Carrabba's Dashboard Confessionals brought a slicker, softer side to the post-hardcore-influenced emo. His followers include Owl City and Say Anything. And judging by her 2010 album, maybe even Taylor Swift.
Wednesday night at the Troubadour, Chris Carrabba is scheduled to play the first of three sold-out shows commemorating the 10th anniversary of “The Swiss Army Romance,” his debut album as Dashboard Confessional. The gigs are billed as solo appearances, but Carrabba will almost certainly enjoy the robust accompaniment of his fans, who are famous for singing along with their tattooed hero as though he were a counselor at Camp Emo. Hit up YouTube for clips from Dashboard’s 2002 “MTV Unplugged” and you might find yourself paying less attention to the headliner than to the earnest-looking kids pitching in from their cross-legged positions on the studio floor.
As it happens, his listeners’ voices aren’t the only ones Carrabba has inspired over the last decade. Originally the post-hardcore province of brainy Washington, D.C., bands such as Rites of Spring and Embrace, emo softened and slickened throughout the ’00s thanks in large part to Dashboard Confessional’s mainstream-scraping influence. Here’s a look at what the Pied Piper of Pain hath wrought.
In the old days, emo guys demonstrated their emotional intensity just like non-emo guys: with volume. Yet for “The Swiss Army Romance,” which Carrabba recorded during a break from his band Further Seems Forever, the musician ditched the electric guitars and went acoustic, utilizing folky, no-frills arrangements to underscore the sensitive sincerity of his heartbroken story-songs. After Dashboard’s “Screaming Infidelities” became a hit on MTV, a generation of capo-clutching copycats was born.
Some have transcended those humble roots and discovered voices of their own: Missouri’s Never Shout Never, for instance, brightens Dashboard’s moody emo-folk sound with a touch of old-school Everly Brothers pop; others, such as the turgid (and aptly named) Secondhand Serenade, make Carrabba sound like the Good Humor man.
Carrabba’s acoustic style gave rise to a deal of freelance busking, as well: In 2009, the frontmen of several successful emo groups (including Orange County’s Thrice) inaugurated an “Unplugged”-style tour called “Where’s the Band?,” while members of Avail and Hot Water Music have released stripped-down solo albums in Dashboard’s wake.