Henry and I don’t get out very often, but we had tickets to the Where’s the Band? show on Saturday night and I was really looking forward to it. The tour showcases the solo efforts of Anthony Raneri (Bayside), Chris Conley (Saves the Day), Matt Pryor (The Get Up Kids, New Amsterdam, et al) and Dustin Kensrue (Thrice) and if you know me at all, you can guess that I was spittling all over myself when I heard it was coming to town.
We ditched Chooch with Henry’s mom and left for Mr. Small’s. I kept insinuating that it was a date, and I think it made Henry nervous, like he was worried he’d have to put out later or, God forbid, hold a door open for me. He at least knew he wouldn’t be expected to hold my hand during the show, because, you know, ew.
Arriving thirty minutes before the show was set to start, Henry pointed out that the marquee said the show was sold out. “I fucking told you it would sell out, you idiot!” I spat. I started getting really heated, tugging at my collar like a coal miner about to whale on his wife for not having dinner ready at 6:05pm, until Henry reminded me that we already had our tickets. “Yeah, thanks to me!” I yelled. And then I realized that it was ok to calm down and savor yet another moment of righteousness.
Inside, I was pleased to see that it was an older crowd. We stood behind a couple and when the guy put his arm around the girl’s back, I motioned to his wedding band and quipped, “You don’t see that very often at the shows we’re accustomed to, ha-ha” (and that’s how I laughed too–a staccato “ha” followed by another staccato “ha”), but Henry didn’t get it. “You know, because the people at most shows we go to aren’t legal for marriage” I explained, but he wasn’t paying attention to me ON OUR DATE so I don’t give a fuck if he ever gets another joke in his life.
We’re waiting for the show to start, and it’s a little delayed. So Henry, he tries to make small talk and suggests that he show probably sold out because the tickets were cheap. “Oh right, and it wouldn’t have anything to do with the lineup” I sassed. But he had the audacity to laugh and say, “Yeah, it’s the cheap tickets” which made me rant about how these guys that were about to bleed their hearts on stage are likely going to be legends by the time they die.
That only made Henry laugh even harder. But Henry, he’s old; he quit understanding music sometime right after the arrival of Quiet Riot.
The show finally started around 7:30, and I loved it because there was no frilly, flouncy bullshit. There was no waiting twenty to thirty minutes between sets, waiting for the next one to come out. One left, the next walked on. Just each dude and his guitar, so fucking vulnerable, but at the same time it made them look even bigger. I also liked how, sans band, their individual stage personalities were showcased alongside of their songwriting brilliance. It was interesting to see how they varied from each other, and while I was musing about this, and also the fact that I bet their mommies are so proud of them, I realized, “Yes, I’m officially old. I’m analyzing their showmanship and not wondering how big their weeners are.”
- First up was Anthony Raneri. I’m not the biggest Bayside fan, so he was the act I was least looking forward to. Well, from the first pluck at his guitar, he had me eating out of his. I bought a ticket primarily for Dustin Kensrue, but Anthony Raneri may have won my heart that night. Besides Dustin, he’d the only one who made me weep openly, and that was when sang the Bayside song “Don’t Call Me Peanut.”
This isn’t from the Pittsburgh show, but it’s the best quality video I could find on YouTube. When the song was over, I hoarsely whispered to Henry, “I want to kill myself. I want to fucking kill myself,” and he was like, “Yay! Please do!” While Anthony engaged in light banter now and then — like when he informed up that the next song he was going to play was political and that it’s such an exciting time in the country which predictably led to some heavy grumbling over in Henry’s corner– his set was fairly straightforward. He played the songs he came to play, and left. With my heart. There, I said it.
- Chris Conley was next and brought with him a set that was heavy in crowd participation. He took requests for each song, which turned into a screaming free-for-all. Henry’s musical memory sucks, and he kept asking me a million questions about Chris (I think he thought he was hot, I don’t know) and I kept saying, “He’s the guy from Saves the Day, you idiot. I have all their albums. You’re not going to like him.” And predictably, as soon as Chris sung the first estrogen-laced note, Henry’s balls were sucked up into his bowels.
