Dashboard Confessional/Hot Rod Circuit/Rhett Miller - live in Chicago (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Dashboard Confessional / Hot Rod Circuit / Rhett Miller

live in Chicago (2002)

live show

4000 people were at this show.

That in itself says something. When I saw Jimmy Eat World in August, they, as a platinum artist on a major label, only played to 2500 people. Dashboard, with more or less word of mouth [up until earlier this year when MTV2 latched onto him like a barnacle to a whale], managed to get 4000 fans all in one room, and it seemed like every single damn one of them knew all the words. But before I get to the main event...

The first band was Loudermilk. As they took the stage dressed in matching black suits with red scarves on, my sister said "who do they think they are, the Hives?" I wish. This band was awful. It's just loud grungy-rock crap with no point whatsoever. Loudermilk's only redeeming quality was their drummer - I'd like to think he's certifiably insane. I'd finally found a drummer who plays just like me - barefoot, loud, and crazy as all hell behind the kit. Other than that, their set was unmemorable, and the majority of the crowd seemed to agree with me, with a lot of girls yelling "TURN IT DOWN!" between songs - I guess someone forgot their earplugs [although, to be honest, the band was really fucking loud]. In short, Loudermilk Loudersucked.

Next up was Rhett Miller, former frontman of the Old 97s. This was his first night of the tour, and the crowd welcomed him with somewhat open, if not hesitant arms [maybe because he was playing an acoustic guitar? Who knows]. The man and his band rocked through a bunch of selections off his new album "The Instigator," including "Our Love," "The El", and "This Is What I Do." He even brought out an Old 97s song [whose name escapes me right now, my apologies] and there actually seemed to be audience recognition. Go figure, right? Rhett's sound reminded me a lot of something along the lines of Pete Yorn or the Refreshments, and further proved to me that no matter what you think of Dashboard Confessional, they sure know how to bring out good support acts [Ben Kweller and the Anniversary the last time, and now Rhett].

Up third was a personal favorite of mine, Hot Rod Circuit. Their set was nothing if not expansive, as they played something off all three full lengths, and they even went as far back as their first EP, playing "Hi-Tech Lip Gloss." They also played "The Pharmacist," "Radiation Suit," "Radio Song," "Weak Warm," and a few more cuts off their new album, all of which sounded better live than on recording. Speaking of their live sound, the sound guy must've taken a break at random points during HRC's set, as the sound was atrocious at certain points [especially the first song], and Casey's guitar kept on cutting out at completely random points. HRC made the best of it, though, and kept the crowd moving with their soon-to-be-patented style of punk infused emo rock. The guy next to me [Ronnie, I believe his name was] proved to be the coolest guy ever for yelling at a girl to put out her cancer stick [it was a no-smoking venue, and she was smoking right in front of us, thereby allowing me to inhale every last whiff of her tasty deathstick]. Big ups to Ronnie. The best part about their whole set was watching all the girls leave/get pulled out of the front by security because they couldn't handle the "pit."

People, if you can't handle a HOT ROD CIRCUIT pit, there's something wrong with you.

Anyway, onto the main event, Dashboard. The girls [who probably composed 3000 of the 4000 in attendance that night] surged forward, and I readjusted my earplugs as all of them screamed out as the Dashboard Confessional banner [as emo as ever] was lowered from the ceiling. The band took the stage shortly thereafter, sans Chris, and began jamming out slowly. When Chris finally took the stage [it felt like forever], the screaming was deafening - I thought I was seeing NSYNC or something.

So the band played. And played. And played. Pretty much anything old got the "full band" treatment, with electic guitars. 3 new songs were played, one of which being "Tonight I'll Take What I Can Get," which is currently available for download on Dashboard's webpage. As a side note, I think I'm the only person in the world who likes this song. Anyway.

After close to an hour of the band playing exactly what you'd expect them to play, they abruptly left the stage as a second banner fell - this time, it was the "So Impossible" EP logo. They then took the stage again after about ten minutes of applause and chanting for their "encore," I guess [it felt more like a timeout to me, it just didn't have an encore feel]. They then began to play the "So Impossible" EP in it's entirety. More girls swooned, and more guys yelled out "I love you Chris!" What else did you expect?

The band sounded as technically proficient as ever - there was no room for error on stage that night. There was also no room for improvisation or deviation from the setlist, since it seemed like every single song was choreographed with lighting. Chris' voice sounded eons better than the last time I heard him sing, back in March, so that was a plus. He must be getting coached.

My only true complaint is that it just wasn't as much fun anymore - sure, I could sing along, but when everone else [and I really mean *everyone* else] was singing along, it loses it's mystique. The band devolved into "just another rock band" in part due to the audience. Dashboard Confessional is out of the "scene," as petty as that may seem. The music is better, but the fans are worse. The price of popularity, I guess.

All in all, it was a solid show [minus Loudermilk]. Look for Rhett Miller to go on tour with Pete Yorn and Ben Kweller [I can always wish], look for Hot Rod Circuit to become a lot of frat boys' favorite "punk rock band" after this tour, and look for Dashboard to keep wooing the girls [and guys].