Third Eye Blind, Dashboard Confessional, Augustana
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
July 2, 2015
Have you ever considered the amount of confidence it takes to step out onstage and play music? True, the money helps, if you’re lucky enough to be paid to play, but confidence is one of those less appreciated qualities that you need to make it in the music business. Talent, charisma and intelligence are arguably more important, but don’t sleep on confidence.
You see confidence manifest itself in different ways. For some, it’s stepping away from the mike secure in the knowledge that even though you’ve been away for a few years, people were waiting the entire time to sing your words back at you. For others it’s going onstage and putting on the type of production you want to do, even when it doesn’t fall into genre convention.
And if you’re lucky — like say if you’re Dashboard Confessional and Third Eye Blind in Houston — your confidence will be rewarded.
Even today, Dashboard Confessional is something of a punchline. Some people just can’t let the early-‘00s emo thing go, and when you write songs like “Screaming Infidelities” and “The Best Deceptions” there are just some jokes you won’t be able to escape. Which is why it might come as something of a surprise that seeing Dashboard Confessional live isn’t seeing a bunch of sad-sacks moping onstage. The reality is that Chris Carrabba and company grew into being an incredibly talented rock and roll band, one capable of taking simple, heartfelt songs and turning them in to big rock anthems live.
Carrabba is all energy, as if he had consumed ten cups of coffee just before taking the stage. This almost-manic energy works with the type of show that the crowd wants, because it gives him ample freedom to get away from the mike and let the crowd sing their lungs out. The band might have gone on the shelf for a few years, but it doesn’t change the fact that their body of work lends itself to nostalgic embrace. There will always be a comfort in a line like, “I hope you’re as happy as you’re pretending” if that’s ever an emotion you actually felt.
But again, this wasn’t about being the sad kid you were in middle/high school. This was a celebration, and it was fitting that their biggest singalong of Dashboard’s night was the set closing “Hands Down,” which is a great song about best days and young love. As the entire crowd sung the ending a cappella, it felt special, and only possible because of Carrabba’s confidence in his music and his audience.
You may not hear a lot of people mention they’re Third Eye Blind fans, but the reality is that those fans are out there and they are loud. They’re also willing to go anywhere the band wants to take them, which is good because, pardon my French, Stephan Jenkins does whatever the fuck he wants onstage and it’s basically amazing.
At the start, the show was almost unreal, Jenkins and company in silhouette, him singing in to a mike dangling from the ceiling on a platform at the back of the stage while wearing a skirt. The entire production felt like the bastard child of Kanye West, Nine Inch Nails and late-‘90s alt rock and was captivating in how it completely flew in the face of what one expects to see when they go see a rock band that plays 3EB's style of pop-rock/post-grunge.
We expect lights and a lead singer bathed in them and for it to be all about the music and not the stage design. We expect it, for lack of a better word, to be plain. This was not plain. This was interesting and exciting, and it gave the entire show a different kind of momentum, because when he got off the platform and took his rightful place at the front of the stage, we knew this was a guy who might do anything, and that’s really exciting.
Once they had the crowd’s attention, Third Eye Blind could basically do no wrong. The songs from their new album fit in seamlessly with the old material, which meant that they never killed the crowd going in to something they were less familiar with. But if you know you have songs as good as “Wounded” and “Motorcycle Drive By” in your set, you would probably have the confidence to do whatever you wanted onstage too, even if it meant getting a bit off the wall with your stage production.
But as much a part as nostalgia plays in to shows like these, things never felt like a high-school reunion or a victory lap. For the first time in a long time, I felt genuinely interested in what the future holds for both bands, which is not something I expected to feel walking into the show.
At the Pavilion, between acts, they show videos of the shows headed to town. And it’s easy to look at Rick Springfield and Toto and wonder just who is going out and seeing these bands that have been around forever. But be real, who is going out to see Slayer/King Diamond or Incubus/Deftones? Or Third Eye Blind and Dashboard Confessional, for that matter? People who love music, like you and me, who want to singalong to the songs they love.
And as long as the artists take the stage and do things their way to the best of their abilities, we have a lot of best nights to look forward to. Have confidence in that.
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Personal Bias: "Motorcycle Drive By" is in my Top 20 songs of all time list. Further Seems Forever remains Chris Carrabba's best band.
The Crowd: Quite possibly the loudest I've ever heard up in The Woodlands, which is insane considering they didn't sell the lawn and the show wasn't a sell out. I could hear "Semi-Charmed Life" damn near perfectly in the parking lot walking back to my car.
Overheard in the Crowd: "I'm driving, so drink as much as you want," said a good, responsible friend.
Random Notebook Dump: "Life doesn't get easier, but it does get better" is a much more interesting way of looking at things than "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger," even if I'm not sure why.