Emo in the rain

Dashboard Confessional at City Hall, Paper at Bill's

Chris Carraba from Dashboard

In the rain, no one can see you cry. It doesn't get much more emo than tattooed teenagers making out in a downpour while Chris Carrabba belts out "Vindicated." Which perhaps explains why not even the threat of lightning -- and the actuality of a windswept thunderstorm -- could keep a couple thousand kids from turning up at Thursday night's free Dashboard Confessional show on City Hall Plaza. (Full disclosure: the gig was sponsored by Snapple and the Phoenix-owned radio station WFNX.) Rushed onstage earlier than expected as the storm rolled in over Government Center's concrete jungle, Carrabba and his band led a typically young and disproportionately female (for rock, at least) audience in spirited singalongs of Radiohead's "Fake Plastic Trees," Phantom Planet's "California," and even some of his own tunes, including "Don't Wait," the first single from DC's forthcoming Dusk and Summer (due June 26). When the rains came, City Hall's overhang provided shelter for less-hardy souls, but most stayed put up front, raising cell-phones during the ballads, fists and voices during the anthems. From the right vantage point (and with a high tolerance for DC's earnest, naive romanticism), it was postcard material. Emo's audience is, as one Phoenix editor put it, a community in search of a music, not the other way around. Carrabba's songs wouldn't be half as touching without the spectacle of kids so clearly, so committedly eager to be moved.

She's the Car

In their battle to exhaust each other, the storm only slightly outlasted Dashbaord Confessional, and a few minutes after they left the stage -- sans encore -- the rain petered out. Some of those who were of age could, and did, tramp back to Kenmore Square for Paper, a weekly indie dance night that's been dragging the children of emo down other musical avenues without diluting their sense of community. It didn't matter that the DJ (Eric Marcelino, of the band Sex Positions) was spinning hip-hop, disco, and new-wave: the collective sense remains. Onstage, the bands hewed closer to established niches, and performed them admirably. Not yet out of their teens, the girlgroup She's the Car have a 19-year singer, Grace Read, who has the type of commanding voice and come-hither smile that makes major labels reach for their checkbooks. (Friends say she's been offered big-label deals since she was 13.) "Yes, we are that hot," she said by way of an introduction, and though she was clearly toying with layers of irony, she was not by any means off the mark. Playing a keyboard, Read led a band that's still trying to find its way from precious indie-pop to noisy rock, but their quirks are endearing enough to see them though the rough spots.

On the back of Alex Correia's shrill pipes, post-hardcore outfit Therefore I am ( which recently won a demo recording session with Panic! At the Disco Producer Matt Squire) put on an efficient and impressively tight set. And for all kids who showed up to the show with no shirts on, Proletariat produced pretty killer exclusive Excuse t-shirts for the event (how exclusive? try 10. If you see anyone walking through Kenmore wearing what looks like a gray Slayer baseball shirt with black sleeves, you might want to do a double-take, you'll be surprised at what you find). The Cambridge-based store plans on designing original t-shirts for each Excuse event.
Related: Dashboard Confessional: The Shade of the Poison Trees, Dashboard Confessional, Photos: Dashboard Confessional at Middle East, More more >
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