The Moon is Down, Heaven is Waiting

I do my best to attend as many concerts as possible, though not as many as I’d like.  Over the past few months, I've done my best to write about most of those here both as a promotional tool for Modern Industry and as some sort of public service.  We hope that our customers share our interests and may be interested in our perspectives on them.

To this point, the concert reviews I’ve written have been overwhelmingly positive. With that being said, we want you to take us seriously.  We want to have a distinct viewpoint.  We want to take a stand on important issues that affect all of us.  In order to do so, we must be honest.  If we can’t be honest about a concert, how can you trust us about anything else?

So let’s get to it. On Friday October 26, I ventured to Bottom of the Hill to see Further Seems Forever (fronted by original singer Chris Carraba) perform with special guest Chris Conley.  Having consumed a few IPAs during a “business meeting” with fellow industrialist Lorris Williams, I arrived slightly lubricated and ready for a good time.  My enthusiasm was slightly thwarted by the long line (now there’s a space in need of innovative thinking) outside of the venue that caused me to miss the beginning of Mr Conley’s set.

For those of you who don’t know, Chris Conley is the lead singer and driving force behind pop punk stalwarts Saves the Day.  The band has gone through many, many lineup changes since its 1994 inception, but Chris has remained a fixture.  For all intents and purposes, Saves the Day is Chris Conley.

I’ve been a huge fan of the band since first hearing Through Being Cool sometime in 1999.  The album and the band are amongst my all-time favorites.   Saves the Day next released Stay What You Are in 2001 and began to experience a significant amount of commercial success.  The album, highlighted by the single “At Your Funeral,” mixed a poppy sound with macabre lyrics to create unique, iconic sound in the Pop Punk genre.

The success of Stay What You Are led to major label interest and the band eventually signed with Dreamworks records.  The bands next release In Reverie represented a stylistic departure in both content and sound.  To be honest, I was extremely disappointed by the album and it remains one the only Saves the Day releases that I do not have on my iPod.  I may not even have it in my music library. I’m all for a band evolving, but this one missed the mark in my opinion.

In Reverie was a commercial failure at least partially due to the fact that Dreamworks basically abandoned the band.  It also resulted in Saves the Day losing a large number of followers, at least temporarily.  If you are one of those individuals, I definitely suggest listening to the bands last three albums Sound the Alarm, Under the Boards, and Daybreak.  Chris’ vocals still sound a bit reminiscent of In Reverie, but they fit the music extremely well.  The albums are a part of a three part concept that, according to Conley, represents a “therapeutic experiment.” Conley stated, "Sound the Alarm is an expression of discontent. Under the Boards is reflection and remorse. Daybreak is acceptance." In short, this trilogy is amazing.  Daybreak, the band’s latest release, is my favorite.  If you haven’t checked out the band recently, I suggest you start there.  These albums do not represent a stylistic return to Stay What You Are , but they do represent a logical, successful progression.

Why did I just give you a history lesson about Saves the Day if I saw Chris Conley?  Well, a Chris Conley solo show is essentially a Saves the Day acoustic show.  Every time I have seen Chris play, with or without a band, he has done a masterful job of setlist creation. Friday night was no exception. He mixes in the hits from virtually every album.  While I don’t like In Reverie, I appreciate that he plays songs from the album.  Some people do and they go to the show hoping to hear that shit.  They shouldn't be disappointed and they never are.  Frankly, this is one of the few cases where I wish a band/performer played more new songs.  I would love to hear “Daybreak” (the song not the album) played in its entirety.  It’s a 10 minute long epic song that I can’t stop listening to.

I don’t have many specifics about what songs Chris played at this particular show partially because I had consumed a few adult beverages beforehand and partially because I can’t find a setlist from the tour anywhere online. I do know what I heard was fantastic. Chris obviously loves hearing the crowd sing along and appreciates everyone who enjoys his music.  He does everything he can to make that happen.  His sheepish grins that routinely appear on his face add to the incredibly positive experience.  I have always been amazed and appreciative of his ability to adapt his live vocals to match the original recording.  All to often singers change their vocal stylings and then perform every song with this new approach, rarely with success.  Chris does not do this.  I cannot say enough about Chris Conley and Saves the Day, but if you ever get a chance to see them perform, you should.

I realize that was not so much a review of a particular show as it was of every Chris Conley performance.   I do what I want, get used to it.

Next up was the headliner Further Seems Forever with Chris Carraba at the helm.  In fact, the entire original lineup has gotten back together to write, record, and tour for the first time since 2001.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, Further Seems Forever is the “hardcore” band that Carraba left when Dashboard Confessional went from being his acoustic side project to his full time band.

Further Seems Forever is not actually a hardcore band, but a quintessential “emo” band that has seen many incarnations over the years.  Their first three albums each had a different singer and unique sound.  In many ways, it is amazing that the band was able to stay relevant until their 2007 breakup.

