Getting to the Ogden this particular evening was quite an endeavor. Unfortunately, the hippie kids going to the String Cheese Incident show one block away took up all the parking spots. But the real challenge lied ahead of me as I made my way through the sold-out crowd and into the front area of the stage. Thankfully, my photo pass allowed access into a space where I could breath and also witnesses a sea of happy faces that flew into a frenzy as the guys made it on stage. Dashboard Confessional, a.k.a. Chris Carrabba, turned his one-man band into a four man tour via his buddies from the group Seville, including Dan Bonebrake on bass and Mike Marsh on drums. There was a fourth guy on guitar and keyboards, but I’m not sure who he was – sorry.
This was the first time I’d seen him along with his band mates in all their live glory. But I had seen a quote from Chris on the Dashboard web site, “If you come to one of my shows [you’re] kind of expected to sing along as loud as I do, and it’s just really like a team effort. It’s almost organic how much the kids are involved. They are part of the band.” Either these kids read what I did and take instructions very well, or this was a whole new level of music fans created by a whole new level of music. Of the hundreds and hundreds of shows that I’ve been to in my lifetime, I have not seen such a grandiose dose of audience participation via a one-on-one connection from the artist to the fan.
After whaling out the title track to his full-length release, Places You Have Come To Fear the Most, Chris asks his fans to step up. “There’s a band where we’re from [in Florida] called Rocking Horse Winner,” he said as the enthusiastic crowed erupted in knowing expectation that the tune, Age Six Racer, was coming next. “Generally their singer does some back up for us on the record, but she doesn’t ever go on tour with us. Since she’s not here, maybe you can fill in for her on her parts,” referring to Jolie Lindholm, who also provided her angelic vocal talent for other tracks on Places You Have Come To Fear The Most. As he strummed his way through the song, the audience chimed in on the harmonies so perfectly I visualized Chris in a symphonic conductor’s tuxedo and wand instead of a guitar pick and tattoos.
Hearing songs like “The Best Deceptions” took on a whole new force, where the energy in the room hit a level of raging emotion. Chris and everyone else screamed in unison, “So kiss me hard ’cause this will be the last time that I let you. You will be back someday and this awkward kiss that tells of other people’s lips will be of service to keeping you away. AWAY! AWAY! AWAY!”
This pattern of community induced entertainment continued throughout the show. At any given point during a song, Chris could literally walk away from the microphone and the audience would carry the song’s vocals from the rafters to the floor. So he had to comment, “You guys are incredibly loud when the song’s going on, and incredibly quite when it’s not. If you think about how that compares to other kinds of shows, its kind of weird. But that’s the way we like it.”
Chris was also very humble and paid homage to his dedicated fans, “We’re very happy that you’ve come out to see us and participate with us the way that you do. It makes it much more than just a show. So thanks for entertaining us.” The gratitude was returned in more ways than one that night. I for one am grateful that there’s hope for music in this realm – both for the artists and the fans.
Without directly comparing Dashboard to the Beatles, what made songwriters like Lennon and McCartney so legendary was their talent for creating enduring, raw, and enticing songs filled with harmonies and heartfelt lyrics people can connect with and sing to.
Chris taps into this generation’s human emotion and the every day trials of life, but with a fierce energy that defies sadness on songs like Brilliant Dance, “This is incredible. Starving, insatiable, yes, this is love for the first time. Well you’d like to think that you were invincible. Yeah, well weren’t we all once before we felt loss for the first time? Well this is the last time.”
I will admit that I am one of those people you see singing really loud by herself in the car (but not so oblivious that I think people can’t see me picking my nose), but I also know I’m not alone in my singing endeavors. This is why it’s so fitting that Chris’ choice to name himself Dashboard Confessional versus using his own name as a solo artist. Dashboard fans that have found a musical outlet for channeling their loss of love, thoughts of revenge, pain and happiness within his songs – in their car where no one can hear, or in a club where they’re accompanied by their love torn comrades.
We need this lyrical connection not just in the emo genre Dashboard has been pigeon holed into, but across the board in hip-hop or punk rock. And it does exist in different facets, but without naming names (at least this time), most mainstream music we are inundated with today via TV, radio, and other media channels put the lyrical piece in the backseat, either by making the words totally unintelligible or completely trite. This country is filled with twelve-year-old girls who think they can connect with Woops I Did It Again, and twelve-year-old boys who dream of meeting a girl at the Warp Tour, but I can’t believe that this type of music will endure over the next twenty or thirty years. I mean really, how often do we hear Tiffany, Debbie Gibson, or New Kids On The Block on the radio? I do however; see Chris Carrabba on stage for many, many years to come, growing older with this generation and generations to come, crafting our life experiences into his songs.