Yost Theater, Santa Ana
Feb. 7, 2012
Whatever happened to the golden days of emo when the singers on stage were just as weepy and insecure as our high school selves? Stalwarts, such as those who played the second installment of the Where's The Band? tour, apparently are dropping their backing musicians, embarking on solo careers and transforming into legitimate singer songwriters.
The result is ideal for their maturing demographic, but it definitely takes some getting used to.
The show brought six band-less frontmen–including Dustin Kensrue (Thrice), Matt Pryor (The Get Up Kids), Chris Conley (Saves the Day), Anthony Raneri (Bayside), Ace Enders (The Early November) and Evan Weiss (Into It. Over It)–to a full house at the newly hosting Yost Theatre, giving each a quick 30-minute set to do with what they choose.
Conley sat on a black leather bar chair center stage and took requests from the audience, all of which were off Saves the Day's first three albums. In his signature wail that is both grating and comforting, he sang “Rock Tonic Juice Magic” from Through Being Cool, “3 Miles Down” from Can't Slow Down and ended the set with “At Your Funeral” off Stay What You Are. At one point, he noted that he had written some of the songs he was singing when he was 17, but the idea of time passing was rendered null by the slight frame and sweet '90s lesbian 'do that maintained his current age to be not a day over Junior prom.
A quick unplug and a handshake sufficed for set changes throughout the night, and once Pryor took his standing position in front of the stage's solitary mic stand, he ripped into “All Eyes,” a song from his folk-rock side project The New Amsterdams. In addition to solo songs such as “Confidence Man,” which–inspired by a tourmate's backstage comment on his fedora–culminated in a segway into Bruno Mars' portion of “Billionaire,” Pryor also took requests for old school Get Up Kids songs. Instead of finishing the set with the ballad “I'll Catch You” as is the norm for his acoustic tours, Pryor instead opted for the upbeat “Better Half,” “a love song written a long time ago.”
As promised in our previews of this event, Pryor, Enders and Ranieri did end up channeling their inner barbershop quartet for a brilliant cover of “Rainbow Connection” from The Muppet Movie (between parts, Enders even mimicked Kermit's awkward dance moves).
Hometown hottie (yes we just called him that) Dustin Kensrue headlined the night with a diverse set of newer Thrice songs, indie-rock covers and multiple solo numbers about how much he loves and needs his wife. After an evening of failed sing-a-long attempts and emotionless faces from those young folks closest to the stage, Kensrue's bluesy solo songs finally woke up the crowd, getting lips moving and iPhones filming through the last jam of the night–a Tom Waits cover of “Down There By the Train.”
The set list wasn't much different than the Troubadour show a few nights prior, but the friendly attitudes from all of the performers still gave the show a personal touch. Each casually dropped insider info before playing older songs and interacted with the audience through both requests and random-story asides. Several also talked out their thought processes about which requests to honor and were honest about being scared to try songs they hadn't practiced in a while.
Instead of these artists being the unreachable frontmen of our favorite bands as they might have been years ago, the Where's the Band? format strips away the intimidation factor built into traditional audience-performer relationships and presents these guys as real dudes who could just as easily been your buddies having this show in your living room.
Though remnants of these bands' weepy and insecure heydeys are worth revisiting on nights like these, it is good to know that our guilty pleasures are capable of adult feelings too.
The Crowd: Sober couples cuddling with each other and lots of lonely guys wearing either saggy beanies or lowercase “a” Angels hats.
Critic's Bias: I was secretly hoping for a sweaty, intimate, fist-pumping acoustic session like the ones that went down at Chain Reaction circa 2003.
Overheard in the Crowd: “Are you awake? You better get into this shit!”
Random Notebook Dump: Why was someone requesting Limp Bizkit?
Sarah Bennett is a freelance journalist who has spent nearly a decade covering food, music, craft beer, arts, culture and all sorts of bizarro things that interest her for local, regional and national publications.