Written by Todd Spoth
Jul 19, 2006 at 07:00 PM
ImageDoors at the Verizon Wireless Theater here in Houston, Texas, opened up at 6pm for the night’s rock show and as I drove by around 7:15pm the line to enter the venue was still halfway down the Bayou Place sidewalk. After negotiating the underground parking, which wasn’t as pleasant as an experience as I had remembered, I entered the show. Like I have said before, in my earlier years I have been all about small or no stage, $5-10 covers, and the no nonsense stage setups, but alas, those days are gone. I have grown to appreciate the larger venues, with plenty of amenities to offer their audiences. Amenities should be demanded when these kids are shelling out over $30 for a show. If I had to fork over $30 for a show it had better come with a…well I’ll just stop there. Fortunately for me this isn’t the case.

Ben Lee, a native Australian, who began his career in music with a debut LP that was released on Grand Royal (the Beastie Boys owned label) when he was only 15 years old, opened the show. Unfortunately the time it took to navigate parking and breach the frontlines of security spilled over into Ben’s set and he was missed.

Say Anything, a fairly new outfit from LA, warmed up the crowd for the headliner. They failed to impress me though. I heard a few tracks of theirs online, and although the live version is a bit more lively and tolerable, their random key changes and off-tempo stuff, just ruins it. I would start to get into a song and then it would take this crazy road off into bizzaro/bad-music world. I did witness the merch dance for these guys though, letting me know that they were liked or were they? The merch dance for you noobs goes like this. You wear a random polo shirt, (most likely that sweet Hollister one that you love, you know the red and blue striped one with the white collar and cuffs, that came “pre-worn” meaning you made your mom pay an extra $20 for some 5 year old Sri-Lankan girl to rip it up a bit for you) stand in that 20 minute line at the merch table, then you buy that cute, baby-blue cloud shirt and put it over your polo, making sure the white collar pops out of the new shirt. I saw a good 7-10 of this same guy floating around even before Say Anything took the stage, so either they a) have a following, b) they have a lot of “new” fans that bought the shirt of the opening band before they went on to look cool, or c) have a lot of “new” fans that just like cartoon clouds. To sum all that up…these guys sucked.

Dashboard Confessional. Chris Carraba is unmistakably talented. I’ve followed him since his days with Further Seems Forever. My first Chris Carraba solo experience was on December 2nd, 2000 at the Oven, where he played a few of his first songs acoustically, accompanied by only one other guitar. Anyone else who remembers this venue can attest to its ridiculously small size. I think its capacity was under 100, so naturally with a bill like New Found Glory, Midtown, Selby Tigers, Dashboard Confessional as well as local hardcore favorites Burning Inside, this show was one that went down in Houston’s history.

Well how times have changed. Chris has taken Dashboard farther than I and I am sure he had expected, with MTV appearances, sold out amphitheaters, endorsement deals, and even an unplugged record. Dashboard has always been one of those bands you discover as babies and kind of are bitter about when they blow up and every 15 year old knows. On one hand I am glad that this kind of music has found its way out there to the masses and for some teenagers has replaced the boy bands, yet on the other hand I miss being one of 30 people at his shows and being able to hear Chris sing instead of a hoard of out of tune girls. Nevertheless a good time was had. He played a great set of songs from all his albums, and even had a live piano and violin which was a nice, subtle touch.

The musicianship was spot on and Chris still sings his heart out like he used to. During the initial few songs of the set, Chris got a bit upset and tour managers scuffled about to clear the line of beefy security guards that lined the parallel between the barricade and the stage. Chris wanted the best crowd interaction that could be afforded to a sold out amphitheater and he would get it, without the security.
The elaborate stage set up was of note as well. The backdrop was a brick, urban, alley scene and Chinese paper lanterns that would change color frequently flew about the stage. The high-tech projectors shone everything from shooting stars to raindrops on the backdrop throughout the set. Like I have mentioned above, I’m not one for KISS-esque stage set-ups, but it was very pleasing to the eyes and I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

One thing that did come over a bit cheesy came before the song Dusk and Summer. Chris commanded the audience to hold up their cell phones to emulate the presence of stars. I almost died with laughter at this sight. Even through the beams of high-tech stage lighting, the chilly iridescence of hundreds of pink razrs, and the glow of more than a handful of gaudy cloud shirts, the great music of Dashboard Confessional poured through, and a great show was had. -Todd Spoth