Emo outfit Dashboard Confessional, in Jakarta as part of the line-up for Java Rockin’ Land, are now 10 years old. The band’s lead singer, Chris Carrabba, is the pin-up boy for a generation of angst-riddled, confused teens who hang off his every word.
The pin-up boy: Chris Carrabba, Dashboard Confessional’s lead singer, plays at Ancol Carnival Beach in North Jakarta, during the Java Rockin’ Land festival last weekend.JP/Ricky Yudhistira
Their songs are strewn with the scars of broken relationships, strained similes, easy metaphors, forced binaries, ham-fisted alliterations and anguished, angry, acrid vocals. When they take the stage it is time to wave your cigarette lighter whilst swaying from side to side with your one free arm around the shoulder of your best friend.
They’re the band you loved when you were 14: The band whose CD you saved up all your money for and then listened to over and over because NOBODY, NOT A SINGLE PERSON, not your parents, not your friends, no TV show, no movie, no book understood YOU in the same way that this album did.
Many bands whose appeal is to a younger demographic fall quickly out of fashion as the teen fans grow into adults, decide the bands of their youth were rubbish and start pretending they’d been into Tom Waits and Portishead all along.
But despite this, Dashboard Confessional, now something of elder statesmen of teen angst, remain popular, indeed having released an album last year and touring almost non-stop ever since, one could say they are growing, rather than diminishing, in popularity. So what explains their staying power?
One would be forgiven for thinking that the response would be self aggrandizing (“we’re bigger than Jesus”) or evasive (“it’s just the fans, man”), but the response is both honest and humble: “I think we
got lucky” says Carrabba, as the band sit in a small room with harsh fluorescent lights. “… as music fans we’re constantly exploring new things as a listener, so that helps [stay fresh] … and I’m always trying to impress these three guys with new ideas”. It’s all about the music as it should well be but all too seldom is. “… but at the same time, it’s important that the newer songs are relatable to the older ones because of the identity we have.”
And here is the crux of the matter. It is one thing to continue to make music and to move with the times musically, but Dashboard Confessional have forged a powerful name, which, like a strong brand, is instantly recognizable.
Through their six albums and one EP, they’ve formed their own sound whilst developing and adapting as they went on. They’ve also kept releasing albums at a steady pace and touring fairly regularly. But mostly, as evidenced by their ability to strike an immediate rapport with the throngs of media queued up to interview them, is a very casual good nature and obvious tireless work.
Their concert at Java Rockin’ Land displays everything mentioned above. These guys are real pros: A set list of some of their best hits coupled with some newer songs, all peppered in at the right time.
The crowd love them and they love the crowd. There is swaying, ecstatic cheers at the beginning and end of the concert, clutched fists resting on hearts.
Glazed eyes watch on in wonder and hands clap along as they play Everybody Learns From Disaster. It is exactly the concert one might expect. They can really get a crowd going — it heaves and subsides like a ship lapping up and down on a calm sea.
The band not just a fly-by-night pop act because their dedication is absolute from the moment they set foot on stage until the final chord has ceased to resonate. It’s humid, hot and crowded, but it doesn’t bother the punters.
They rejoice at every chorus, every loud incantation of the lyrics to Vindicated. In a festival more feted for its hard rock, with long, self-indulgent guitar solos and long haired lotharios, Dashboard Confessional looks, with its unabashed emotional lyrics and melodic, pop heavy melodies, rather out of place. But the reality is that the fans couldn’t care less. Maybe they just came for Carrabba’s dulcet tones, or perhaps their musical taste is just eclectic, but they certainly didn’t look out of place when they took the stage.
It’s not been a long time between drinks for Dashboard Confessional here in Jakarta, either. They were last here in May.
“It was amazing”, says Carrabba “We didn’t know what to expect, so we didn’t have high expectations, but they blew the thing off”. In a tweet from just after the event he mused “What a show! Could that have been real!!!?????!!!!!”. So it wasn’t too difficult to get them back.
Despite a grueling schedule, after returning home to the US following Java Rockin’ Land, Dashboard
Confessional is due to begin the 10 year anniversary tour of their first album, Swiss Army Romance, around the United States from early November.