Confessional, the almost cult-like atmosphere that had surrounded the entire gym lifted as the lights came on. Needless to say, Chris lived up to the hype, and that was one of the best nights I can ever remember.
Friday, April 1st, 2005
Bury Your Dead/The Red Chord/A Life Once Lost/If Hope Dies/Fall River
The Championship, Lemoyne, PA
When I first informed my roommate that I would be going home for the weekend to attend a show, I got the usual head nod and question of who was playing, in an attempt to feign interest. However, after listing off the first band, Fall River, I got an unexpected squeal. Incidentally, she attended high school with some of the members, as was verified whilst chatting with the drummer prior to their set. While it was clear that all the band members were proficient on their instruments and the set was tight and well rehearsed, Fall River lacked the intense energy of a typical hardcore/metalcore band. Part of this could have stemmed from the fact that they appeared to rely on the gimmick of a girl vocalist, which did add a unique touch to the music, but needs to be supplemented with more movement and stage presence.
The next band to take the stage was If Hope Dies, whose set was peppered with frenetic screams and growls along with the typical heavy usage of the double bass so commonly found in the new brand of metal-based hardcore that has been flooding the scene. While the lead vocalist did his best to involve the crowd in the set (and they obliged to an extent), it was clear that If Hope Dies was not the band that they were there to see.
When A Life Once Lost started their set, the crowd instantaneously went wild and a huge circle pit erupted in the center of the floor. Though this was the first show they had played in a while, and the vocalist was visibly fatigued after merely one song, he put on the best individual performance of the show. By throwing himself around the stage, onto the floor, and even into the audience itself, he managed to make everyone feel as though they were all a part of the show By the last song, at least 15 people had piled onstage on top of each other and the singer in a frenzied quest for the microphone.
At this point in the show, the energy in the room was practically electric, and everyone was eagerly anticipating The Red Chord’s performance. They did not disappoint. With possibly the most technically and musically advanced performance of the evening, they dazzled the crowd and whipped the pit into a frenzy of flying body parts. Their closing song, a personal favorite of mine (and apparently most everyone else’s there), “Dreaming in Dog Years”, ended much like the previous band’s: a pileup on stage.
The eagerly anticipated headliners, Bury Your Dead, then took the stage. Though missing their trademark black suits and white ties (probably because of their late arrival due to getting lost, and the intense heat in the venue), they put on the best performance of the evening. They flew through an array of songs (in their typical tough guy hardcore style, of course) from their latest release Cover Your Tracks, and their previous album, You Had Me At Hello. All of the band members were constantly in motion; when they weren’t jumping up and down, they were spinning their guitars over their shoulders and around their backs. The vocalist allowed the audience members to sing, or shout, rather, almost as much as he did, which gave their set a very personal feel. In fact, along the personal lines, I happened to be standing so close to the stage preoccupied with doing photography that the guitarist from Bury Your Dead actually hit me in the head with his guitar, and being a congenial sort of guy, he stopped long enough to ruffle my hair and shout an “I’m sorry!” With amazing breakdowns and the kind of performance where there is a distinct possibility that an ambulance would be necessary by the end of the show, Bury Your Dead wowed the crowd. They ended (and ironically, started) an enjoyable, yet brutal, set with the resounding sing-a-long chorus from their song “Mosh N’ Roll”; “BURY YOUR FUCKING DEAD.” And don’t you forget that.