Concert Recaps Music SXSW

SXSW 2018: Dashboard Confessional and a Blast of Nostalgia

I am 26 years old but I currently feel 15 again, finding it hard to believe that I do “adult” things like pay for rent and health benefits, work a 9-to-5 job, feed my cat, etc, etc, etc. Yes, as you may have guessed from the title of this article, this is in fact because I’m jamming out to Dashboard Confessional right now… because how could I not when writing about Chris Carrabba?

Dashboard Confessional
Chris Carrabba at SXSW 2018 | Photo by Leigh Kettle

I fell in love with Dashboard Confessional during my early, awkward years of middle school. My older, much angsty-er older brother had recently started driving the both us to school, and in his car there was only his music, which for a solid year consisted of Dashboard Confessional’s “A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar,” and which very soon became my favorite album of all time. In case you’re curious, other artists played often consisted of The Used, Good Charlotte, Rise Against, and Motion City Soundtrack. Ah, those were the days.

I eventually had my brother burn the album for for me (remember life before Spotify?), and from then on it was all I listened to. I even did a high school project on a song from the album…did I just admit that? Forget that I did.

Dashboard Confessional became the soundtrack of my adolescent years, from tween to teen. I think we can all agree that we have that one artist that just brings back all those terrible yet wonderful nostalgic feels. Chris Carrabba was that for me, and I couldn’t help but swoon over his smooth and distinct voice, chiseled angelic face, million-watt smile, and tattoos that my mother would certainly disapprove of. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I still swoon over all of these beautiful characteristics of his…but alas, he is married now.

All of this being said, you can probably assume that I low-key freaked out upon hearing he would be in Austin for SXSW. I honestly kind of wish I could say that it would have been my first time seeing him live since high school (would have perhaps made for an even cooler story), but I had actually just seen him a year prior while ringing in my 25th birthday at Austin’s own Emo’s (it was truly one of my favorite birthdays to this day).

Backtracking to the time I saw him in high school, can we just quickly laugh about the fact that this tour also included Panic at the Disco! and Plain White T’s? What ever happened to those dudes? Next up on Leigh’s playlist…

Dashboard Confessional at SXSW 2018 | Photo by Leigh Kettle

Anyway, back to SXSW. I arrived to the Pandora house at The Gatsby approximately at 6:45 PM, knowing that the doors probably wouldn’t open until 8:15. I didn’t care though. All I knew was that I had to get in and I had to be up close or else 15-year-old Leigh would never forgive me for not trying hard enough. Sure, it was a long wait, but I mingled with others around me, some of whom were also there for Dashboard Confessional, and many others who were there mostly for the other acts, which consisted of Tank and the Bangas, Amy Shark, Wallows (shout out to Dylan Minnette from 13 Reason’s Why!), and Beach Slang. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the other acts (and more to come on them soon!). I just didn’t understand why people wouldn’t stay for the one and only Dashboard Confessional. While in line, a guy behind me even mentioned that he likely wouldn’t stay for Dashboard because he’s old and his music isn’t relevant anymore, to which I immediately jumped in and shot that ridiculous blasphemy right down the drain (in a nice way, of course), expressing how amazing they had been at Emo’s just the year prior and how his following is still going strong. A few others around us jumped into the conversation as well, mentioning that many of his shows of late have sold out and that his new music, though nothing like the oldies, is pretty darn great.

Dashboard Confessional
Chris Carrabba at SXSW 2018 | Photo by Leigh Kettle

Fast forward to nearly 5 and a half hours later. It’s 12:30 AM (way past my bedtime), and I’ve somehow finagled my way to dead front-and-center, eagerly anticipating Chris to walk on stage like a lovesick teenager. Soon enough, he struts on stage in his adorable black skinny jeans and loafers (seriously, who else can pull of a look like that? No one, that’s who.) and immediately wooed the crowd with the words, “Should we… sing one together?” YES. Yes we should, Chris.

The set was opened up with a devastatingly beautiful acoustic version of “Best Deceptions,” the audience immediately pouring out their guts singing along, followed by “Don’t Wait” which merited just as much audience participation.

Despite sound issues beyond his control, Chris smiled through and connected with everyone in the crowd. I swear he and I made eye contact at least five times; each time he gave me those silly, adolescent kind of butterflies you used to get when you hold hands with someone on a first date.

The set blew by far too fast. Other goodies played include “The Good Fight,” “Screaming Infidelities,” “Stolen,” and “Vindicated,” all of which I frighteningly realized I remember every single word to and that singing along was merely a natural, uncontrollable reaction.

I think we all wondered if Chris was sick of singing these old tracks, but he then prefaced his last song by shouting, “This song is about the best day of my life!” And at that point, we all knew that he meant it. He meant it.

The “air was blessed” as he ended his set with “Hands Down,” the ultimate blast of nostalgia that just punches you right in the heart. And as if the night couldn’t end any better, I somehow managed to snag one of three set lists that were thrown in to the crowd! It may or may not be taped to my mirror at the moment…

Chris Carrabba, I and many of my fellow emo-music companions will forever love you. Don’t ever think your music is irrelevant, because it is forever relevant in our hearts that are “yours to fill or burst.” Come back to Austin soon, ya hear?

Check out other reviews and recaps on SXSW music here, and stay tuned for more to come!

Leigh is a native Texan gone temporary New Yorker and now proud Austinite. Passions include but are not limited to music (both as a spectator and dabbler), traveling & cultural adventures, film & television, true crime, design (of the fashion, interior, and graphic sorts), and photographing & writing about all the aforementioned. Self-acclaimed coffee connoisseur & wino, cat aficionado, book worm, and nature junkie.

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