Again, not from the Pittsburgh show.
Chris told us a story about some crazy guy they saw that day, pushing a broken down car, who got angry when Chris and the rest of the guys asked if he needed help. “Yeah, you can get the fuck out of the way” and then apologized, saying it had been a rough day. So Chris goes, “I guess you’re just naturally sweet, right?” which apparently greatly offended the dude, because you just don’t go around telling guys in Cleveland that they’re sweet unless you want to get shot. It wasn’t that funny of a story really, but the fact that it was Chris Conley telling it made it so. It was right around that time that Henry got a call from his mom, saying that Chooch wouldn’t stop screaming and had apparently wedged himself in a corner and she wasn’t sure if maybe he was dying or what, so Henry took that as his cue to leave. “I’ll come back for you later,” were the parting words that drifted back to me in his anxious wake. Honestly, he booked out of there so fast, it was like a fucking echo. You lucked out this time, Henry J. Robbins, but next time you won’t be so lucky.
Chris ended his set by bringing out Matt Pryor to sing “At Your Funeral” with him. It was beautiful.
- I really like the Get Up Kids, but never had the opportunity to see them live when they were still together, so Matt Pryor is kind of this mythical character to me. Out of all four performers, he lit up the stage most of all. In fact, I admit to being more entertained by his rapport with the crowd than by his actual songs (most of which were super short. He summoned Chris from the wings to play the tambourine during one song. “Do you even know how to play the tambourine?” he dourly asked Chris, who turned toward us and pumped his arms in an exasperated “Are you fucking kidding me?” motion. Afterward, when Chris left the stage, Matt goes, “Chris Conley makes me so happy. Did you see him, all blissed out, playing the tambourine with his eyes closed? That dude is so weird.”
Pittsburgh people, put your fucking videos on YouTube already, shit.
Matt was wearing a newsboy cap at the Pittsburgh show, and he complained that it was his first time wearing a hat while on stage and he kept bumping it off the mic. “But I’ve been wearing it all day, and you know, once you commit to wearing a hat, you have to follow through.” Then he paused and realized, “Wow, I’ve been such a whiny bitch up here. They’re going to have to change the name of this t our to Diva Camp.” And I laughed so hard, you’d have thought it was my first time finding out about motherfucking Dave Chapelle or some shit; like if Matt had been closer, I’d have slapped him and maniacally shouted “OH MATT YOU CARD HAHAHAHA.”
Then he goes, and this is where I get all somber again, he goes, “Anyone here on a date? Well, these last two songs are LOVE SONGS. Just think of me as your BALLADEER for the evening.” But of course, what I heard was, “Erin Appledale is a loser and here by herself because she’s not awesome enough to go out on dates” and then a bucket of pig’s blood overturned and painted me pathetic.
Thank you, Matt Pryor.
- DUSTIN KENSRUE DUSTIN KENSRUE DUSTIN KENSRUE!!! Fucking Dustin Kensrue!!! I do not have enough superlatives in my pea-sized, fan-girl vocabulary for him. His presence is very god-like. He picks up his guitar and you hold your breath. That’s just how it is, unless you just don’t love music. His main gig is with Thrice and while they’re a powerful, unmistakably intelligent post-hardcore outfit, he is just as big and powerful and intelligent on his own. His solo style is alt-country and he even brings out his harmonica, complete with the around-the-head contraption, and I’m not like some raging harmonihomo, but good goddamn that man amazes me.
I was super pleased when he christened his set with an acoustic version of the title track from “The Artist In the Ambulance.” Stripped down, it just takes on a brand new meaning; it’s so raw and moving. That album is so personal to me because I associate it with Henry, when our relationship was still new and we were learning about each other. I remember driving around one Sunday, ending up in West Virginia with no destination in sight, and listening to that album. It was one of the first times Henry admitted to sharing somewhat of a partiality to a band I liked. So Thrice always makes me feel bonded to him, in some intrinsic way, because music is the biggest way I bond with people. I never told Henry this, so he’ll probably read this and be all “awww gosh darnit” but then he will act like it didn’t faze him. You know, the Henry Way.
