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"After listening to these songs for years, one thing is for certain: these were made to be sung at the top of your lungs with a few thousand of your closest friends."

Concert Review: Party Like A…

On this warm summer evening in Downtown Indianapolis, it’s time to party.

Party like a rockstar, party like it’s 2002, party like it’s high school and you’re just getting over a bad breakup by singing along with a few thousand of your closest friends.

The Rockstar Energy Drink Taste of Chaos Tour is back, and for its 2016 incarnation, they’ve assembled a lineup ripped straight from the mix CDs and LiveJournal pages of emo kids everywhere: Dashboard Confessional, Taking Back Sunday, Saosin, and The Early November.

Wait, what year is this again? Did I fall in time when bad acne, awkward relationships, and marching band ruled my life? Am I going to feel the need to grow my bangs out and wear skinny jeans? Nope. This is 2016, and although I’ve outgrown my emo phase (as have most of the bands on this tour for that matter), I still enjoy their music. I’ve made no reservations about how much I admire DC and TBS, and as I’ve alluded to in a Facebook post, 16-year-old me screamed when I saw the tour was coming to Indy.

That said, let’s go back to high school for a night. Hopefully there’s a little less precipitation than the last time I saw DC perform…Allons-y.

I’ve been obsessively checking the weather this time around. So far, we’ve got the opposite scenario from a year ago. It’s an absolutely perfect day in Downtown Indy. The sun is shining, there’s a slight breeze,  and it’s not too hot or too cold. There aren’t too many people here in the early going – maybe a quarter of the way full – but the show hasn’t started yet. Those who are here seek out a spot along the guard rail (or in the pit if they purchased those tickets). Others check out the merch booth or make their way to the Rockstar Energy Booth for a free drink.

All seems relatively calm. Before too long, our first performer takes the stage, much to the delight of some people in the crowd. Here’s The Early November. Admittedly, I was never a huge fan of this band. No reason really, they just weren’t on my radar.

But here they are, opening things at the Taste of Chaos Tour. Let’s see what they can do.

As with most opening bands, not everyone is buying into them. Some are still sitting down on the blanks they brought into the venue, while others sip their beers and converse amongst one another. Others happily go back to their high school days, dancing and singing along to every song. As for the band, all 5 members seem to be enjoying themselves. Frontman Ace Enders genuinely seemed to be excited to be back in Indianapolis for the first time in ages, and the rest of them played with plenty of enthusiasm. For a band in the midst of its second run, they seem to be soaking everything in, and loving every moment of it. Maybe it’s time I finally give them a chance.

Our next act starts setting up, and a few more people are starting to make their way over to the stage. My once awesome spot to watch is starting to get more claustrophobic. I’ve come to learn that everywhere is downwind of someone’s cigarette smoke when you’re not a smoker. Alas, maybe the clean(er) air will return soon.

The legendary Saosin is up next. Somehow this band has alluded me over the years, but here we are, and they’ve reunited with their original vocalist, Anthony Green. Though I’ve never seen Circa Survive or The Sound of Animals Fighting, this seems like a good time to check them out.

It felt like Green was all over the place during this performance, but in a good way. He would start out screaming before going into clean vocals, he was tossing the mic stand around (kind of like our third act on the bill, but we’ll get there), and it looked like you couldn’t get him to sit still if you wanted to. Saosin is probably the heaviest band on the bill tonight, and some people responded to it. I couldn’t really see if any mosh pits broke out because as I’ve learned, everyone taller than you always stands up front (anyway…). The crowd got a little bit bigger around this time, but it still looks like it’s about the same ratio as people who were standing up vs. sitting down as our previous band. The entire set felt like it went by pretty fast, despite playing for close to 40 minutes. Maybe next time I’ll try to catch Saosin on their own tour.

The sun has started to set, and with Taking Back Sunday now on deck, the unusually long wait time feels even longer. On the plus side, I know the set times (they’re published on The Lawn’s Facebook page) and they’re usually pretty punctual. The down side? Now I know how long the wait times are. There’s a lot of checking my phone and groaning at how much time has passed since the last I checked going on (spoiler alert: not a lot of time passed).

