There comes a time where most of us look back to high school and reminisce about the ‘glory days.’ For almost all of us, these memories are not complete without a throwback compilation of all your favorite high school hits. It is becoming more and more rare for bands to be able to boast about being around for five years – ten years – twenty years seems unheard of. Which is why Dashboard Confessional is in a league of their own. The band is nearing their 18 year anniversary (albeit a short hiatus back from 2011 to 2016). And it is no surprise that they effortlessly sold out The Fillmore for their show Thursday night in San Francisco.
By some unwritten law, but one abided by many — you cannot simply hear the opening chords to “Vindicated” and not be prepared to sing along at the top of your lung capacity. This is exactly what is to be expected from the crowd Thursday night as they pour in to the historic Fillmore to escape the rain.
It’s just hours into February (though you wouldn’t believe it by the mass amounts of Valentine-studded propaganda that has decorated retailers since mid-January) and as typically associated with the entire month, love is in the air. It’s safe to say tonight, Dashboard Confessional has Stolen our hearts with ease. There is absolutely no better way to combat this overly-saturated, in-your-face, romance-driven time of year than with songs informally labeled as ’emo.’ The entire genre was built around heartbreak, around unrequited love, loss and the void of happiness. Dashboard Confessional have been kings of this ’emo’ crowd since the start.
The night begins with the acoustic-rock duo This Wild Life who share with us that tonight is their first performance in San Francisco despite the fact that they reside not too far from the Bay Area in Long Beach, California. Frontman Kevin Jordan and guitarist/percussionist Anthony Del Grosso may be the only two members of the band, but they have a huge stage presence, winning the crowd over early on with a cover of Blink 182‘s “First Date” where Kevin changes around the lyrics to mock his facial hair — Do you like my stupid beard?
Mid-set list, Kevin shares with the crowd an intimate story about being gifted one of his first guitars. His girlfriend at the time, he explains, bought him a guitar with only one condition…he had to learn a song. Not just any song, no. The request was to learn a track off of the first album ever released from none other than Dashboard themselves. You guessed it — the song was ‘Screaming Infidelities’ and Kevin lights up as he recollects his memories and shares his disbelief that today, here he is, sharing a stage with the very same men.
“We got a call that said…cancel the remaining dates of your tour. You’re going on a national tour with Dashboard Confessional!”
Imagine being told you’re going to be working with your idols? We can’t even begin to grasp the euphoric high that must linger with This Wild Life every night they take the stage as the opening act for one of the very same bands that helped kickstart their passion, their career itself.
The personal sentiment is never once lost on us as Kevin shares with us the meaning behind their track, ‘No More Bad Days,’ which was written for his mother. “This song is very special to me…” he begins, explaining her year through chemotherapy, and describing her as, quote, an “unstoppable fucking woman.” He wrote the track as a means to show his gratitude for her strength, for being their for his family despite her own struggles, for never giving up.
The band near the end of their setlist with the introductory track off their latest 2014 release, Clouded titled “Concrete” before awakening the crowd as Anthony sits behind a drum kit for their final track, “Better With You.”
After a very short intermission, Vinyl Theatre, indie rockers from Milwaukee take the stage. These Fueled By Ramen artist start things off strong, their high energy permeating throughout the venue as they treat the crowd to two new tracks, “My Fault” which features pianist Chris Senner on an honest to God keytar and “Day In And Day Out.” New music from these guys is highly overdue — their debut release having came out back in 2014.
This is when Vinyl Theatre gives us the news many has been waiting for, the announcement of their new album which Keegan jokes it’ll drop in a week or so “…buy it, steam it, steal it…whatever it is you guys do, just promise to give it a listen.”
After powering through two more tracks (“Breaking Up My Bones” and another new one, “New Machines”) Keegan jokes with the crowd… “I’d hate to be putting you guys to sleep.” he teases, looking out to the crowd, “but I say that as we go into a slow song…” The band treats us to a familiar track, Coldplay’s very own “Fix You” which is sung with such beautiful, raw emotion, the band definitely did justice to this incredible track.
They end their set with three more tracks, including their late 2015 single, “Gold.” For those in the crowd who may not have previously heard of Vinyl Theatre (and we’ll admit, we hadn’t listened to too much of their work) one thing can be certain: when their album drops next week, you can guarantee it’ll make it’s way to my speakers. These guys are extremely talented, Keegan’s vocals are far too impressive to put into words. With musical influences such as Death Cab for Cutie, you might expect things on an easier, more lax side. But this was not the case. The band’s energy never faltered, the three of them always in sync as they jammed through a blend of new and old… There was no question as to why they’ve toured with acts such as Twenty One Pilots or why they’re accompanying Dashboard. They put on an amazing set and we can only anticipate their new release and their eventual headlining tour. Expect great things. We’re warning you now — keep your eye out.
For a band that needs no introduction… Dashboard Confessional take the stage, which is decorated in small Himalayan natural salt crystal lamps. The crowd is beyond ready as the band kick things off immediately from songs recorded and adored over 15 years ago… “The Good Fight” and “Saints and Sailors” off of their 2001 release, The Places You’ve Come To Fear The Most.
The band flirts with strobe lights in their set as they go from the introductory track “Get Me Right” off of 2009’s Alter The Ending and the closing track, “Several Ways To Die Trying” off of 2003’s A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar.
