Emo legends Saves The Day kicked off the second leg of their tour supporting their aptly-named ninth studio album, 9, with shows in Texas last week. There’s no denying that Saves The Day is awesome. They’ve been a shining example of emo over the years, no frills necessary. Despite having had more than 20 different musicians come and go from the band over the years, Saves The Day prevails.
These facts are not lost on frontman and sole-remaining founding member Chris Conley. “The whole world of music has changed, so it’s really incredible to still be part of it,” he told me before their show in Dallas. “I feel like that’s the major accomplishment for Saves The Day – that we’re still part of the whole conversation, and we’ve weathered all the years of turmoil in the music industry.”
He was being modest, of course. I would argue that Saves The Day actually got the conversation started, and that’s something we should all appreciate.
9 is essentially a reflection on the past 20 years that Conley’s spent as a member of Saves The Day. He says it’s only natural that he would draw on these experiences for inspiration. “I guess it was inevitable that I’d eventually write about it, because I write about everything I go through,” he said. “It’s also fun to share some behind-the-scenes stories with our fans.”
He was just a high school student when the band first formed, and now he has a 13-year-old daughter, so it’s safe to say things are much different. “It’s like on the other side of time,” said Conley. “I’m just psyched to be in Saves The Day.”
As for the current state of things, Conley says he’s proud of how far the emo scene has come since his early days. “It’s still alive and strong,” he told me. “If anything, it’s cooler now than it was back then because to be a band that connects now, I think you have to be coming from the heart.”
Speaking of bands that are able to forge meaningful connections with fans today, joining them on tour are two very promising, up-and-coming bands relatively new to the scene – MIGHTY and Remo Drive.
While waiting around for post-pop group MIGHTY to kick off the show, I couldn’t help but notice that the people around me were surprisingly young. Countless hands were even marked with black Xs. The outdoor pavilion-style venue was also pretty full, considering the trend of not showing up for the beginning of shows. [Side bar: You should NEVER miss an opening act – that’s how I’ve found many of the bands I follow and love today.]
MIGHTY seemed to be having a great time on stage, despite the fact that their poor bassist’s hand was in a cast. Luckily, he had enough fingers free to play his instrument. I also spotted several enthusiastic fans singing along and jumping around. But nothing like what was to come.
Minnesota-based emo rockers Remo Drive made their way to the stage, and the crowd went totally nuts, almost as if they were our headliners. Remo Drive only recently signed to Epitaph Records, but they clearly have a solid base of dedicated fans. They definitely embraced Texas for us, too – the Buc-ees Beaver was proudly displayed on their stage backdrop, and their drummer was sporting a Texas flag t-shirt. (Buc-ees is a chain of Texas gas stations that has developed a cult-like following.) Remo Drive’s set was comprised of songs off their debut album, ironically titled Greatest Hits, as well as a few new, unreleased tracks. The crowd was insane the entire time – not a single person was standing still and there were even a few crowd-surfers, which created a Warped Tour-style atmosphere.
Once Remo Drive’s relatively short set was over, something strange happened. Fans that had been there since doors opened started filtering out, and in came a new wave of older people – the kind of crowd one might normally expect at a Saves The Day show. But the venue emptied out! The crowd was barely half the size it had been for Remo Drive by the time our actual headliners got started. It was bizarre, to say the least.
Chris Conley and company took the stage with tons of swagger—he had shades on during the entire set and was serving up some serious rock-star vibes. They started off strong with “At Your Funeral”, a fan-favorite, and the small number of fans that stuck it out seemed to be enjoying it. Next was “Xenophobic Blind Left Hook” from their self-title album, followed by “Suzuki” from 9.
It pains me to say this, but it was all downhill from there. The set list was stacked with tracks from just about every record, including a few other bangers from Through Being Cool and Stay What You Are, but the show lacked that feel-good nostalgia I was hoping for. With the exception of Conley, the band honestly didn’t seem to be enjoying it. Bassist Rodrigo Palma even stopped to comb his hair at one point. Musically, they gave flawless performances but the energy just wasn’t there – perhaps a side effect of their ever-changing lineup. That was a letdown, especially after watching younger acts Remo Drive and MIGHTY have the time of their lives on stage. Fans seemed to perk up slightly towards the end of the show, but it’s also possible that they were just more inebriated.
One positive bit of news that came out of this experience – Conley says that fans will not have to wait as long to hear new music from the band this time around. “We’ll keep writing,” he told me. “I think we’ll probably have a new album out next year.”