Cathartic Chaos

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If you asked me ten years ago would I find myself at the age of twenty-five spending an entire day out in the “middle of nowhere”, listening to music that I played in my Sony Walkman CD player when I was thirteen, I probably would have scoffed “never in my wildest dreams.” Two weekends ago proved my teenage self wrong and reignited my love for pop-punk, post-hardcore, emo-revival music. Myself, as well as all the millennials that flocked together in the sweltering San Bernardino sun felt nothing less than nostalgic. I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many emotional riffs pierced through me throughout that day. From hearing “Anthem of Our Dying Day” to a live version of “On My Own” the feelings were real and the camaraderie amongst musicians and listeners were transcendent. In addition, credits to the stage designer because I think the turn-table style of stage where one band sets up in the back whilst another is playing (allowing for seamless transitions between bands) was absolutely flawless.
Before I even begin to explain the theatrical genius that is The Used, I must preface my Taste of Chaos experience with a rundown of bands that my angst y teenage self was eager to hear.
     Story of the Year: I mean, who DIDN’T sing Anthem of Our Dying Day and Until The Day I Die to the top of their lungs? The clarity in the lead singer’s voice as well as the prophetic screams sounded just like the album version. With joy plastered on each of the band member’s faces, you could tell they felt at home and that they were.
The All-American Rejects: Obviously, a crowd favorite here. I’ve never seen them live before and Tyson’s stage presence (making Ensure + vodka jokes) was quite entertaining.  They played basically every song that ever debuted on the radio 10 years ago and it took me back to San Diego summers spent eating s’mores, sitting on the side of the pavement whilst watching my cousins skateboard.
Dashboard Confessional: I was first introduced to Dashboard Confessional in seventh-grade from my English teacher, Ms. Biddle, during our daily journal writing session. I remember writing to my heart’s content to “Vindicated” and “Hands Down” and the super smooth serenading of Chris Carrabba was every middle-school girl’s crush at the time. Fast forward ten years, and never being able to see them live, this was the moment I absolutely lived for. When I heard the chords to “Stolen” I think I experienced some kind of instantaneous retrograde. I’ve always appreciated the complex lyrics that Dashboard creates, I mean, “hope dangles on a string, like slow spinning redemption” ?! Illustrative metaphors are my weakness and when you put them into catchy melodies, I can’t stray away. I was on all emotional levels feeling Chris Carrabba’s humble stage presence fill up the San Bernardino hillside that evening, and although I was probably a couple hundred feet away, I still felt like I was centerstage sorta speak.
Jimmy Eat World: Ashamedly, I admit that I only knew the band’s cult favorite classics such as “The Middle” and “Sweetness” but to my surprise, they are undoubtedly incredible live. I felt like I was listening to the album in a studio. No vocal inflections or instrumental mess-ups found throughout the entire hour + ten minutes they performed. Their showmanship and live performance capability left me speechless.
Last, but finally not least… my first favourite band THE USED (this part is lengthy, I have NO apology).
I remember listening to a mixed cd of sorts when I was twelve, borrowed from my fifteen year old cousin; it consisted of New Found Glory, Yellowcard, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, and two songs that I haven’t recognized before. With lyrics such as “So here I am, it’s in my hands. So I’ll savor every moment of this” and “Without it all, I’m choking on nothing. It’s clear in my head, I’m screaming for something” that was basically my first taste of ink, on my own(cheesy, but I HAD to write it). From then on, I wanted more content from this band that call themselves The Used.
You see, beforehand I had a shit taste in music. All I really listened to was manufactured pop songs (which, I’m still a fan of N’SYNC), old school hip hop/ RnB, and all the classics (cue Goo Goo Dolls, Earth Wind & Fire, and Tracy Chapman). While there was nothing wrong with those choices, I wanted something lyrically diverse, and emotionally connective. That’s what The Used did for me. Though the imagery of some of their lyrics might not be for the faint of heart, it was full of meaning for me. Public media at the time pinned Bert McCracken as a weird guy, but I felt like I understood him in a way most people don’t. Some people think political, socio-economic issues and music shouldn’t become integrated, but if it is done right (the way The Used did so, with Imaginary Enemy) then I think it has potential to deliver a powerful message, that is why I love The Used so much. With the installment of their second album “In Love And Death” this quickly became my favourite  album of all time (and still is). If you’re familiar with the album and the story behind it, you can quickly understand why it has become my beloved album of choice.
Fast forward eleven years since the album’s release in 2004, and I couldn’t believe I finally had the opportunity to see them live. The anticipation building up during the whole day at Taste of Chaos was unbearable for me. I was inundated with excitement and just completely over-emotional throughout the whole ordeal. It was 9:59pm, the cool breeze of the hillside picking up and to my dismay, crowds were vacating the premises before The Used was about to step onstage. Seemingly confused by the commotion, I stood put next to the audio-visual tent and my clear view of the stage.
I didn’t even hear anything but all I saw was Bert McCracken dressed in all white, top hat, and cane and my mind was blown. Being a satirical novel enthusiast, I know an Alex DeLarge when I see one, and after much thought, it was the perfect character for McCracken to portray. When I thought the theatrics couldn’t get any better, they opened up with Maybe Memories, which was significantly THE most important song they could open with. The setlist after that was superb.
See list below (though I miss Let It Bleed):
1. Maybe Memories
2. Take It Away
3. The Bird and the Worm
4. Listening
5. I Caught Fire**
6. The Taste of Ink
7. All That I’ve Got*
8. Buried Myself Alive
9. Cry
10. Blood on My Hands
11.Pretty Handsome Awkward
12.On My Own***
13. Killing In The Name, Bulls on Parade, Know Your Enemy
14. A Box Full of Sharp Objects
I was especially emotional when I heard the opening guitar riff to my favourite song in existence “I Caught Fire” and although Bert’s vocal register wasn’t exactly like the album that night, it didn’t matter because his message about love and humanity is exactly what I needed in this moment. Another moving part of the whole set was when Bert pointed out their new guitarist, Justin Shekowski with an acoustic rendition of On My Own. Never in my life have I ever cried at a concert before, and this did it for me. For Bert to showcase their new guitarist in such a warm and welcoming way to a crowd at a festival that has been around for a decade is nothing short of charismatic in my eyes. Overall, the catharsis got to me in full sweeping motions. I was sobbing like a maniac during I Caught Fire, All That I’ve Got, and On My Own and remained strenuously overexercising my vocal chords the rest of the set.
Needless to say, I’ve tasted the chaos and I couldn’t have needed anything more.
Catch Ya Later,
-Kathy
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