Dashboard Confessional, Taking Back Sunday, Saosin, The Early November
Revention Music Center
July 2, 2016
If music genres could be classified as seasons, emo would be winter. It’s music for broken hearts, which means cold hearts and cold colors. Emo fans huddle together and scream the lyrics back to the band on stage because they’re trying to keep warm, metaphorically speaking, by finding that passion in the broken-hearted.
At least that’s how it used to be anyway. Sure, there are plenty of modern emo acts doing their thing right now, reaching deep down into those ugly emotions, but these days, going to an emo show is not entirely unlike going to see one of the many classic-rock touring shows that hit town on a regular basis. Sure, the bands are younger, but the spirit is the same: traveling back in time via the magic of nostalgia.
The thing about nostalgia is that it’s not wintery at all. It’s very much a summer thing, which is why year in and year out, thousands make the trek up to The Woodlands during the summer to see the bands that they were seeing back in the ’70s and ’80s. So how do the emo bands of 15 years ago reconcile this? They become summer acts themselves.
It was easy to tell that something was up when it was revealed that Taking Back Sunday’s backdrop was a giant American flag. Nothing says “we’re making the transition from whatever we were to classic-rock act” better than performing in front of a giant American flag. If that wasn’t enough of a tip-off, give “Tidal Wave” a spin. It’s a song that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Mellencamp or Springsteen set list.
All told, Taking Back Sunday’s set wasn’t one particularly interested in technical perfection. There was a looseness to it that could be read as sloppiness, but could just as easily be read as a band more interested in the spirit of their music rather that a perfect replication of their albums, which, when you think about it, is what many a modern classic rock show is and what most fans want. Now, in 2016, they’re singing along not because of their cold hearts but because of their warm memories.
But that’s only one way to approach a set. Dashboard Confessional also brought the sound into the sun, again metaphorically speaking, by changing what at one time were small, personal songs into big rock anthems. For many bands, this probably isn’t something that would work, but DC managed to pull it off flawlessly. “Remember to Breathe” is very much a quiet song you sing to yourself in the privacy of your own bedroom, but here it’s reinvented into something downright majestic, with a guitar solo that totally rips.
This set wasn’t quite the revelation that their performance opening for Third Eye Blind was, but it’s still rock-solid. Chris Carrabba has really never sounded better than he does right now, and he can read the crowd just about perfectly, knowing when to step away from the mike and let them carry the vocals. As a fun little bonus, he dropped in a cover of Slaid Cleaves’s “Texas Long Song,” which had the crowd in stitches.
Taking Back Sunday as an emo Grand Funk Railroad? Dashboard Confessional as an emo Coldplay? (They covered “Fix You,” but the less said the better.) Yeah, it’s weird until you start thinking about it.
So, How Were the Openers? The Early November were really good, and it was their sound in particular that is responsible for the whole “winter” thing at the top of this post. They still very much sound like winter, but in the best sort of way. “Decoration” will get stuck in your head if you give it a listen. Saosin brought the heaviness to this bill, and were really good too. No offense to the rest of the bill, but Anthony Green is the best front man on this tour, equal parts magnetic and intense. Both bands helped round out the bill nicely without making things feel redundant.
Personal Bias: I like Further Seems Forever and Straylight Run way more than I like Dashboard Confessional and Taking Back Sunday.
The Crowd: It’s nice, from time to time, to go to shows where the majority of the crowd is dressed for comfort and not to be seen.
Overheard in the Crowd: “So you don’t like music?” asked a random crowd member, trying to figure out why I was at the show. After asking me if I worked at the venue and finding out I was largely ambivalent about the bands playing, that was the conclusion she came to. This is not the first time this has happened to me.
Random Notebook Dump: If you made it down here to the end and you love any of the bands mentioned in this review, let me remind you that Houston’s best emo dance party, Saves the Tuesday, is tomorrow night over at Barbarella. Go hang out and sing loud — it’ll be good for you.