Blasts from the recent past

Dashboard Confessional and Third Eye Blind hit Cincinnati

By Alan Sculley

Photo: Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional will perform on May 31 at PNC Pavilion; photo: David Bean

Dashboard Confessional frontman Chris Carrabba knows that his band’s summer co-headlined tour with Third Eye Blind might seem like an unlikely pairing to some. After all, the two bands have operated in different musical circles.

Third Eye Blind made a big impact on alternative rock in the late 1990s, with a 1997 debut album that sold more than six million copies and a million-selling second album, Blue. Top-10 modern rock hits like “Semi-Charmed Life,” “Jumper” and “How’s It Going To Be” featured an accessible guitar rock sound that could also appeal to mainstream rock fans.

In contrast, Dashboard Confessional started out in 2000 as an acoustic solo project for Carrabba then evolved into a full-fledged band with a more plugged-in-rock sound. Carrabba’s intensely emotional and vulnerable lyrics prompted writers to coin a new category for his music—emo.

But the contrasts between the music of Dashboard Confessional and Third Eye Blind are precisely why Carrabba thinks this summer tour will work. He thinks the two bands will attract a different set of concert-goers, giving each group the chance to win over the part of the audience that is largely unfamiliar with its music.

“I’ve been to plenty of co-headlining tours where the bands are different enough to the audience that they maybe weren’t exposed to one or the other but left loving the other band as much or [being] equally passionate [about both groups],” Carrabba says.

For those who are already fans of Dashboard, they’re probably just happy to see the group back on tour.

Over the past five-plus years, things have been quiet on the Dashboard Confessional front while Carrabba was doing other projects.

First up was a solo album, 2011’s Covered in the Flood, which featured Carrabba’s covers of songs not only by rock acts such as the Replacements, Big Star and R.E.M., but by folk/Americana artists like Guy Clark, John Prine and Justin Townes Earle.

It was during the Covered in the Flood project that Carrabba’s musical path began to veer away from Dashboard Confessional.

“There was a moment when we were sitting outside the garage [where Carrabba’s home studio is located], doing like a guitar pull, where everybody takes a turn singing a cover,” Carrabba says. “It’s something we’d do on the breaks. And I’m playing something and [bassist] Jonathan [Clark], he puts his hands on the strings. And he just stops … And he just looked at me squarely in the eye, and he says, ‘Chris, why are you afraid to do what you love?’”

Clark had just confronted Carrabba with the fact that he had never really ventured into writing songs in the folk/Americana tradition, Carrabba’s earliest and biggest musical influence.

Carrabba realized he’d avoided folk because he didn’t think he was worthy of exploring a genre that included legends like Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and Steve Earle. But then he realized folk was never meant to be an exclusive club.

“There is supposed to be the next guy and the next gal,” Carrabba says. “It is supposed to be passed down.”

He acted on that revelation in 2012, when Dashboard Confessional was invited to play the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco. With the covers project still fresh, Carrabba decided to use the opportunity to do a set of folk songs with Clark and drummer Ben Homola.

It was supposed to be a one-time performance. It would lead to nothing else. But the the show went down like gangbusters.

“We walked offstage and we looked at each other, and I don’t know who said it first, but we all thought it: we’re a band,” Carrabba remembers.

Soon, Carrabba was writing songs, and Clark, Homola and mandolin player Suzie Zeldin, were in the studio recording what became the 2013 self-titled EP by their new band, Twin Forks. A self-titled full-length followed last year, and Twin Forks is now nearly finished with a second full-length album.

Even though Carrabba seemed to be all in with Twin Forks, last summer he got offers for Dashboard Confessional to play a couple of festivals. He accepted and was joined by long-time Dashboard bandmates, bassist Scott Schoenbeck and guitarist John Lefler and Homola, replacing Mike Marsh.

“The reaction was unexpected,” Carrabba says. “It was incredible, both in numbers and in the spirit of the audience.”

Realizing they wanted to play together again, Carrabba booked the tour with Third Eye Blind. The band is prepared to draw on any song from the Dashboard Confessional catalog during this summer’s shows.

“We know every single song as if we’ve been playing it for years,” Carrabba says. “It was important that if we got the feeling in a certain room that it was right, that we could just do it, that it’s at our fingertips. And we also thought to ourselves that if somebody yells it out, I want to be able to say yes if I feel like saying yes. So we worked really hard on everything.”

Dashboard Confessional and Third Eye Blind will perform Sunday, May 31 at PNC Pavilion, 6295 Kellogg Ave. in Cincinnati. Augustana is also on the bill. Show starts at 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets start at $45. For tickets and more information, please visit dashboardconfessional.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Alan Sculley at AlanSculley@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Reach DCP freelance writer Alan Sculley at AlanSculley@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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