All Time Low and Dashboard Confessional prove it’s all emo once again

by MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR

It was almost like 2003 again.

Emo was the word of the day at the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford on Aug. 16 as veterans of the brooding wars of the early aughts– All Time Low (“Good Times”) and Dashboard Confessional (“Vindicated”) took to the stage, accompanied by neo-emo artist gnash (“I Hate U, I Love U”).

Yes, the headliners were older. Lines on their faces clearly were cracking through.

But the audience clearly was as young and as enthusiastic as All Time Low and Dashboard Confessional might have serenaded in 2003. A new generation clearly has embraced the message of emo and was loving it.

The nostalgia for an era that they didn’t experience—many of the audience members would have been in the hospital incubator when All Time Low and Dashboard Confessional (featuring West Hartford’s Chris Carrabba) made their commercial breakthrough.

But during a break between songs, Carrabba addressed the new recruits to emo. He noted that the original movement was about acceptance. He spoke about how it didn’t matter what gender, religion, race, or political beliefs you had, an emo show was a safe space where everyone was accepted. And given the shifting cultural landscape of America in 2018, emo—as defined by Carrabba—is the perfect soundtrack to unite a new generation.

Of course, revisiting a genre and celebrating the originators of that genre is one thing. But the question is, are those pioneers still deserving of the attention?

In the case of Dashboard and ATL, their performance in Wallingford proved that they are still worthy of the adulation of a new generation.

Emo bands never took a singular approach to the genre. Some sat squarely in the sandpit of angst. Some were the class clowns at the party. And others were clever and full of hooks.

And although both Dashboard and ATL could be defined as emo—and they were clearly musical brethren—they also were different enough to make the evening interesting.

All Time Low are definitely the class clowns. Their songs are well-crafted. The hooks – verbal and musical—are clever and ingratiating. They deliver their songs with energy and verve. But they clearly were about having—and sharing– fun. The delight they expressed as the number of bras tossed at them and subsequently accumulated on their mike stands, clearly showed that these guys had a great sense of humor. And the burst of confetti and streamers mid-show also showed that they wanted the audience to party rather than feel sorry for themselves. All Time Low was all about making the audience feel better. And the cheers and smiles in the crowd was a clear indication it was mission accomplished.

Dashboard Confessional was clearly all about the emotion of emo. Carrabba’s songwriting and the band’s delivery was full of passion and yearning. Also, Carrabba and crew did something many of their emo peers did not approach – now or in the past. They understood musical dynamics. The songs rose and fell like the emotions of their fans over time. It was not all about sadness. It was not all about joy. The music of Dashboard Confessional was complicated like life.

And although Carrabba is older now, and sings the songs more like a man who remembers, rather than young man living it, the youthful fans at the show could relate because the stories he told in his music were their stories.

The opening act gnash had not even reached middle school when Dashboard Confessional and All Time Low first started their climbs to commercial breakthrough (was born in 1993). But it’s clear emo is an influence. Offering up a mix of folk, rap, and hooks, gnash reminded me of two emo-era bands, Gym Class Heroes and Cute is What We Aim For—with a touch of an older alt artist—Beck. He offered a laidback set that exhibited more energy and joy than captured on his recordings. With luck, as his career progresses, he can capture that captivating vibe on his records.

I give the evening of All Time Low, Dashboard Confessional, and gnash at the Oakdale Theatre on Aug. 16 three and a half stars.

PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN

gnash at the Oakdale Theatre.

All Time Low at the Oakdale Theatre.

Dashboard Confessional at the Oakdale Theatre.

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