During the early 2000s, young men raged against “the machine” by wearing aggressive wallet chains and displaying Dashboard Confessional lyrics in MSN Messenger statuses. These acts of courage became the bedrock upon which the modern world was built. That’s why, when I found out Dashboard Confessional was coming to my home province of Saskatchewan to play Saskatoon’s O'Brians Event Centre, I had to go. Dashboard is one of the most important bands to bring emo to the forefront of popular culture during the 2000s with hits like “Hands Down,” “Vindicated,” and countless others. This was their first ever Canadian tour. I would finally connect with the music that helped my generation survive nine seasons of Scrubs, the movie Garden State, and various other Zach Braff productions. The 2000s were dangerous, but we had Dashboard Confessional to keep us safe.
As soon as I walked into the sold-out venue, I noticed something shocking: Everyone was old. Like 30-plus old. Damn. Like some kind of curse out of a Greek tragedy, the magical emo boys from 15 years ago had become dads. As the opening acts The Elwins and Gabrielle Shonk played their sets (both excellent), I couldn’t help but scan the crowd for the telltale dad traits: Confused and under-practiced dancing; exhausted postures; un-ironic and mistimed high fives. How did this happen? Who is responsible?
Being an important investigative journalist, I decided to put my own enjoyment aside to find out who these dads are. I documented them in the wild, spoke to them, and learned how they still relate to the alternative rock and acoustic music of Dashboard Confessional. Below are my observations from the show and the dad stories. Read the tale to find out if the band of our youth is officially dad rock now.
Tim Blackett, dad
“[Being a dad] is alright; it’s a lot of fucking hard work but it’s alright. Before kids, in high school, I really liked Dashboard. I would sing along to ‘Hands Down.’ I was young and in love with my highschool sweetheart, who I eventually married. We went to Montana to watch them play live. We cuddled during the show. Back then I wasn’t very emo. Now I’m depressed.”
Nolan Malbeuf, papa
“I was opposed to being a fan early on, but it kinda grew on me. I had a tumultuous upbringing. I was into heavy music. I got to see Dashboard live in Los Angeles when I lived there. I loved it. It was about being mellow and cool and enjoying acoustic guitar. [Now,] I’m a dad. I feel really old. But I get to pass something on. Being a fan of Dashboard is an intimate thing.”
Dallas Lazinsky, paternal figure
“[I have] four kids… I was a pretty good kid growing up. I was into rock music and had my own little band. My wife, Janelle, and I were highschool sweethearts. The feeling of playing music and the emotion was great. Nothing has changed. I’m trying to get my kids into the music.”
David Riemer, parent
“Old Dave kept to himself and was a loner. I just wanted to get through high school. It still holds a grip on my soul.”
Matt Larson, pappy
“Old Matt, Back-In-The-Day Matt was sort of living in a VW van, playing guitar and would go where he wanted to. I used to go to Portland to listen [Dashboard] play. Matt after kids, well, I’m officially a stay-at-home dad. I sold the van to pay for my first house … The emotion is still there, but it’s different when your kid knows the lyrics to ‘Screaming Infidelities.’”
“Old-school Riley. Huh. I grabbed that first full-length release in university. I listened to it every day for a full year. I’m a musician, and it inspired me to turn down the electric amp. I was into skate punk and Fat Wreck Chords. [After the kid] not a whole lot has changed. But I had to make arrangements with the grandparents to be here, get a hotel and drive through a snowstorm tomorrow, all just to get a taste of that sweet, sweet glory.”
TJ Karwandy, old man
“Old TJ stayed out a lot later and had no care for future consequences and planning. Now, I’m the opposite of carefree. It took two months of arranging to come to this concert. All I think about are future consequences now.”
To quote Chris Carrabba's lyrics, “Hope dangles on a string/ Like slow-spinning redemption/ The shine of it has caught my eye/ And roped me in/ So mesmerizing, so hypnotizing/ I am captivated.” That’s really what seeing Dashboard is all about: Hope. We were there to re-ignite the magic we used to feel when The Simpsons was still good and updating LiveJournal mattered. Sure, many of us at the show probably didn’t even have children. But we all danced and sang badly enough to embarrass someone out there, proving you don’t to have kids to be a dad. You just need Dashboard.
Devin Pacholik is also a fan of the Spider-Man 2 soundtrack. Follow him on Twitter.