Review 2: Dashboard Confessional

Dashboard Confessional, or Dashy Confesh, as I assume the cool kids call them, is currently touring their first album in nine years with All Time Low on the so-called “Summer Ever After” tour, which stopped by New York last Sunday night at the Rooftop on Pier 17, an outdoor venue at the top of a former mall wrecked by Hurricane Sandy that has genuinely the nicest bathroom of any concert venue I’ve been to in my entire life.

Unlike several hundred other people, I read the list of restricted items, so I knew not to bring an umbrella. There was an enormous pile of umbrellas next to the security desk by the time I got there, at which point I was ushered through before I could stop to take a picture. 

I made a Spotify playlist 15 months ago called Developing Intensity (2004-2009). It charts the course of my musical taste over that time. I was always more into modern rock than the classic stuff, and it got heavier and heavier as the years went by. By the early 2010s, the words in much of the music I listened to were growled rather than sung.

But that meant that, by the time All Time Low was picking up steam, I was already outside of their sphere of influence. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of them until their song Backseat Serenade showed up on a Spotify radio station one day. After “Missing You” followed, I was hooked. When I met my girlfriend, Danielle, not long after, her love of the band cemented my own affection for… both, I guess?

DashCon, on the other hand, I had always been vaguely aware of – they were formed in the first decade of my life – but I had also literally never listened to them until last weekend. And I’m all emo about it now that it took so long, because they’re really good. Frontman Chris Carrabba has an excellent voice, and the musicianship is solid throughout. They have great stuff on every album, up to and including their latest release, Crooked Shadows.

But the act of first discovering, and then seeing them perform, in 2018 is kind of fascinating.

They’ve been around for a very long time, so it makes sense that Carrabba would be in his early 40s – 43, to be precise – but that knowledge makes the concert a little strange. Without any nostalgia to draw on, I was focused differently than most of the people there were. I thought at least as much about the context of what I was watching as I did the content.

Even though the man writing the words for Crooked Shadows is older and presumably wiser, he seems just as focused on youth as he ever did. But that fact feels different now. These are the opening lyrics of the album: “We were the kids that left home, probably too young.” At his age, he could easily have had kids who left home right on time.

That type of digging back to the past is a little… sad. And not sad in the way emo music inevitably must be. I mean sad in a varsity-football-star-still-wearing-his-class-ring kinda way. Here is a forty-three-year-old man who stood on the stage and talked about having recently graduated from high school and then correcting himself by getting younger – he’s going back in just a few weeks, he told the crowd. Sure, he’s joking, but the dude hasn’t been in high school since before at least half – and probably much more – of the people in the crowd were born.

It’s weird.

I get it. He’s pandering to his audience of almost entirely girls and young women who are listening to his band in high school or listened to them when they were, in the same way Kane Brown is pandering to whatever demo he’s playing for – I mean, have you heard him on the alternate version of Camila Cabello’s Never Be The Same? I am still not convinced that that’s the same guy who sang What Ifs. I like those songs (actually though), but dude’s faking it for at least one of those audiences. Maybe both.

But while pandering is an almost-inevitable part of a being a band that peaked in an earlier decade, it eventually becomes discomfiting. Though I can’t tell you exactly where the line is, 43 is definitely past it. (I’m lying, the line is the day you graduate from college.)

DaCo seems determined to stay forever relevant to that demographic too, as evidenced by the featured artists on Crooked Shadows: Chrissy Costanza, singer of Under the Current and person I hadn’t thought of since I got really into watching Alex Goot YouTube covers five years ago, appears on the final track – my favorite of the bunch. A quick check-up on where her band’s at shows that her voice has changed a lot in the intervening years. Kind of interesting, that.

Dancing violinist YouTube sensation Lindsay Stirling is also there, which makes me think I shouldn’t even call them features; I should call them collabs. Because, you know, YouTube. But are those collabs genuine, or are they ploys to ensnare a new decade of their target demographic?

Maybe it’s both. Does it even matter?

It’s not like they’re the only ones pining for the olden days. Heck, they weren’t even the only ones at that concert doing so, where All Time Low came out with nostalgic bangers like “Good Times” that feature lyrics like “Chasing girls who didn’t know love yet,” a lyric one can only hope is in reference to the time around their formation back when they were also young enough to not know love yet, because at some point that went from sweetly naïve to actually a crime. Lead singer/songwriter Alex Gaskarth is 30, which is comparatively young… but it ain’t that young.

On a personal note, there’s a benefit to having similar music tastes to this particular demographic, because 99.6% of women in it are shorter than me, resulting in excellent sight lines for the whole concert – so long as they don’t bring their often distressingly tall boyfriends . (I tweeted something about this just over four years ago.)

Halsey came out for a song – All Time Low’s, not DC’s. That was cool. I didn’t know it was Halsey, because the last time I wanted to know what Halsey looked like her hair was a different color, but I knew I recognized her voice. It’s kind of like how Lady Gaga is in that new movie with Bradley Cooper, and you’re like “Huh, she looks kinda familiar” and then you hear her singing voice and you’re like I know that, and then they also show her name on screen, and you’re like Oohhhhh, duh.

It was the kind of cool, unexpected appearance that makes seeing live concerts such a pleasure. Chris Carrabba himself came out again briefly to show off his ridiculous lung capacity during another ATL song. I liked that.

Look, as odd and slightly uncomfortable as it is to hear a very grown adult pretend to be a high schooler, I am totally on board for their music. Even not having a history with it, I can’t help but get caught up in the feelings that it very honestly does portray.

Plus, they put was a great show.

Eight-Point-One out of Ten

Thank you so much for watching. This is the second week of this channel and the first week where I am doing the thing in the way it’s meant to be done. A colleague asked me how many reviews I have stashed away, and he called me an idiot when I told him none. But it’s true, which is both exciting and frightening. I am unsurprised that my Death of Moviepass review has thus far been the most popular, and I expect that the wildly disparate topics I’ll be covering will result in ridiculous fluctuations of viewership in the long term. But if you’d like the take the journey with me regardless, there’s a button that lets you do so below, right next to some buttons that let me know you care enough to press more buttons.

Also, if you want to talk about this subject or any other, hit me up in the comments or on Twitter. As you may have noticed, I’m a fan of talking.

I hope to see you next week.

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