So I’m standing there, by myself, next to a girl with her boyfriend who slurs, “Oh wow, [Dustin Kensrue] is so hot” and then proceeds to spend the entire set texting. And down a few heads from her is this gaggle of peacoated sorority whores who never stopped loudly conversing in their twatty faux-Valley Girl cadence . I mean, it was a goddamn ACOUSTIC SHOW, how loud do you really need to shout? That is when I realized that perhaps I prefer shows with a younger crowd, because those kids are there for the music. They show respect for the artists that have sacrificed so much just to be able to get up on a stage and play for us. Those kids, they don’t go to shows and stand with their backs to the stage, giggling with their tactless posse.
And that is also when I realized I didn’t mind the guy standing slightly behind me, who had taken on the role of Dustin’s backup singer and LOUDLY sang along to each and every song, even the covers, and in between pauses, he would shout little pieces of trivia about Dustin and Thrice to his very tall and curly-haired friend who evidently didn’t know much. Anyway, Dustin the Second and I were the only two people in our area who screamed loudly and applauded furiously after each song.
It’s fucking Dustin Kensrue, ya’ll. His drummer is my fucking son’s namesake.
Out of all the guys that night, Dustin was the one who meant serious business. Instead of telling us stories about crazy tweakin’ men pushing cars or trying to egg the crowd into heckling him (seriously, someone said, “screw you” to Matt Pryor after he begged to be heckled, prompting Matt to take a swig of beer and dryly retort, “Ooooh, screw you. Good one.”), Dustin went off on fucking brilliant tangents about faith and spirituality and accepting the fact that he will never know everything there is to know, and it was so articulate that I won’t even try to paraphrase it, because we all know I’m practically illiterate. But here is the profound statement that Obsessive Texter’s boyfriend made about it: “He is like, so smart.” Word.
And then he played this song about his wife, wherein I lost my shit and gave myself Tammy Faye Bakker eyes.
Dustin ended his set, devoid of any bells and whistles, with the most heart-wrenching cover of “Round Here.” Now, I like the Counting Crows; I won’t try and act like I’m too elite to appreciate radio-friendly alternative. (Plus Jennifer Aniston dated Adam Durwitz and hello, she’s my fucking homegirl, whut.) But there was something very moving about Dustin’s rendition of it, that my heart felt constricted in my ribcage and I sobbed the whole way through it.
- Encore: Dustin and Matt re-staged and attempted to do a duet of Ryan Adams’ “Sweet Carolina,” but Matt was having tuning problems and had to run off stage to grab a new guitar, shouting, “I’m so fucking prepared for this” as he disappeared. When he came back, he mentioned that someone had told him he looked like a ’30s gangster in that hat, so he proceeded to talk out of one side of his mouth in this creepy Dick Tracy-esque drawl. It was nice, much-needed moment of levity after Dustin’s amazingly sovereign set. And when they finally sang the song, it was sweeping and gorgeous and gave me chills up my spine.
- Afterward, Chris and Anthony joined them for aJawbreaker cover, and thenNOFX’s “Linoleum” which I felt was a perfect note to end on.
I’m very grateful that I got to be there for such a wonderfully gut-wrenching night of music from some of the most revered men in today’s scene. I just wish I had been able to share it with someone, because the only thing worse than post-show depression is not having anyone to ruminate with. (Not that Henry is wildly known for his post-show ruminations, but you know what I mean.)
Fucking music, man.
[Note: Chooch was fine, just being a drama king because mommy and daddy left him with his grandmother, oh the horror. And for the record? If Chooch had been hurt, and not just overreacting to the fact that we weren’t home, I totally would not have stayed at that show. I’m not THAT terrible of a mother, no matter what you’ve heard.]