Saves the Day
Taking Back Sunday
Why is it that emotional boys singing about their pain make girls scream? I mean, seriously. How masculine are you bouncing all over the stage waxing poetic on how miserable your life is? There’s the girlfriend that left you, the best friend that betrayed you, the parents that didn’t understand you, the job that sucks the big one, etc., etc., ad nauseum, ad infinitum. Cry me a river. But there’s something about these kids spilling their guts on stage that pulls at young girls maternal instincts, tugs at their reflexive need to take in that bedraggled kitten on the front porch. And tonight, here in Latham, New York, there were enough hormones raging to power the tour buses that brought Moneen, Taking Back Sunday and Saves the Day to this town and this venue. Moneen went on right at eight, immediately drawing the crowd in close to the stage with their spastic stage presence and high-speed pop songs. Newly signed to Vagrant Records and supporting their latest full length, Are We Really Happy with Who We Are Right Now?, Moneen played a quick half-hour set featuring a significant amount of their new material. Combining straightforward rock and punk rhythms, alternately careening and ambient guitar riffs and frontman Kenny Bridges’ manic vocal and lyrical style, these Canadian natives kept the crowd bouncing — quite a feat for an 8 o’clock opener. Highlights included their first song, “Start Angry…End Mad” as well as “Life’s Too Short Little Ndugu” — their urgent plea to live every day like it’s the last. The most enthralling part of the performance, however, had to be Bridges’ crazy style of playing. A tiny wisp of a man, he moved like some crazed adolescent in a tantrum, throwing his body across the stage with seemingly reckless abandon. However, his guitar-playing never suffered for all his thrashing, indicating that he was in control the entire time. While Moneen had a great set and I’m sure gained many new fans, Bridges’ lyrics were almost impossible to understand. His instrumental skills may not have been affected by his haphazard movements, but his vocals became unintelligible as his mouth moved away from the microphone. As soon as Moneen left the stage, the temperature seemed to rise several degrees and the oxygen level dropped to a hazardous low. When the Taking Back Sunday backdrop rose behind the drum kit, the crowd let out a shout, frantic for the band to appear by their instruments. After just a few more minutes they did, launching right into “You Know How I Do”, the borderline ecstatic opener of their 2002 debut Tell All Your Friends. Sweaty bodies bounced and swayed and slammed into each other as singer Adam Lazzara assured us, “We won’t stand for hazy eyes anymore.” From there, they played almost every track off Your Friends, slowing down only once for Lazzara to interject a few bars of Justin Timberlake’s “Senorita” between songs. I don’t think anybody picked up on the interlude — not many Timberlake fans at a show like this. For the past three years, Taking Back Sunday have been touring extensively, gathering a fiercely loyal following wherever they go. The band features two frontmen — Lazzara and guitarist/singer Fred Mascherino — with a good cop/bad cop dynamic and a relentless hardcore infused sound that allows them to step beyond the stereotypical pitfalls of many emo bands. Also, adding trace pop elements to such favorites as “Great Romances of the 20th Century” and “You’re So Last Summer” makes Taking Back Sunday accessible to everyone from the tiny adolescent girls to the big, burly 20-somethings doing the damage in the mosh pit. This makes for great people-watching, because no matter the size, sex, or age of the kids in the crowd, they knows every word to every song and spit out the lyrics with as much, if not more, piss and vinegar than the singers. And so it goes for this show as well. During “Cute Without the ‘E’ (Cut from the Team)” the crowd roared along with lines like “Why can’t I feel anything for anyone other than you?” and “The only thing that I regret is I, I never let you hold me back!” For “Timberwolves at New Jersey” the crowd’s energy rose to a fevered frenzy during the line “You know I can’t help it / I’ve got the mike and you’ve got the mosh pit.” By the time Taking Back Sunday played their last song, “There’s No ‘I’ in Team”, the whole crowd had just about had it. As the last lyric, “Best friend thinks I pulled the trigger / Best friend thinks you get what you deserve,” faded and before the shouts and applause died down, battered, bruised, and sweaty kids fought their way from the stage toward the bathrooms and the cool night air for a much needed breather. After a performance like Taking Back Sunday’s, Saves the Day had a lot to live up to. By the time they took the stage late that evening, many of the punks and emo kids who’d been rocking for the past two-and-a-half hours weren’t up for another set. The majority, however, were ready for the challenge, and Saves the Day were received with enthusiastic cheers. Opening with “At Your Funeral”, the first track from their 2001 release Stay What You Are, the band kicked off their set on an upbeat note — one they maintained throughout the show. Singer/guitarist Chris Conley resembled a diminutive, blonde Rivers Cuomo up there behind his guitar and his spectacles. Actually Saves the Day’s set sounded a lot like some of Weezer’s later material. They played a bunch of tracks from Stay What Your Are, as well as several from the newest album, In Reverie, which hit stores on the September 16. These newest songs, including the title track and the single, “Anywhere with You”, are perfectly crafted pop songs — a significant departure from the band’s punk roots. Conley kept up the catchy riffs and mellow lyrics, while drummer Pete Parada maintained a solid, if not somewhat predictable, rhythm section. The kids loved every minute and showed their affection by enthusiastically crowd surfing and moshing to even the poppiest of songs. Conley asked the crowd on several occasions to calm down and respect the people around them because kids were getting hurt. He also thanked the crowd excessively for sticking around to see them and for being so enthusiastic. As much as I appreciate a humble musician, by the end of the show, I was going to throw my shoe at him if he said, “Thank you SO much!” one more time. (He did, but I like my shoes.) They closed with the “Firefly”, the last track from Stay What You Are, and as the last chord rang through the venue, kids streamed out into the cool night air and to their cars. Saves the Day put on an upbeat performance appreciated by the crowd; however, the band’s new poppy sound did not compare favorably to Taking Back Sunday’s rawly emotional set, the set it seemed most kids were here to see. The highlight of the evening, though, occurred at the very beginning of Moneen’s set when Bridges gave us this blessing and advice: “Make sure you leave uglier than when you came in!” Judging by the kids crawling into their cars, we lived up to his request.