The summer before my freshman year of high school I had become the definitive emo kid. I was a skittish, perpetually disgruntled 15-year-old shy guy with far too many feelings and far too few defense mechanisms to conquer them with. My hair was straight, my clothes were black, and my favorite band was the notoriously whiney emo outfit Dashboard Confessional. Oh, and 9/11 had just happened. 'Twas some dark times indeed.
The early-aught's emo boom was short-lived and of little importance — rightfully so, too. It was a genre plagued with diary-entry lyricism, uninspired guitar riffs, and enough white-boy heartache to fill up years worth of Xanga and Live Journal entries. There were few bands that showcased staying power and there were even fewer that would be deemed worthy of mainstream attention. Dashboard Confessional, who will be performing at First Avenue on Sunday, was one that broke through.
Fronted by former Further Seems Forever singer Chris Carrabba, Dashboard Confessional was at the center of the emo movement. Carrabba's raw, homespun tunes spoke to the most overly sensitive among us, and his grossly personal songwriting represented what listeners loved about the genre but also what critics despised.
So, sitting here on a bleak summer morning, 11 years later, listening to The Swiss Army Romance — Carrabba's all-acoustic debut — it's easy to scoff at the overwrought nature of it all. Carrabba's lyrics bounce from cheesy to oddly verbose to just plain stupid. On "Again I Go Unnoticed" he whines, "Please send me anything but signals that are mixed / 'cause I can't read your rolling eyes." Wait, what? Chris, do you really not understand what rolling eyes mean? Here's a clue: It's what I do every 10 seconds while I'm revisiting your music.
And then there's the putridly romantic "Vindicated," the Spider Man-approved single that propelled Carrabba into the national spotlight. In an utterly rambly chorus, Carrabba declares "I am vindicated, I am selfish, I am wrong, I am right / I swear I'm right / I swear I knew it all along." Compelling stuff, right?
Of course, this all comes as no surprise. Not all of the things I loved in high school need to resonate with me intellectually and even if they did I'd have some serious soul-searching to do. And face-palm-inducing lines aside, Dashboard Confessional's catalog isn't entirely devoid of merit. The group's third album, A Mark, a Mission, a Brand, a Scar, which features a fully enlisted backing band and an unremarkable cover of R.E.M.'s superb "Nightswimming," is much less of a bitter pill to swallow. From "Bend and not Break" to the breezy, radio-friendly "Hey Girl," Carrabba's songwriting seems to shine the most when it's not just bare bones and tears.
It’s wrong to call this tour a cash-grab or a desperate attempt at appearing relevant; Carrabba comes off as earnest and principled as he did 15 years ago in.
That said, I will not be attending this show. There are some lines that I won’t even cross. But if you do, I won't judge you. As someone who still spins Everclear on a semi-regular basis, I completely understand. It's important to embrace your roots once in a while — no matter how mortifying it might seem.
With: Vinyl Theatre, This Wild Life
When: 6:30 p.m. Sun., Jan. 29
Where: First Avenue
Tickets: $27.50; click here for more info