Dashboard Confessional's Swiss Army Romance Tenth Anniversary at Revolution, November 27

View a slideshow from the concert here. 

Dashboard Confessional
With John Lefler and Cory Branan
Revolution, Fort Lauderdale
Saturday, November 27, 2010

Better than: Listening to The Swiss Army Romance repeatedly on CD in your room when you were a teenager.

The Review:
Dashboard Confessional frontman Chris Carrabba had his work cut out for him last night. Why? Because each and every single person in that room knew the lyrics to all the songs spanning his career in DC. He decided to play solo for the night, much like he did in the beginning. Being that this was his homecoming-show performance in honor of the tenth anniversary of his debut with Dashboard, The Swiss Army Romance, all eyes were on him. Members from every band he's ever played in were there, as were his family, his friends, and a lot of very excited local fan girls. But a decade's worth of hype is a lot to live up to.  

There were no frills or fusses involved with Carrabba's set last night. No other band members. No fancy light shows. Just one man, his assorted guitars, and his foot stomping providing the necessary drum work. None of his fans minded the change back to his roots.

Chris Carrabba wasn't kidding when he told us that his crowds are usually mixed with all sorts of people. But this crowd was strikingly different from what we remember in the early 2000s. Had the emo kids washed out their black hair dye, covered up their tats, and traded in black-rimmed eyes for shorts, sports jerseys, and flip-flops? They could've been over at Hey Monday's show that night at the Culture Room or holding out to catch Mayday Parade on Sunday. There was a hefty amount of local talent planning South Florida comebacks this weekend.

Carrabba sported unassuming ripped skinny jeans and a simple plaid shirt with a baseball cap and started his set with a brief wave and "It's nice to see you all here after all this time" before diving right into the first song from SAR, "Screaming Infidelities." At first, we could barely hear him over the crowd cheers and uproars, as fans sang along to each lyric, yet none looked old enough to have purchased the album when it was first released.

His voice was just as crisp as his recorded self, if not more conditioned. A lot of people hate on Carrabba's emo aesthetic, but he really just writes a lot of songs about love and despair that people can relate to. Granted, most of them have grown up and washed away any visible remnants of what they enjoy listening to behind closed doors, but their emotions are still the same.

As Carrabba unpacked SAR, he barely spoke to the crowd. But when he did, he said just the right things, from telling us all that we "sing beautifully" to "For those of you that this record was important to, I'm grateful to you." Awww.

He continues by mentioning that members from every band he's ever been in are there, naming everyone from the Vacant Andys to the Agency and Further Seems Forever. We were hoping he'd bring some of them on stage, seeing as how he called the members all by name, but nothing. Just one man on a mission. He then continued with, "Anyone ever seen me play before?" And the crowd went wild, as everyone in there raised his hands. He went through each song on the record in order as promised and let the crowd sing in his place a few times -- disappointing, as we're sure some fans didn't go to hear strangers sing.

Carrabba's whines have been mastered to a certain extent, and every time he crooned for more than a few seconds, the crowd screeched with excitement. The only time it probably went even crazier? When he decided to play some of his most popular hits like "The Brilliant Dance," "The Best Deceptions," and "Hands Down" after going through ten songs from his debut album.

Carrabba went on to talk about the earlier solo performers, John Lefler (normally the guitarist for Dashboard Confessional) and Cory Branan, going so far as to say Branan is his favorite singer since Johnny Cash. "I'm not sure if he likes his guitar, but he's good."

Carrabba was right. Branan seemed to beat the shit out of his guitar on various occasions, almost as if he is trying to wake a sleeping giant from the depths of its strings. He'd instantly transition from really slow guitar riffs to charged choruses, almost sounding like two opposing bands were thrown in a blender -- and the result wasn't exactly a delicious smoothie either.

Sure, Carrabba walks a fine line among emo, acoustic, folk, and indie rock, but he walks it so well that we never have to question what kind of music he plays -- or the kind of people he affects with his lyrics.

Branan seems to be an acquired taste, switching from country to Irish band undertones. We could hear a little Flogging Molly in his voice, but his Rob Thomas/Matchbox 20 appearance threw us off just that much more, making us think we were more at a hoedown than an actual rock show. Definitely an acquired taste, much like trying to join the crowd and like beer when you're 16, even though deep down you think it smells like pee.  

Dashboard Guitarist John Lefler started the evening off, promptly at 7:30, and with songs with titles like "Prom Night," he definitely aimed at the target demographic of the evening: high school and college kids that just want to go out after the game, celebrate victories, get drunk, and have a little fun.

Critic's Notebook

Personal bias: Chris Carrabba was probably my first real boy in a band crush. I was 15.

The crowd: Fraternity and sorority girls, guys wearing flip-flops to a Saturday-night show, girls wearing various college football team jerseys, tons of baseball caps. Bro fever!

Overheard in the crowd: "Oh my God! I look like a dyke with my FSU jersey on, don't I? How am I gonna get guys to hit on me?"

OH #2: From a bouncer: "Tip your bartenders well, your bouncers better, and your hookers best of all!"

OH #3: "Take off your hat! Wait, forget the hat. Take it all off!"

OH #4: One drunk girl went so far as to approach us during the opening sets and ask, "Are you over this band or something? Are you working? Why are you so serious?"

Random detail: There were a lot of drunken college girls drinking Michelob Ultras. Is that their beverage of choice nowadays?

Random detail #2: There was a group of bros in the pit who kept lifting up a bunch of beers and shaking them around, lighters, you name it. Group bro date?

Dashboard Confessional Set List
"Screaming Infidelities"
"Sharp Hint of New Tears"
"Living in Your Letters"
"Swiss Army Romance"
"Turpentine Chaser"
"Plain Morning"
"Age Six Racer"
"Again I Go Unnoticed"
"Ender Will Save Us All"
"Shirts and Gloves"
"The Brilliant Dance"
"Carry This Picture"
"The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most"
"Remember to Breathe"
"Get Me Right"
"The Best Deceptions"

"Hands Down"

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Christine Borges
Contact: Christine Borges