Soon enough, the intro music hits, the band greets the eager crowd, the first few notes of “Cute Without The ‘E'” ring out, and we’re off with one big sing-along to get things started.

Whether you think mics are for singing or swinging, you can’t deny TBS’ ability to put on an entertaining show. Each member is full of energy, and just like past shows, they have no problem diving into their back catalog and performing a number of old favorites, much to the delight of almost everyone within earshot of the White River State Park. It may not be anywhere on the scale of their old Warped Tour sets where frontman Adam Lazzara would hang from the top of the stage, but at this point, they can all get away with playing their songs, swinging that microphone around, and joking with the crowd (acknowledging the person who brought a camcorder into the pit section, and how this is more acceptable than holding your phone the entire set).

There’s a little bit of a divide between some of their old and new songs. There’s about 14 years between now and when they released TAYF, so of course their “angriest” song “You’re So Last Summer” sounds a little different compared to something like “Flicker Fade” and “Better Homes and Gardens,” but make no mistake, this is still the same band you fell in love with in high school (and about the same lineup!), and they can still kill it like the old days.

The sun has set on this city, and as darkness falls, impatience grows for our next act. Roughly a year ago, I came from a birthday party to see Dashboard Confessional at The Lawn, only for it to be rained out after performing half of their set (although “Screaming Infidelities” in the rain may be one of the most emo things I have every witnessed). Tonight, we have a perfect night, and my voice is nice and warmed up for the impending sing-along that inevitably comes when Chris Carrabba and co. come to town.

The house music stops, for the first time tonight, we have visuals on the LED video board set up behind the stage, and by the looks of it, we’re starting off with the full band for an electric set. DC kicks things off with a song I never saw coming (“Vindicated”), and we’re off.

After listening to these songs for years, one thing is for certain: these were made to be sung at the top of your lungs with a few thousand of your closest friends. The band is fully aware of this, as there are plenty of breaks to feature everyone’s lovely singing voices (no really, this crowd sounded great). Most of the crowd here probably remembers the days of sitting in their cars and singing along after something bad happened in high school. They don’t have to ask for crowd participation, we all just do it on our own. We might be older, but these songs still speak to us.

As for the performance itself, Dashboard spent quite a bit of time going through their back catalog. When asked if they should do an old or a new song, the answer was almost overwhelmingly “old.” Judging how the show was going at that point, they decided to camp out around this part of their careers and performed some more of their old favorites.

In a nutshell, if you’ve ever watched or listened to their MTV Unplugged set, it worked a lot like that. There wasn’t a whole lot of talking in between songs, letting the music speak for itself. Yet the few times there was a break in the action, they reiterated that it was good to be back, and after all these years, the support hasn’t gone unnoticed.

As much as I’m enjoying this rain-free set and traveling down memory lane (and maybe having flashbacks to when some of these songs helped me get over a breakup when I was 17…), the night eventually has to end. We get one more sing-along with “Stolen,” before the band bids us farewell and leaves us in the dark…

But there are no tears when the lights go out. Just a lot of cheering and chants for an encore, which they do eventually deliver, capping the evening off with a song about the best day of their lives. I’ve witnessed a lot of encores in my day, but I don’t know if many will be able to top the collective voices everyone singing “and I know that you meant it. You meant it!” Hands down, this was the best way to end a show.

And now it’s over. It’s back to our cars and back to being in our mid-to-late 20s.

Final verdict:

Sure, I’m older now, and sure, I’m over the ex I thought ruined my life when she broke things off, and sure, maybe some of these songs don’t hold up as well in 2016 as they did in 2002, but there’s something to be said about a few thousand people coming together for a show like this. The bands still resonate, and the songs – while dated – still hold a special place. Maybe it’s okay to go back to when your biggest issues were algebra and marching band practice.

Party like it’s 2002. Party like you’re at Rockstar Energy Taste of Chaos.

The Good:

The show was pure nostalgia for anyone whose coming of age occurred in the early 2000s. Singing along to some of these songs will always take me back, and being able to do with several thousand others is always an experience. Plus, we didn’t have to deal with an impending monsoon that cut the set short…

The Bad:

You’re always standing downwind of someone else’s cigarette smoke when you’re not a smoker yourself.