Jun 22, 2016
Growing Up with Saves the Day: The Jersey Emo Band on Playing Taste of Chaos, Nostalgia, and Snapchat
There’s no doubt that in recent years emo bands from the Golden Era of the genre have seen a nostalgic resurgence. From Long Island’s Brand New embarking on another tour this summer, to the much-anticipated Rockstar Energy Drink Taste of Chaos tour, the emo bands of the early aughts are back in full force.
This revival of sorts is what brought me to my hometown of New Jersey, where I spent last Friday afternoon with an old friend reminiscing, and, surprisingly, chatting with one of my favorite bands: Saves the Day. Even as recently as a year or two ago, if you would’ve told me I’d be interviewing Chris Conley and his fellow bandmates as they prepped to hit the stage, I would’ve laughed it off. Yet here I was, on a pre-show speakerphone call with the band from a quiet Midtown Manhattan office space–a setting that led the band to accuse me of being an “adult” of all things. (I’m not.)
Saves the Day’s current lineup consists of the beloved Conley and bandmates Arun Bali, Rodrigo Palma and Dennis Wilson, they’ve been through numerous lineup changes, but Conley has remained the glue that holds them all together. Saves The Day originated in Princeton, New Jersey circa 1994 and broke out with their hit album Through Being Cool in 1999. Though they haven’t released an album since their eponymous 2013 record, earlier this year, Conley tweeted that “The first song on the next saves the day record is my new favorite song of all time.” Needless to say, excitement has been building.
During my chat with the band, we talked playing Taste of Chaos–the annual live tour created by Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman and resurrected in 2015–their social media use and how boiling nostalgia has helped pop punk look forward instead of to the past.
“People are sorta reconnecting with these bands that they loved as young adults,” frontman Conley told me while gushing over his love for the fans (and followers). “To us, it feels more like they’re growing with the music–not looking backwards.”
One way Saves the Day has managed to not only keep their fans engaged over the years, but also gaining newer and younger ones, is by actively using social platforms like Twitter and Instagram. Obviously, these platforms have only become popular over the last couple of years, long after the band originally began making music in the mid-nineties.
— Christopher Lane Conley (@ChrisLaneConley) June 16, 2016
“Social media is such a game-changer,” Conley said. “I remember being younger, when we didn’t get talk to The Smashing Pumpkins and Led Zeppelin unless we waited for them after shows.”
But it’s 2016, and artists are choosing to break that barrier to give their loyal fans accessibility. “These days, it’s sorta like a commune, we’re like a family,” explains Conley, who admits that he loves replying to fans directly.
“We live in a pretty amazing time to be able to do that,” bassist Palma adds. “We’re some of the luckiest dudes in the whole world, to be connected to our fans like this.”
As strong as Saves the Day’s virtual connection is with fans–especially with those like myself who’ve followed and double tapped their posts for years now–nothing beats seeing a beloved band live, especially in your hometown. Heading out from my Brooklyn apartment (instead of my childhood bedrom) into the New Jersey sunset, one of the band’s most iconic lyrics from “Third Engine” kept replaying in my head: “I hopped on a train / Cutting through state lines / To come to you as the crow flies.”
Taste of Chaos promised somewhat of a #FlashbackFriday with its 6/17 lineup: Dashboard Confessional, Taking Back Sunday, Saosin feat. Anthony Green, the Early November, and of course, Saves the Day, who are playing the event for the second consecutive year. As a native Jersey girl I’d already seen the night’s lineup of bands countless times over the years–beginning with my hazy introduction to pop punk in the early aughts. But stepping off the train in Central Jersey and getting shuttled off to PNC Arts Center in a school bus–commissioned to be used as a shuttle between the station and venue–was surreal and slightly bizarre.
True to their form, the band was as psyched as ever to play in front of their hometown fans. As Conley told me, “The vibe is so strong, it feels like a maximum capacity. Also all the bands playing are our besties from way back down, who we’ve known for a while.”
Walking down to our seats for Saves the Day’s opening set, I was overtaken by the expected nostalgia of Conley in a striking turquoise sweatshirt, of course, but struck even moreso by the sea of Snapchat-ready iPhones. Aside from the obvious differences between seeing these bands in 2016 vs. 2006 (legal drinking! High waist vs. low-cut jeans!), the stark contrast of the way the crowd captured their experience throughout the night couldn’t be missed by my millennial eyes. Watching Conley bemuse the crowd with modern day Internet slang like “bae” and “trill” felt a bit like worlds colliding.
“We’ve always been modern, cutting forward toward the future,” Conley said. “So it doesn’t feel any different today than it did when we began. I haven’t once felt nostalgic, it’s just purely awesome, with all these bands and fans setting an amazing vibe for all to take in.”
Watching Saves the Day perform in their current lineup was one of the most purely enjoyable shows I’ve ever seen. There was a lot less angst involved than the last time I saw them, on the Through Being Cool 15-year anniversary tour in 2014 at Irving Plaza. It could be because I’m getting older and the idea of attending a show isn’t always pegged to some sort of life-altering fantasy. Or perhaps it’s the fact that I was there to take in the scene from a wider, more observant angle, which I’d never done before with Saves the Day.
As we headed back toward the city (“the sun had sunk / Disappeared into New Jersey”), the reality of spending the past 15 or so years going to see bands live–with all the Warped Tours, Bamboozles and Irving Plaza dates my little heart could take–attending as an adult, and writing about it professionally, was perhaps the most satisfying of it all. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that interviewing the band before their set had something to do with it. Perhaps it was actually the internal fulfillment and final lift of all those insecurities and doubts of my youthful angst that did it. Above all that, though I think it was knowing that at 26, I finally get what it truly means to be “Through Being Cool.”
As the night endured and more bands followed, the physical fatigue of enduring the hot summer nights had a much different effect than it did when I was a teen. After a stressful day of office work and travel, I was ready to go home by the time the third band came on. Feeling tired at an emo show three bands in is admittedly uncool, but like my friend Dana said on the ride back, “We’ve been doing this for 15 years, dude.” That’s more than half my life spent pining over wristbands and sneaking cheap vodka into venues–so I won’t be too hard on myself. Oh, and if you’re wondering what Saves the Day’s official favorite Snapchat filter is? The dog filter, of course.
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