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A Mark, A Mission, A Finger, A Star

Dashboard Confessional & Friends In Concert - Salem, Oregon, 9/27/03

by Emily Kinsella

"I'll find myself drifting in a sky full of/scars they cut into you/blisters rose colored hue/mayday we're going down/these masculine memories are morose/your kerosene company is comatose." So begins Vendetta Red, who sound a tad bit like Trapt, or Adema if you wanna go that route. Lead singer Zach Davidson gyrates and hops about so, that I would liken his onstage demeanor to that of Chester Bennington of Linkin Park fame, or that guy who abandoned Rage Against the Machine, so that now they're Audioslave. VR's set lasts little longer than it would take to consume a taco, and doesn't consist of much. A little screaming, a lot of mike swinging, and it's intermission. Provides for a good mosh session, even in the most boring part of the pit. A solid "B+" for effort, I'd say.

Little more than a half a taco later, Brand New struts onstage, greeted by "A good ol' Salem Armory welcome" of the staples, applause and "hoohoo's" but also a good amount of "Jesse, I want to have your baby!" They kick off their extensive set with a rousing version of "Sic Transit Gloria (Glory Fades)." Their time onstage is filled with many new songs from their latest album Deja Entendu, but they don't shy away from the classic crowd pleasers like "Jude Law and a Semester Abroad" and "Seventy Times Seven." During the chorus of "Jaws Theme Swimming," none other than Chris Carraba of Dashboard Confessional joins lead singer Jesse Lacey onstage. This special collaboration results in an overwhelming eruption from the crowd. Even through a distance of about eight yards and being pressed all over inside my crowd neighbors' personal space, there is an undeniable confection of passion and fervor delivered in Chris and Jesse's voices that I would have taken a step back, had I room to make such a move. The crowning jewel of Brand New's performance is their execution of "Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don't." From the second the first chord is strung, the crowd's presence is heard in every lyric, topping out with a spirited scream of the line, "Oh it hurts to be this good."

A few moments later, the lights dim, and MxPX make their entrance. Many people rush toward the stage, but a good number loiter in the back, or find home in the stands up the stairs. They open with their most popular hit, "My Life Story." Easily the most energetic group of the night, their style of music is also the poppy-est. Having relocated to a less lethargic section of the pit, everyone around me is wavering, jumping and devil-horning. This mayhem only increases when we hear those fateful words: "We ain't got no place to go/so let's go to the punk rock show..." And then the crowd: "Darling take me by the hand/we're gonna see a punk rock band." This number is the most frantic performance of the night. As the song gets going, people begin pouring down from the stands and through the doors, fighting their way into the crowd. By the finish, there isn't a dry person in the house. A few songs later, Zach Davidson materializes to duet on a screamier version of The Who's "Teenage Wasteland." The set finishes with an acoustic performance of "Brokenhearted," where everyone is asked, if possible, to light up their cell phones and wave them in the air. Ahh, what's an old concert favorite without a tech-age twist?

Ten minutes later, around 9:15, Dashboard Confessional is ready to begin. Bodies stream into the crowd, filling every, I mean every, available space. I am located dead center, one marble's shot from the stage, and I pray that Dashboard, for all I have heard, are as calm and cool as my friends say, because another MxPx-style performance could result in serious injury. Chris Carraba glides onstage with a smirk, and by the audience's response, I'm convinced that this IS the Second Coming. Carraba and his band -- wait, he has a band? -- start with some new songs off their latest CD, A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar. Not being that big on Dashboard, I barely know any of the lyrics, but it seems like every mouth around me is moving along with Carraba's. His voice is completely lost in the others'. They recite in unison, hailing their leader. It freaks me out a little at first, but I get used to it, and pretend to sing along.

Carraba stands in one place the whole time, only moving from his spot three feet off the center of the stage to switch acoustic guitars about five times. He sings like his songs are written, painful and antiseptic, yet completely moving and hypnotic. The crowd screams lyrics like "Youth's the most unfaithful mistress/still we forge ahead to miss her/rushing our moment to shine," during "The Swiss Army Romance." Each and every line of every single song hits me with an incursion of awareness -- or was that the foam sandal someone threw -- and I understand. And I know I'm not the only one, because I peer around and see them all, heads bobbing, crooning. The calm performance is interrupted by Carraba noticing one of his non-supporters, waving the finger.

"If you have something to say, get up here and say it." The finger-guy screams something back, and Carraba simply utters "Asshole." The climax of the whole show is "Screaming Infidelities," Dashboard's biggest hit. Finally, a song I know well. Once again, Carraba may as well stop singing, and he does a few times, because the roar of voices, all on tune, all synchronized, is haunting. And loud. The words, "Well As for now I'm gonna hear the saddest songs/and sit alone and wonder/how you're making out/but as for me/I wish that I was anywhere with anyone/making out," are delivered with such overwhelming vigor, calling from every corner of the venue. Upon completion of the song, Carraba thanks everyone and strides offstage.

"We want more" chants the crowd for a good five minutes, until Carraba reappears and starts in on the intro to their latest single, "Hands Down." The band plays the instrumental for about 3 minutes, with Carraba stalking around, pretending to stage-dive and sending soulful emo looks around, almost causing the gaggle of girls next to me to go into seizures. He steps up to the mike, and he might as well have lifted his hands in a Jesus/Scott Stapp pose, because that's the kind of reception he received.

"Breathe in for luck/breathe in so deep/this air is blessed/you share with me," he sings, and his followers actually quiet as he keeps going. "This night is wild/so calm and dull/these hearts they race/from self control." He is able to make it through the first verse before they join in on the chorus; "my hopes are so high that your kiss might kill me/so won't you kill me/so I die happy/my heart is yours to fill or burst/to break or bury/or wear as jewelry/whichever you prefer." As the song winds down, no one starts toward the door. We stand and watch him walk offstage, and make sure he's fully offstage, and probably back on his bus by the time the whole fan club slowly grazes out the door, back to clean-oxygen zone. Outside, a bunch of people scream "That was awesome," or something along those lines, and a few scream "That sucked cock!"

In closing, the concert was a real experience. It was correct to place Vendetta Red first, to get that out of the way. Brand New had the best songs, MxPX was the most fun to dance to, and Dashboard Confessional played the longest and gave the most all-around enjoyable performance. Overall, accounting for taste, each band was very well worth the $5.90 apiece I paid to see them.



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