“A lot of you are here for nostalgic purposes. That’s okay,” declared Taking Back Sunday frontman, Adam Lazzara, in between bouts of swinging his mic. His tone of voice sounded like that of a preacher. “I was there when you got your driver’s license. I was there senior year when you were skipping school to smoke.” Captivated audience members nodded their heads, smirking, knowing exactly what he meant. “I was there when you got accepted to college. When you left college. I am standing here right now, and I’m not going anywhere, ladies and gentlemen.”
Then, we all lost it.
Last weekend at Nikon Jones Beach Theatre, an outdoor amphitheater that’s well-worth the trek to Long Island’s South Shore, the meaning of the phrase “full circle” finally hit home. I grew up here, listening to emo and pop-punk, often while making out with boys in back seats of their cars to personalized mix CDs, and I longed to be the “punk rock princess” with obnoxiously colored hair that bands like Something Corporate sang about. Alas, back then I was a mousy brunette with bad style. Ten years later (“A Decade Under The Influence,” if you will) though, my hair’s dyed a cocktail of Manic Panic colors, and I’m seeing Taking Back Sunday and Dashboard Confessional co-headlining the Taste of Chaos tour with my blue-haired friend. The times have changed, but the music has remained.
You can listen to a song, even just the first seconds—that opening riff, the inhale of the vocalist before he begins singing—close your eyes, and remember an exact moment in time; I smile to “Hands Down,” remembering my first boyfriend in middle school playing the intro lick on the guitar in my bedroom when my parents were away; I cry to “MakeDamnSure,” remembering dancing around my house with the first boy I loved. Music is a time machine.
It seems Summer ’16 is a dreamy emo revival, with bands like All Time Low, Mayday Parade, Blink-182, Brand New, and countless others touring. So when we arrived at the venue, we were surprised scoping out the crowd–we were expecting young adults who never grew out of their Warped Tour phases. Instead, we only found people who looked like… normal young adults. We grew up listening to this music, feeling an attachment to chord progressions and lyrics that somehow, we’ve not outgrown. If anything, these songs gain meaning as we grow. These songs described our every relationship and every heartbreak–the soundtrack to the last 10 years. Hearing all these songs again reminds us where we came from, and how far we’ve come, even though we’re still listening to the same shit we listened to in 8th grade. And now, we’re all counting down the minutes until our favorites take the stage so we can hear these songs live, waiting through three supporting acts.
Long Island-natives Taking Back Sunday played first, opening with “Cute Without The ‘E’.” This was one of the first “cool” songs I learned on guitar, and also a song that I’d play so loudly on my acoustic guitar that the neighbors in my dorm would bang on my wall and yell at me to shut up. I never did. The moment they struck the initial chord, the audience exploded. One of the most notable characteristics of the band is the vocal dynamic in two part harmonies between Lazzara and John Nolan (lead guitarist and co-vocalist). The two voices complement each other perfectly, and this was amplified live.
I’d never been to a Taking Back Sunday show, so it was a pleasant surprise to hear the intensity of Nolan’s vocals really coming through, holding his own next to Lazzara. A bulk of the set was from their early 2000s records, including fan favorites like “Liar (It Takes One To Know One)” and “You’re So Last Summer.” Only two newer songs were performed, pulled from their 2014 album Happiness Is. They closed their hour long set with “MakeDamnSure,” which had every audience member head-banging along. My hair was ruined and I strained my neck, but it was one of the most explosive performances I’d seen live, and was truly the cherry on top of the show so far.
The audience had a short break to recuperate from Taking Back Sunday and get ready for a slightly more mellow set from Dashboard. Once the lighting changed, we screamed, knowing we were about to be graced by Chris Carrabba, the lead singer and undisputed prince of emo. The first Dashboard Confessional record was released 16 years ago as a solo acoustic album. A couple years later, a full band joined. They’re touring despite not having released an album since 2009, though Carrabba did debut a song called “Heart Beat Here,” to be released on an upcoming record. The set stood out because Carrabba alternated between swelling, full band performances (“Vindicated”) and his signature solo acoustic ones (“The Swiss Army Romance”). We’re used to hearing these songs acoustically as they were recorded, so experiencing them with roaring drums and insane guitar solos breathed new life into old tunes. The audience screamed every single word without missing a beat. It was perfect and purifying and felt like an emo chapel of sorts.