Dashboard Confessional in the New Era of Emo

Pop-punk emo legends Dashboard Confessional are back, releasing their first studio album since 2009, “Crooked Shadows,” on Feb. 9. Perhaps this comeback is timed for the new era of early-2000s nostalgia, but like the Dashboard Confessional that resonated with angst-ridden teenagers 15 years ago, it feels comforting and sincere.

Two new songs preceded the release of “Crooked Shadows:” “We Fight” and “Heart Beat Here.” The superior track, “We Fight,” picks up where the band left off in an attempt to reignite the fire that drove their previous success. Frontman Chris Carraba’s voice is now a bit huskier, but still powerful enough to push the chorus into the anthemic shout-along it aims for. Lyrics like “Tired of beatings and battles and being sewn up / But that made us grow up / And that made ‘em scared” are just vague enough to be inoffensive and recall Dashboard’s heyday, but coming from Carraba there’s an undeniable layer of earnestness underneath.

After an 8 year break, it wouldn’t be a surprise to find a new, grown-up Dashboard on the rest of “Crooked Shadows.” Even “Heart Beat Here” is a bit of an updated sound for them, the acoustic track being more comparable to the Lumineers than “Screaming Infidelities.”

But outside the band, the emo music Dashboard were once at the forefront of has evolved. Nevermind fellow Fueled By Ramen prodigies Paramore and Fall Out Boy, who have both maintained success while delving deeper into traditional pop – emo themes and sounds have made their way into hip-hop, with young artists like nothing,nowhere (who collaborated with Dashboard on “Hopes Up” in 2017) Lil Uzi Vert and the late Lil Peep pioneering the merging of the two genres into the mainstream.

“Hopes Up” shows Dashboard embracing the future of emo, but “Crooked Shadows” will tell exactly what their place in it is.

 

 

 

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Tyler, the Creator In San Diego

After listening to Tyler, the Creator’s highly anticipated fourth album, when it came out in the summer of 2017, I knew “Flower Boy” was going to be one of my new favorite records. The dreamy sounds, ’90s hip-hop influences and all-star features were only some of the aspects that made this album a true gem in my eyes. “Flower Boy” gave me a sense of familiarity and I felt like I could relate to it more than his earlier works, such as ‘Goblin” and “Cherry Bomb.” Naturally, as many artists do, Tyler announced a national tour a while after he released the album and I knew I had to go. When the day came, I was definitely not disappointed.

The show was held in Valley View Casino Center on Friday, Feb. 2 and waiting outside for the doors to open was already an exciting experience. The majority of people there were dressed in GOLF clothing, Tyler’s fashion line, and realizing that so many are inspired by his style and his music was awesome. Once I got inside, I bought a GOLF t-shirt and headed towards the general admission area in attempts of getting a chance to see the man himself up close, though I ended up standing in the back where I could actually see over people. The opening acts included Taco playing a DJ set and Vince Staples, and they did a good job at hyping up the crowd.

When Tyler finally took the stage, he opened with “Where This Flower Blooms” and though he performed a good chunk of “Flower Boy,” he also brought back some old favorites like “IFHY,” “Yonkers,” “F*cking Young” and “She.” The stage lighting and design were perfectly matched to the aesthetic of the album’s cover art and music and I loved every aspect of it. Hearing Tyler live was an entirely different experience from solely listening to his music he sounded even better than he does on the record itself. Tyler’s ability to bring energy to his performances amazes me and I wish I could go to another one of his shows for this tour, but I’m sure I’ll see him again soon.

A Wild Night With STRFKR

Things got WILD on Friday, Feb. 2 with STRFKR at the Observatory in North Park.

After a chilled out, yet eccentric supporting act by Reptaliens, the sold-out crowd was buzzing with energy. Finally, around 9:15 p.m. the lights dimmed and the murmurs of the crowd rose an octave in excitement as Hodges took the stage. The front-man and founder of the Portland indie-pop band was done up in a dress, pink wig and round glasses that likened him to Willy Wonka. He kindled the anticipation of the crowd with an eerie instrumental, then the rest of the band walked on stage and from then on it was one huge dance party!

Their set was comprised of a variety of songs, ranging from their self-titled album back in 2008 to their “Vault Vol. 3” release from 2017. About a quarter of the way through, Hodges took a seat behind his drums and the next few songs, including “Say to You,” took more of a psychedelic turn. The graphics on the back screen, along with the lights-turned-lasers and the melodic words of philosopher Alan Watts flowing through the speakers, magnified the whole experience.

