Dartmouth raises its voices up for Dashboard

by Jennifer Garfinkel | 11/22/04 6:00am

It might be hard to argue that Saturday night's Dashboard Confessional concert was anything but a success. The Programming Board was pleased to announce that the show sold out, providing a crowd of 2000 people for the emo-pop group and opener Howie Day. Fans drove from far and wide, including places like Oklahoma and Ohio. Other fans flew in from Florida and Texas. At 8 a.m. people were already lining up at the door.

But for every enthusiastic fan, there was another concert-goer who couldn't care less. Many people were there just to listen to Howie Day, leaving before Dashboard Confessional played. Everyone else was less than enthused while Howie Day strummed his guitar, singing his songs of heartache and loss. The crowd lacked group unity and showed little or feigned interest. It wasn't until Howie Day predictably closed with "Collide," his current radio hit, that singing and dancing "fans" became noticeable.

Howie Day wasn't the only performer whose set was completely predictable. Dashboard Confessional sets have been becoming more and more obvious. The songs that were played and the order in which they were performed was no surprise. "Vindicated," last summer's hit from the "Spiderman 2" soundtrack, was saved for the encore to tease the audience. I doubt anyone was fooled.

And was it really surprising to anyone that there was time for one more song after "Vindicated?" This, too, seems doubtful -- Dashboard Confessional always plays "Hands Down" live. The band has played that track at every live performance I've seen since the song's release on the 2002 "So Impossible" EP. The song has always been played as part of the encore, usually very last.

In addition to his predictability, front man Chris Carrabba did nothing exciting on stage. The biggest risk he took was playing a small part of Phantom Planet's "California," better known as the theme song of "The O.C.," after proclaiming his love for the show. The snippet, a tease for any Phantom Planet fan, wasn't even complete enough to be considered a cover.

Unfortunately, Carrabba chose to couple lack of spontaneity with a rather condescending attitude. Was it really necessary for him to tell us that he went to a community college? I personally didn't attend his concert so that I could feel guilty about attending a private Ivy League college. And I'm still undecided about his "good shows are like making love" comment ("Slow and tender, considerate, and hard at the end").

Dashboard Confessional concerts can be exciting, fun, even exhilarating if you are a big enough fan. True fans know every word to every song -- and Chris Carrabba knows it. He always takes advantage of his fans' undying love, and Saturday night was no exception. He encouraged his fans to sing along, often stepping back from the microphone so that the crowd could hear itself rocking out instead of him. Carrabba was aware of his sing-along style, and started up the show by asking "You guys feel like singing some songs?" The crowd loved it.

Of course most fans love him for it -- what better way to enjoy a concert than to sing along? Why, though, can't he keep singing? It's a crazy thought, but some fans pay for their tickets in order to hear him sing, not to hear the unofficial Dashboard enthusiasts choir. It seems self-indulgent for Carrabba to stop singing during the best choruses of the best songs, just to hear how much his fans love him and how well they know the songs. He loves listening to the fans as much as they love listening to themselves. He knows his fans love him -- he sold out the arena, isn't that enough?

Of course it was not enough for Carrabba to let his fans sing; he needed to acknowledge it by yelling things like "You sound great tonight!" at the audience. It was fortunate that the audience sounded great, because of the twenty songs Dashboard Confessional played, Carrabba only sang five or six of them fully.

During some songs, Carrabba stepped away from the mic for a few lines, but he allowed the audience to sing a whole chorus for a majority of the songs. He predictably allowed the audience to sing favorite lines from "Hands Down," like "Hey did you get some? / Man that is so dumb," and the later line " So we can get some."

But was it necessary to leave the microphone during the choruses of "Brilliant Dance," "Screaming Infidelities," "Saints and Sailors," and "The Sharp Hint of New Tears?" He even abandoned singing during the set's opening song, "The Swiss Army Romance."

In the end, a good time was had by most. It can't be denied that Dashboard Confessional has die hard fans who are loyal listeners -- and singers. The energy was bouncing off the walls, the arena was packed and the fans were swaying on their feet. To anyone who enjoys a good sing-along, Dashboard Confessional showed Dartmouth a great night. For other though, it was not a perfect performance.