We’re only a third of a way into the set when we’re treated with fan favorite, “Stolen” which is performed, dare I say, even better than the recorded track released over a decade ago. The show is slowed only momentarily, Carrabba addressing the crowd as old friends who have been through so much together, because in a way, we have. He starts off…
“I don’t know how you guys feel about things [happening in the world right now], but this…tonight. This right here feels good.”
He touches base on how the previous weeks in America, things have gone sadly askew. “Things feel fucked up,” Carrabba admits. He tells the crowd, “If you feel like I feel, that this isn’t right…” and I should note, his speech comes only after addressing that if anyone in the crowd agrees with all that is happening, then that’s alright, too. More power to you, he says, “You have as much right as the rest of us…” but he encourages that those who disagree, this is our time to do something. “I’m at as much a loss as everyone else on how we do this. Let’s talk. Let’s start something.” He relates the changes we’re going through now to the changes in the music scene with Dashboard Confessional first began. Build something, he emphasizes, not unlike how this music scene was built by the acceptance of everyone…for who and what we are.
“If you want change, you have to fight for it.”
Carrabba’s sentiment echoes throughout the venue as they play a new track titled, “We Fight.” The high energy, empowering, hopeful song seems to end a ‘chapter’ in Dashboard’s set as the lights dim and the band leaves Chris to stand center stage.
Real Dashboard! A fan screams, and you can hear Chris’ laughter through the microphone. “Don’t scream out real Dashboard just because I picked up an acoustic guitar… that’s fucked up. My band mates are just as important!” Carrabba’s playful demeanor causes an uproar with the crowd, who laugh and cheer. Despite the fact, he admits, sometimes he likes the old stuff better, too. “Let’s play something real old…” he prepares us as Chris begins “Age Six Racer” off of their debut release The Swiss Army Romance back in 2000.
The stage looks like a beautiful sunset, purples, pinks, reds and blues surround Carrabba as he takes us through some of the best Dashboard hits, all the while acoustic and alone on stage. His vocals shake the sold out venue, age has done nothing but continues his impressive range. “How about we stick with that era?” Carrabba muses, hesitant for just a second, as though waiting for permission from the lulled over crowd.
He performs the title track to both The Places You’ve Come To Fear The Most and The Swiss Army Romance, stopping mid-song, again, laughing uncontrollably. “Why are you flipping me off?” he addresses a fan in the crowd, “It’s okay. We’ll figure it out later,” he teases, picking back up without missing a beat.
Fast forward and Carrabba performs a song we first got a taste of last year…when the band headlined the Taste Of Chaos tour. The track titled “Heart Beat Here” is just as beautiful as we remember, the love song complete with such beautiful tones… this was the highlight of Carrabba’s talent for us — he held his notes with such impressive clarity as the crowd chimed in with the words chanted pre-song. It’s a beautiful, touching moment and it leaves us aching for new music from the band we’ve grown with, we’ve loved with, we’ve had our hearts broken with…Dashboard has been there for us through it all. It only makes sense that through our adulthood, they’re just as present.
After taking the time to praise each of his bandmates, he addresses the crowd yet again, “Don’t be shy!” he yells, feeding off the energy of the crowd, “We still have a bit of show left.” The band performs “The Best Deceptions” which is sung so loudly, Carrabba stops several times, beaming as he allows the crowd to carry the vocals. “Again I Go Unnoticed” follows, and the reaction is the same. Several times throughout the show, Carrabba doesn’t bother with his microphone, no. He’s hunched over the crowd, guitar held out, screaming the words to fans who are singing so loudly you hardly miss the vocals through the speakers.
“Let’s sing this one together.”
It’s all the introduction “Screaming Infidelities” needs. A song adored by many, the star of every early 2000 emo mixtape. We can feel the show is coming to an end, and it’s bittersweet. “You guys have been amazing,” Carrabba expresses his gratitude. And in all his humble glory, he adds, “I hope you’ll invite us back some day” before cutting straight into “Vindicated.”
“I’m Chris,” Carrabba says as he slings his guitar back over his shoulder, “…along with you,” he points towards the crowd, “…We are Dashboard.” The sentiment is beautiful, treating the massive crowd as though each and every one of us truly mean something, a message continually repeated throughout the night.
“This song is about the best day of my life. I hope you’ve had one tonight.”
The show ends with the band’s performance of “Hands Down,” the song which has only matured since it’s release. It is a powerful three minutes, as Dashboard adds a twist to the song, adding a guitar solo and the words, “I still know that you meant it” which only serves to remind us that even though we have all grown up…it has been together. Through this music. We have all been connected. No matter the many years that have passed since this song’s release in 2003. We were all much younger then…and the song may have meant one thing, and today it means something else entirely. The power behind the song, the memories created, the lyrics embedded in our minds, the shameless cry out of ‘my hopes are so high…’ and ‘so we can get some.’ That is something that will never change. Something that cannot fade away. As well as the influence we’ve all felt from Dashboard Confessional as they’ve been there through some of the most significant milestones of our lives.
And as we leave the venue back into the rainy San Francisco streets, it isn’t so much a goodbye, but a “we’ll be seeing you.” I, for one, cannot wait for their next album and, fingers crossed, in another ten years I hope to have the opportunity to join Dashboard for another sold out show, screaming along to every line through the band’s amazing catalog of all these beautiful, emo songs.
The Good Fight
Saints and Sailors
The Sharp Hint Of New Tears
Get Me Right
Several Ways To Die Trying
Age Six Racer
Scraping Up The Pieces
The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most
Ghost Of A Good Thing
The Swiss Army Romance
Heart Beat Here
The Best Deceptions
Again I Go Unnoticed
As Lovers Go
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