“My name is Chris and together, with you, we are Dashboard Confessional.”
With that single sentence before an encore performance of “Hands Down,” homestate boy Chris Carrabba — standing proud in a sleeveless Stranger Things knockoff t shirt — summed up what could arguably be the essence of his existence.
The 41 year old songwriter, and former Further Seems Forever frontman, is a Connecticut boy who moved to Boca Raton in high school. The Sunshine State is where he experienced what he calls the “most inclusive scene I have ever been a part of.” It’s where someone presumably broke the boy’s heart enough to push him towards writing a canon of emo’s most anthemic, epic songalongs. And right here in Florida is where Carrabba began a career that’s led hundreds upon thousands (perhaps millions) of angsty souls to live and figuratively die by Every. Single. Word. He’s. Ever. Written.
Dashboard Confessional’s seminal release, Swiss Army Romance, started the ball rolling in 2000, but Carrabba & co. were looking at worldwide recognition by the the time a 2002 live album — MTV Unplugged 2.0 — finally got a few spins after coming out of holiday stockings (the release was timed just in time for the Christmas; music profits were nice back then).
Throughout most all of it, whether Carrabba was playing a bar or arena, there has always been a room full of longing souls ready to sing every word back to the guy on stage. The scene would be no different as Dashboard Confessional played a sold out show at The Ritz in Ybor City where the band leaned on Swiss Army Romance and 2001’s The Places You Have Come To Fear the Most.
He wasted no time making fans happy thanks to a 1-2-3 opening punch of “The Good Fight,” Saints and Sailors” and “The Sharp Hint of New Tears” from those, his first two, LPs. Carrabba — flanked by guitarist AJ Cheek, longtime bass player Scott Schoenbeck and former Brand New/Bad Books/Manchester Orchestra drummer Ben Homola — also spent the night switching between an acoustic and two charmingly worn down Telecasters, but he really only paused to tell a little tale about inclusion before playing a new song, “We Fight.”
“You know when we’re here at this show, you aren’t judged for who you are. You could be gay, lesbian, straight or trans — and that’d be perfectly fine,” he said, “but what’s perplexing is that it doesn’t seem to be perfectly fine once you get outside those doors.”
The spirit of inclusion has always been what’s driven fans to Dashboard Confessional. Songs like “The Best Deceptions” and “Again I Go Unnoticed” have, on the surface, always come off as lovelorn and borderline cheesy. In reality, those emotions are the things that a lot of the world — and especially Dashboard Confessional fans — totally identify with. Carrabba has just had the wherewithal to make his songs keep those stripped back emotions as naked as the moment they arrived in his fans’ brains. His songwriting speaks for the most introverted, vulnerable parts of his fan base (many of them grown now and out way past their bedtimes on Thursday). At the end of the day, it’s nice to have somebody actually understand how you feel no matter how trivial those feelings may seem in hindsight.
Dashboard Confessionals fans would spend about 90 minutes singing along at the top of their lungs to reward their man, and it was obvious how much Carrabba appreciated that they were there, too. Throughout the set, two mics positioned on opposite ends of the stage remained pointed at the capacity crowd to pick up the noise and send it back into the PA. When a thousand people sing in unison, it almost always sounds like a choir. Yet, amidst the thousands, of voices, Carrabba seems to value each of them individually.
A single piece of confetti started to float down from the ceiling during “Hands Down.” It fluttered into Carrabba’s sight line, and his wide-eyed stare followed it until it presumably hit the stage. Insignificant, little, piece of paper. It shouldn’t have meant anything in the grand scheme of things. But for Carrabba — at least for a moment — it was there. And it mattered. Maybe that’s all Dashboard Confessional fans ever wanted, too. To matter. And for one night, together with like minded others, they did.
See more photos and the setlist below.
Dashboard Confessional at The Ritz (Ybor City, Florida) - stream/download the setlist here.
The Good Fight
Saints and Sailors
The Sharp Hint of These New Tears
As Lovers Go
Several Ways to Die Trying
The Places You Have Come To Fear the Most
Scraping Up The Pieces (Twin Forks)
So Long Sweet Summer
Ghost Of a Good Thing
The Best Deceptions
Again I Go Unnoticed