Malcontented youth’s hearts flutter at emo rock show



“You’re so emo!” is what my friend was yelling as we stood in the parking lot of the Concourse Pavilion on May 4, heckling everyone who drove past. In a crowd of Robert Smith look-alikes, it was only my Converse Chuck Taylors and my friend’s ragged sweater that kept us from sticking out like sore thumbs. Regardless of our appearance, we were just as excited to be seeing The Faint and Bright Eyes.

After about an hour of scoffing at our peers and chain smoking cigarettes, we began to follow the herd of derelict youth into the venue. Once inside, most of my friends scurried off into the growing sea of bodies, and the venue opened up to us. It looked a lot like it was simply a rec hall of sorts. One giant open room, no seating. The floor stretched from the door to the stage, and, on either side, stairs led to platforms which housed beer gardens.

The opening band, Her Space Holiday, consisted of two guys in tight jeans and plaid flannels. One played really chordy folk guitar, while the other pressed buttons on a synth to produce very simple drum and bass rhythms.

I left my girlfriend and the dance floor to go to the beer garden for a ($6) drink and to get a better view in search of the rest of our crew. After swilling my beer, I returned to the floor and found my girlfriend. We decided, considering this band wasn’t worth standing through, to go outside for another cigarette, and stumbled onto our friends. By this time, the music inside was beginning to fade.

Soon the stage would be inhabited by the performance of the evil-emo-disco sensations The Faint. We hurried inside, quickly dropping our jackets at coat check, and began to slither our way through the crowd, getting closer to the stage. We found a nice little niche over to the left of the stage.

The Faint put on an extraordinary show which got the crowd dancing and swaying all over the floor. Their music, although mostly based off your basic dance beat (“unch unch unch unch”), is a fresh mix of retro ’80s new wave and a little bit of some cutting-edge underground emo-core. The band’s stage presence was exhausting just to watch, let alone keep up with. The guitarist and keyboardist were rocking and gyrating all around. At one point, the pianist made a few sexual advances towards his instrument. The singer was also bouncing about and behind the musicians, two large video screens were flashing strange images. Spliced video, from what looked like old ’80s music videos, ran sequenced with each song played. Their whole set was an ass-shaking good time. I had never heard The Faint before, but this experience definitely converted me.

Once the set ended, we snaked back outside, and under the dreary raindrops, we smoked one final cigarette. Returning inside, we found a decent empty space on the floor and collapsed. We lay there for some time, catching our breaths and smiling devilishly. After re-gathering our spirits, we began to push towards the stage again, as the band Bright Eyes stepped out and settled with their instruments. They began to sound off when the thin, darkly clad front man (and composer) Conor Oberst appeared with a guitar over his shoulder and a hood over his head.

His performance and presence was, as usual, rather despondent, but occasionally punctured with rockitude. The guest musicians were extremely impressive, including two drummers, a violinist, and a cellist. Poised behind them were, once again, the two large video screens. Instead of erratic flashes of images, though, beautifully depressing paintings and patterns grew slowly across the screen.

The set they played was mostly comprised of songs from Bright Eyes’ recently released album, “Digital Ash in a Digital Urn,” but it was the one really old track, “Neely O’Hara” from “Every Day and Every Night,” that was the highlight of the night. The band put so much feeling and admiration into that song it was absolutely beautiful.

Oberst played a few more songs, and after a quick encore, which included the song “Lover I Don’t Have to Love,” the show came to a blissfully sad ending.

The crowd of malcontents turned and funneled out through the doors while my friends and I regrouped. We left the city that night with aching feet and swelling hearts.