Dashboard Confessional and All-American Rejects put on 2017’s best show, hands down
Is it 2007 again? Hell Yeah
Photos by: Ricky Thigpen
Dashboard Confessional is back in full swing this year, tearing up the national scene and announcing unmissable tours left and right. As of late, the Florida emo legends teamed up with fellow superstars The All-American Rejects, The Maine, and The Social Animals to warm up for what’s next. The absolute best part about this lineup is that three of the four bands were on everyone’s mixed CDs in the mid-2000s, regardless of the theme. Now, a decade later, all four of the bands can be pasted onto a Spotify playlist and be easily mistaken for an early-days pop punk dream.
To help promote the tour, and to quite possibly give everyone a heart attack, Dashboard Confessional and The All-American Rejects covered each other’s songs, each track a significant milestone in their respective careers. Dashboard Confessional covered “Move Along,” from AAR’s album of the same name, and The All-American Rejects covered “Hands Down,” a song that was for sure a lovey-dovey playlist staple at some point in everyone’s life. You can hear the covers for free simply by signing up for the respective band’s email list. Not a bad bargain!
As the lineup played for a sea of 20-somethings, still just as emo and angsty as they were a decade ago, pieces fell into place and CMCU was home to an indescribably special night.
Charlotte was the final night of this summer run before all of the bands went their separate ways to festivals, other tours, and even studios. I can’t say whether opening band The Social Animals was happy to be in the humid, tropical hell that is Charlotte for the night, but the Minnesota natives performed with goofy grins plastered on their faces as rivers of sweat found its way to the stage floor and into the crowd. Performing songs off of 2016’s “Formative Years,” The Social Animals are too busy making a name for themselves to care about fans filtering in late. I might even argue that they’re too busy trying to upgrade to a bus as a means for transportation to turn their heads toward the drunken concert-goers as they stumbled from VBGB to the lawn. In any event, The Social Animals deserve better than a opening slot, though we’ve all gotta start somewhere. I can only hope they make their way back to the Queen City as a headliner!
Speaking of headlining, it was quite a shock to see The Maine as a co-opener with The Social Animals. The AZ kids were just on their own headlining tour, and recently pulled off their own music festival based on the 10th anniversary of their band-ship, fittingly titled 8123 Fest. The event took place in January over three days, and included bands from the record label The Maine call home. After such an eventful year in the headliner’s spotlight, the band have decided to take a step back and reap the benefits of being an opener, with shorter sets and less gear to lug around.
With roses decorating the CMCU Amphitheatre stage, and a drum head dedicated to the band’s most recent release Lovely Little Lonely, John O’Callaghan skipped up on stage and showed Charlotte why The Maine are still around ten years later. Songs from a handful of fan-favorite albums were played, and audience members of all ages sang along with the pop punk kings. Did anyone else have Can’t Stop Won’t Stop on repeat in 2008?
The absolute highlight of The Maine’s set was also the highlight of the entire night for a young man named Garrison. As the band neared the end of their set, O’Callaghan caught sight of a large white poster that flaunted a fan’s message: “IT’S MY FIRST CONCERT!” The only logical reaction to this confession is to bring the dude on stage, right? O’Callaghan seemed to think so as he pulled the high schooler up on stage, taught him the bridge of “Girls Do What They Want,” and shoved the mic in his hand. By the end of the song, Garrison warmed up to the crowd and was jumping higher than the band themselves. What a way to spend your first show!
Garrison got lucky enough to be noticed a second time during The All-American Rejects set, though it was veiled in an apology after vocalist Tyson Ritter did some… unspeakable things to the microphone stand. But before the night turned PG-13, the alt rockers waltzed out from behind the black curtain and got us all in our feelings with “Swing, Swing.” I’ve never heard a grown man squeal like I did last night thanks to the plaid-shirt, snap-back wearing dude next to me. It. Was. Awesome.
Halfway through the set, when we were all out of breath from screaming about Tyson’s sexual feelings towards just about everything on stage, a certain lead singer’s boot came untied. The next thing I know, there’s blue mood lighting hovering over the audience, a sultry, impromptu guitar riff, and a catchy melody accompanied by some jumbled words about Tyson’s shoe needing to be laced up.That was the most pop punk thing I’ve ever seen.
The cloudy night made the atmosphere that much darker, despite the lasers that danced on the black drop behind the band, but there were no complaints as AAR hit everyone’s favorites, from “It Ends Tonight,” “I Wanna,” and even a Pixies cover that morphed into “Move Along.” By the time their set was over, AAR was on another level; a level of giddy energy that seeped into the crowd and made it hard for us to let them walk off stage. The crowd chanted for “Gives You Hell” to be played, but only because the band teased a few chords. Tyson did anything but sing the actual song, aside from elongated phrases and hums of the melody; though, in his defense, he was laughing too much to sing the damn thing. No one minded, however, as this went on for a few minutes; maybe the band was as drunk as the crowd, not that anyone was complaining. Finally, though it was bittersweet, “Gives You Hell” began to play in earnest and innocent anger from the crowd bubbled up and made for one hell of a finale. Ah, my pop punk heroes.
Living legends Dashboard Confessional walked on stage shortly after, and thanked the crowd with praise hands and kisses before the show ever started. They opened with quite possibly the most famous song from their golden era, “Vindicated,” and got us all ugly-crying in no time. The man who squealed at the start of AAR’s set was now violently screaming the chorus to “Vindicated” with clenched fists and a scrunched up face. Again: it. Was. Awesome.
It’s been a hot minute since DC has released anything original, though they did just release an acoustic cover EP with four songs. The “Covered and Taped” EP features stripped down renditions of The 1975’s “Sex,” Julien Baker’s “Sprained Ankle,” Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself,” and Sorority Noise’s “Using.” Of the four, Bieber’s pop anthem was stripped down for Charlotte and lighters went up; who says you can’t get emo to Bieber?
Several times throughout the night, vocalist Chris Carrabba spoke in between songs and admitted how he wanted to slow the night down, wanted to take in what was happening because he “doesn’t do that often enough. None of us do.” The night was the final show on tour with AAR and friends, and Carrabba wanted Charlotte to know that the last time he was here, he played inside the Fillmore to a much smaller crowd. The fact that he got to play outside was not something he took for granted, and said as much on multiple occasions. In addition to making the crowd a sappy mess, he also stated that the audience looked “like the kind of crowd I could play a deep cut for,” nodding toward the fans who had been singing along to every word. Nothing is a deep cut if you’re a true fan, right?
Those same fans went absolutely nuts when Carrabba hinted at an album announcement sooner rather than later before diving into a new song entitled “We Fight.” The song will definitely be on the new album, we’ve just got to be patient enough to wait for it.
The classic encore parade came and went, and soon enough DC ran back on stage, but not before Carrabba pulled down the left side of his collar and motioned us all into his heart. The gesture was sweet and pure, and is one of the reasons why DC has been around for so long. Genuinity goes a long way.
The opening riff of “Hands Down” sent the crowd into a tizzy, myself included, and sent a tidal wave of nostalgia into the abyss. Drops of rain fell from the clouds and it was so cliched, but so fitting. The deafening applause competed with the rolls of thunder as the band thanked Charlotte one hundred times over. You won’t find a tour quite like this one in CLT for a while, but we can rest easy knowing there’s new music on the horizon from DC. Finally.
See what’s next for each of the bands below:
The All American Rejects