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In Defense of Dashboard

The legend goes something like this: Chris Carrabba was singing with the Pompano Beach-based band Further Seems Forever when he went through a devastating breakup, wrote songs about it while driving, and performed them solo as a side project, aptly named Dashboard Confessional. He gained a following, got signed, and made it onto MTV and the cover of Spin magazine, which called him "the reigning king of emo."

Never mind that emo is more of a loose, unincorporated territory than a kingdom, and that hardly anyone knew what the term meant. It was a new buzzword to bandy about, and it somehow became inextricably linked with Dashboard. "Some writer," Carrabba says, "ought to get the blame for that one, not us! We still don't think it's cool."

As Dashboard (and therefore emo) grew popular, slagging them became a fashionable pastime for the jaded. The Stranger wrote that Carrabba's "ubiquitous emo uniform -- perfectly imperfect haircut, shoes from Urban Outfitters, size-too-small T-shirt, and of course, women's jeans" proves that he's a fascist. Rumors of his death spread across the internet: "Chris has been found dead... he died by drowning in his own tears... [He] leaves four cats and a comfort blanket." And entire websites were set up to make fun of emo. From "Listen up you emo pussies. You need to get wit da ice and bling up yaselves. Dem hoes ain't feelin' ya whiny guitars."

Carrabba sometimes sits on a stool like a teacher at story time while the audience obediently sings along. He doesn't smash his acoustic guitars. A typical lyric goes, "My heart is yours to fill or burst/to break or bury/or wear as jewelry/which ever you prefer." Fans call him sincere; detractors call him a whiner. But at least he's our whiner. Carrabba still considers Boca "home -- all the way," hangs out at the Poor House and is "way into dive bars."

In a world where kids think Good Charlotte is punk and Justin Timberlake is crunk, labels have lost their meaning anyway. Even the idea of selling out is no longer disturbing. Carrabba says the reason he accepted a deal from Honda to sponsor his tour (surely you've seen the commercials) was to avoid "passing the cost of very expensive [concert venues] down to the fans." And he realizes that "This is kind of preachy, but --" inspired by a show he saw on VH1, he's worried that the current generation of teenagers lacks a healthy fear of AIDS, so he's putting together "some kind of awareness thing" that might include passing out Dashboard Confessional-brand condoms at shows.

Why can't we stop hatin' and start appreciatin' our biggest musical export of late? Our favorite crybaby of all time -- Morrissey -- already answered: "We hate it when our friends become successful." Not all of us, though. --- Deirdra Funcheon

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