Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional has been pegged as the face of a movement — one that's had a certain style of dress, hair, music and emotional sentiment attached to it: the emo movement. He accepts it and is unashamed of it. But one would be inclined to think that over a decade later he'd be ready to hang the hat on the old term and move on, especially with a comeback co-headlining tour with Third Eye Blind, playing Festival Pier on Saturday, in progress. Rather, he acknowledges the title with pride.
"Whatever genre people decide we are — and I say we're an emo band — and I'm just fine with that," Carrabba said. "I'm in an emo band that's still popular in 2015."
It is a rather remarkable feat when one considers the way musical tastes and trends have transitioned over the last 15 years that Carrabba has been penning and performing heart-wrenching tunes as Dashboard Confessional. Just as trendy offshoots of larger genres come and go and morph into other, newer incarnations of the same parent genre — in this case alternative rock — fans pick up on the latest hype and move on.
But there was something about Dashboard that captivated fans and kept them after all this time. It's been over five years since the last Dashboard record and tour, yet there's a large, dedicated audience still at the helm. Summer 2014 festival performances at Silopanna Music Festival in Annapolis, Md. and Riot Fest in Chicago proved that.
"It seemed like the desire of the audience to sing along, there'd been a cap on it for so long, that they let it all out at once," Carrabba recalled.
Just as the audience comes to see Dashboard, a lot of getting on stage every night for Carrabba is the thrill of seeing that fan base sing along with him, a symbiotic relationship held together by, more often than not, a coming-of-age kinship.
"They're going to be f------ great," he said of the crowds every night. "And you better be f------ great, too, or you're going to get outplayed by that audience. And sometimes no matter how great you are, they're just going to be better than you."
It's all very high stakes and very … emo. The fans are coming to relive the moments that defined their adolescence, to revel in the songs that served as a soundtrack to their youth. The same songs that marked milestones in Carrabba's own life, that have now taken on new meaning. It's all about channeling that ability to connect on an emotional level that lies at the core of all emo music. And it's a two-way street.
"I guess I'm the lead singer of this giant band every night," Carrabba said. "But I'm hanging on every word they sing."
It's a match made in emo heaven.
So while he's not fronting the poster band for emo music, Carrabba — who is not an angst-ridden, sad sack full of pent up emotions, but rather a happy-go-lucky guy who, believe it or not, is quite cheerful — does partake in emo-inducing behavior on a daily basis.
Though his job (writing songs) is emo enough on the surface, the start of Carrabba's day serves as a warm-up to both. Immediately upon waking, he'll grab his journal and write for 10, uninterrupted minutes about the first thought that comes to mind. Once the 10 minutes is up, he walks away — regardless if the passage is complete.
"So I kind of remain unfulfilled as a writer and I'm still chasing it for the rest of the day," he said sheepishly. "That's it. That's the thing I do that's most emo every day."
While not a consciously emo, or un-emo action for that matter, it is easy to characterize Carrabba as being almost a caricature of his Dashboard Confessional repertoire. He doesn't seem to mind.
"It's hard for me to worry too much about the way I've been misperceived or perceived correctly," he said. "This is our 15th year. I started this thing really young thinking I had an, at best, a three-to-five-year arc here and this continues to be my lifeblood and my livelihood. So who gives a s--- if someone says my songs are sad? Who gives a s---?"
Dashboard Confessional with Third Eye Blind, Festival Pier, 601 N. Columbus Blvd., 7 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are still available.