My experience started with Further Seems Forever started when I heard their first release The Moon is Down around the same time I heard Dashboard’s Swiss Army Romance in 2001.  In my opinion, The Moon is Down was a very successful first release. It was imperfect and featured a few lackluster songs that were overshadowed by instant classics “The Moon is Down” and “The Bradley.”

Shortly after was The Moon is Down was released, singer Carraba and guitarist Nick Dominguez left the band.  They were replaced by Jason Gleason on vocals and Derick Cordoba on guitar.  With the replacements, Further Seems Forever gained a large following and generated much anticipation for the follow up to The Moon is Down.  That anticipation was rewarded with 2003’s How to Start a Fire.  Featuring hits “The Sound” and “Pride War,” the album was a critical success that was accompanied by a stellar live show.  Unfortunately, a fallout within the group led to Gleason’s departure in 2004.

Gleason was quickly replaced by Jon Bunch (formerly of Sense Field) a Further Seems Forever released its third album Hide Nothing in 2004.  In many ways, Bunch was my favorite of the three Further Seems Forever singers, but not because of the songs he recorded.  He was able to perform songs from all three albums incredibly well with a selfless attitude that seemed to put the desires of the fans ahead of his desire to leave a mark on the band.

In my opinion, his renditions of song from The Moon is Down were far better that Gleason’s.  Bunch, to the best of his ability, attempted to recreate the sounds of his predecessors instead of putting a new spin on the old songs.  As a fan, I was always grateful for that.

I have always felt that a band has an obligation to it fans to play the songs the fans want to hear the way they want to hear them.  If you do not want to play your old songs anymore, you should start a new band, even if that means simply changing your name. A band is only successful because of the people who enjoy it.  I feel that a band should show respect to the people who helped them attain success in the first place. They should feel free to evolve and change, but they should always remember where they came from. This means playing your old shit when you play shows. Rant over… for now.

Ultimately, Further Seems Forever broke up in 2010, periodically playing reunion shows.  That is until 2010 when original band reunited with now superstar Chris Carraba on vocals.  The band began touring again and released a new album in October called Penny Black.  This brings us to last Friday.  Since the band’s reincarnation, this was my first opportunity to see them perform and I was stoked.

The band hit the stage full of energy, mixing songs from the Moon is Down and Penny Black. Whether you like him or not, Chris Carraba does two things inarguably well.  First, the man can sing.  Second, he has great stage presence.  Seeing him perform in a small venue for the first time since the early days of Dashboard, I was extremely impressed with his ability to work the crowd.  In fact, he spent almost as much time in the crowd as his did on stage at the start of the show.

About halfway through the show, I started to have an empty feeling.  At first, I couldn’t figure out why.  Then it hit me.  The band was only playing songs that Carraba originally sang on.  Then I got pissed off.  I realize that the novelty of this particular show was based on the reunion of the bands original members.  Further, this tour is intended to support the band’s new album.  I get that and I would have had no problem with the band playing a majority of those songs.

What I do have a problem with is the band ignoring its history.  Like a company, a band is greater than the sum of its parts.  It is more than its current members.  It is the sum of all of the experiences of its fans.  In that way it is much like a brand. To continue my previous rant, this kind of behavior is offensive to the people that supported a band over the years.  To be fair, Further Seems Forever did play “The Sound.” One song out of the 20 or so that they played.  As fans we deserve better.  Without us there would be not shows, no merch sales, and most likely no band.  Keep that in mind.

This show presented a surprising juxtaposition between the two acts that performed.  On one hand you have Chris Conley who obviously have a respect for both his fans and his history.  He makes drastically different music than he did in 2001, but he recognizes that he has an obligation to his fans to play the old stuff.  On the other hand, you have Further Seems Forever who wanted to ignore most of its history.  I understand that shitty things may have happened to the individuals during those years. I understand many of the people on stage last Friday had nothing to do with those songs, but it doesn’t matter.  As I said before, a band is greater that it’s members.  A lineup change is not a justification to stop playing certain songs.

Despite my disappointment, I would suggest that fans of Further Seems Forever and/or Chris Carraba seem them play if you get the chance.  They are incredible performers.  Carraba’s stage presence that has developed after years of playing larger venues definitely translates well to a smaller stage.  While the set list… and what it represents… were disappointing, the performance was not.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve gotten a chance to listen to the band’s new album Penny Black.  While it has been bashed in the pop punk community for poor mixing and over produced vocals, I found it surprisingly well done.  Those criticisms are definitely warranted, but the overall song writing more than makes up for it.  All in all, I see Penny Black as a triumphant return for one of “emo’s” most celebrated bands.  Also,  go see Chris Conley and Saves the Day every chance you get.



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