The tempo picked up with the obvious crowd favorites, “Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second” and “German Love.” Every head was bobbing and everybody was swaying to the aura of happiness the upbeat tunes exuded into the atmosphere. Suddenly, one after another, dancers dressed as astronauts armed with confetti shooters pranced onto the stage and acted almost as hype men with quirky freestyle moves. The theatrics almost reminded me of an Empire of the Sun show. I thought it was impossible for the crowd to get any more hyped, but boy was I was wrong! Countless brave souls dared to crowd-surf despite the strict security, and one of the astronauts even followed suit — on a giant blow-up swan no less! With confetti flying, their cover of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” was definitely a highlight of the night. Everyone in the crowd (including me) couldn’t help but jump and scream the words to the funky cover of the jam.

When the band exited the stage, there was deafening applause. The crowd’s “ONE! MORE! SONG!” chants soon turned into “TEN! MORE! SONGS!” (courtesy of the overly enthusiastic group of guys next to me) and made it obvious they were not ready to end the party.

Answering our wishes, the band returned for their encore to play “Leave It All Behind,” and closed out the jam-packed show with “Maps” off of “Being No One, Going No Where.”

Overall, STRFKR pleasantly surprised me with their high-energy vibrant show. If you’re looking for a dance party (or even just a workout) definitely catch them on tour!

The Way it Goes: Hippo Campus at House of Blues

There’s a reason Hippo Campus is on my “Happy” playlist.

On Jan. 25, Hippo Campus played the House of Blues in San Diego, supported by Sure Sure. They walked onstage at about 9 p.m. and proceeded to play the most positive show I’ve ever been to. I’ve never seen so many dancing jean jackets in one room.

Opening with “Poems,” the crowd started off strong. We didn’t need to be told to clap or sing; as a collective we had those “la-la-las” in the bridge totally covered. From there, Jake Luppen (vocals/guitar), Nathan Stocker (lead guitar/vocals), Zach Sutton (bass) and Whistler Allen (drums/vocals) played through “Interlude” and picked up speed with an oldie-but-goodie, “Suicide Saturday.” If, that is, you consider 2015 “old.”

The band kept jamming through “Western Kids” (my personal favorite), “Simple Season,” “Tuesday” and “Baseball,” and the audience kept singing and dancing and jumping and clapping. Luppen played to the crowd like a pro, Stocker and Sutton were poised as ever and Allen graciously provided the crowd with the beats necessary to keep our sometimes unruly clapping in-time.

The energy in the room was young, but Hippo Campus’ performance sure wasn’t. They had their set down-pat, but never did it feel stale. Unlike the usual rock musicians I see, who have been touring for about as long as Hippo Campus has been alive (21-22 years), you could tell the band was actually organically hyped by the crowd’s reactions. But like the more seasoned musicians I’ve seen, Hippo Campus was composed and in their groove; their performance seemed familiar even though I had never seen them live before. It was refreshing, and the whole thing was aided by touring musician DeCarlo Jackson, who would occasionally jump in on the trumpet or harmonica to carry the melody and add a touch of honey to the sound.

The boys brought it back with “Warm Glow” and then Luppen spoke some magical words into the microphone.

He thanked the crowd and said, “Hold onto your socks.”

The whole room simultaneously bent down and grabbed their ankles, and none other than NATHAN STOCKER led the band as they played a new song. Just kidding, we didn’t grab our ankles. But Nathan did sing lead on the new track.

This untitled new song rocked. Literally. The beat had more of a classic feel than the rest of the Indie group’s tunes, but overall it reminded me of…The Strokes (don’t @ me). I’m even more excited now to see where Hippo Campus will go musically with their next release. Stocker was great and all four have proven they can sing, so who knows – maybe their next album will feature him (or Allen?) on vocals. One can hope.

Hippo Campus then played “Little Grace” and “South” before slowing it down with “Monsoon,” where the crowd fell into pockets of awed silence as Luppen mesmerized us with his voice. Then they brought it back up with “Way it Goes” and finally ended their set with “Buttercup.” Luppen dedicated “Buttercup,” to Planned Parenthood, the org. which the band has partnered with on the tour. Planned Parenthood had a table set up at the beginning of the show giving away condoms and, naturally, one of those condoms was blown up and tossed around while “Buttercup” was performed.

Hippo Campus exited the stage to roaring applause, and then we quickly broke out into a cheer of “ONE MORE SONG,” until the musicians came back on stage and played “Violet” as an encore. As a final goodbye, Allen threw his drumsticks into the crowd, effectively starting a seven man brawl.

Overall, it was a pretty euphoric night.

Catch more of Hippo Campus here. Or, to see them call us “asshats” on twitter, go here. Make sure to read KCR’s interview with Stocker last year, and whatever you do, definitely see them on tour.