Review: Say Anything and others hit State Theatre in St. Petersburg

A look back at the Tue., June 11 show.

click to enlarge Max Bemis, Say Anything - Shannon Kelly
Shannon Kelly
Max Bemis, Say Anything

An eclectic lineup of Equal Vision Records labelmates, each repping a different alt rock sub-genre, played to a sold-out State Theatre last Tuesday as part of Say Anything’s “Rarities and More Tour,” which promised setlists packed with Say Anything songs that had never been played live. The St. Pete date delivered, though half the set featured popular songs off 2004’s …Is a Real Boy while the other half was made up of more obscure tracks off releases new, old and really old. [Text by Tyler, photos by Shannon.]

The crowd was divided between obvious Say Anything diehards — those who grew up listening to the band — and punk teens who could only pretend they had. I, admittedly, only jumped onto the Say Anything wagon in the last few years (always a late bloomer), so I guess I was among the latter.

New York’s Southern rock-tinged foursome Northern Faces was the first to warm-up the stage. I’d never heard of them but they managed to impress. The crowd was also receptive, and at least one fan sang along loud enough that one of the band’s guitarists/vocalists pointed at him and mouthed, “Thank you.”

Charlotte, N.C. indie rock outfit HRVRD (like the university, minus the vowels) followed with a heavier and edgier set. I caught up with lead singer Jesse Clasen and he described their sound as “intense experimental rock, sort of.” They’re comparable to Circa Survive minus Anthony Green’s piercing vocals. I’m a fan of 2009 album The Inevitable and I, but I didn’t recognize anything they played — it almost sounded like a completely different band — so I imagine they must have been playing cuts solely off new album From The Bird's Cage.

Eisely followed, the DuPree sisters — Chauntelle, Stacy and Sherri — looking like a scoop of Neapolitan ice cream, with brown, bleach blonde and light pink hair, respectively. Sherri’s glittery cat face shirt sparkled under the lights and she spoke in the same delicate breathiness of her singing voice. Sherri and Stacy shared vocal duties, but when all three sisters harmonized, it was absolutely enchanting.

In between songs, Sherri talked about touring with babies. Four babies, to be exact. All three sisters and brother/drummer Weston had brought their young offspring along for the ride. Sherri joked that this is probably the first time anyone has attempted to tour with so many infants. I imagine she’s right.

Though Eisely performed a good compilation of songs off their last three releases and earned respectable applause, theirs was a gentler sound and it was clear that everyone had come to see a punk rock show. They were rewarded when Say Anything came on a little after 10 p.m. and quickly launched into “Colorblind,” the first track off 2001 debut Baseball. Opening with such an old song was a risky move, considering many of the younger fans likely hadn't heard much, if anything released before …Is a Real Boy. But the fans were prepared and sang along to the chorus.

Frontman Max Bemis, now 29, has traded in his dark brown curls for a frosty blonde buzz cut. Though it seems the punk rock life (or perhaps becoming a dad) has been less than kind to his appearance — his plaid button-up fit a tad too snugly — Bemis has by no means lost his charm.

After performing “Crush’d,” a lesser know love song off 2009’s self-titled release, Bemis was noticeably impressed with the crowd’s lyrical knowledge. “Well, well, apparently you guys have done your homework and know some of the words to these songs,” he commented. As the audience cheered, guitarist Parker Case (of the late JamesonParker) adopted a guilty expression and mouthed, “I don’t.”

Bemis’s wife (Sherri of Eisely) joined him on stage for “Cemetery,” adding the female vocals originally recorded by Paramore’s Haley Williams. Bemis kissed her on the forehead before she exited the stage.

Six songs in, Bemis took a 30-second Red Bull chug break. He offered the last few sips of Taurine and backwash to an appreciative fan, then picked back up with another Baseball track, “All My Friends,” before treating the crowd to an easy sing-a-long with “Every Man Has a Molly.” Dozens of iPhones immediately shot up in the air while a few others kept it old school waving lighters. Bemis hardly needed to bother singing; everyone at the State that night could have easily done the job for him.

Bemis introduced touring drummer Reed Murray to help with vocals on “Of Steel.” Murray, a Tampa native, was abruptly kicked out of local band and Say Anything labelmate Tallhart (formerly Marksmen) about a year ago. Though obviously not completely comfortable with all of Say Anything’s songs, Murray held his own on the kit. His termination from Tallhart seems to have worked in his favor and Bemis made sure the crowd knew he could “shred the skins like a motherfucker.”

The boys closed with “Alive with the Glory of Love,” much to the everyone’s delight. State Theatre, which had been uncomfortably warm all night, suddenly seemed 10 degrees hotter as people began leaping up and down. The song gave way to the first and only crowd surfer of the night.

There’s was hardly time to demand an encore before Bemis returned to the stage with an acoustic guitar to deliver a solo rendition of “I Want To Know your Plans,” commenting that this tour has already been the best one ever, just five dates in.

The rest of the band joined Bemis on stage for two more songs. Before officially ending the show with “Alive With the Glory of Love,” Bemis spoke briefly about having a wife and a baby and teased the crowd with news of a new album set for release next summer.

In accordance with the show’s overall simplistic style, Bemis kept his theatrics to a minimum, the most unusual antic being nearly strangling himself with the microphone chord. While he seemed to have trouble finding a balanced vocal level — either failing to get them high enough to carry over the instrumentals or coming off as too shouty. However, when you consider the more than 500 extra voices Bemis was singing against that night, who could blame him?

Setlist:

Colorblind
The Futile
Basebal, But Better
Crush’d
Try to Remember, Forget
Cemetery
All My Friends
Every Man Has a Molly
Died a Jew
The Presidential Suite
Do Bettter
Show Down at P-Town
Peace Out
Of Steel
Alive With the Glory of Love

Encore:
I Want to Know Your Plans (acoustic)
Say Anything
A Walk Through Hell

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