The opening bars of The Circle of Life ring out over the crowd, and we chug what’s left of our beers. We’ve been standing around awkwardly, listening to Saosin play to a largely disinterested audience and fiddling with our phones. A pit had opened up briefly, a handful of bored, techy twenty-somethings bumping gently into each other and grinning — the most polite mosh pit in pop punk history. It’s early, the summer sun is still shining brightly onto the scattered audience, the hum of their chatter audible despite booming speakers. Skipping in from the parking lot earlier in the evening, we caught the distinct feeling of being fifteen again, like we’d just been dropped off by our parents to revel in fleeting stadium freedom.
The first cry of “nants ingonyama” signals an end to good-natured moshing and idle chit-chat, and a crowd materializes at last, filling in the floor around and behind us. The Lion King gives way to sirens and John Nolan’s power chords. Adam Lazzara strides casually across the stage, grips the mic… and launches into the unmistakable sound of our collective teen angst. And we’re there, we’re eating it up and singing along and swooning over mic tricks and swagger and the same guys we used to crush on, only now they’re all grown up and we’re all grown up, and we’re feeling that particular blend of absolutely ancient and very, very young.
We’re feeling that particular blend of absolutely ancient and very, very young.
“I know you’re here for nostalgic purposes,” Adam laughs into the mic between songs. “We were there when you got your drivers’ licenses. We were there when you were discovering your bodies in the back of daddy’s car.” He’s drowned out by cheers for our collective memories, for the kids we were – or maybe just think we were – in the romanticized retelling of our heavily eyelinered past.
After Taking Back Sunday’s slithery stage antics, rawness, and dad jokes, it’s a surprise to see Dashboard Confessional play it straight. Chris Carrabba’s complete earnestness is downright jarring after the self-aware, 90 minute nostalgia-fest we just experienced; where Taking Back Sunday asked us to remember our fifteen-year-old selves, Dashboard is demanding that we actually be them.
So, here we are, watching a 41-year-old man stuffed into skinny jeans insist that it’s still 2004. He’s going soft around the middle and it’s forcing his jeans to ride dangerously low, but his voice hasn’t aged a day and if you close your eyes it’s almost like the real thing.
So, here we are, watching a 41-year-old man stuffed into skinny jeans insist that it’s still 2004.
We’re riding high on the euphoria of our forgotten youth returned, until Chris snaps us back to reality by proclaiming that “All lives matter.” The audience shifts uncomfortably, melts into a sea of raised eyebrows and disbelieving murmurs, while Carrabba continues to ramble about taking better care of each other.
And just like that, the illusion is shattered. We’re not fifteen, it’s not 2004, and though we’ve collectively decided that this is the year of nostalgic pursuits – Pokémon and Taste of Chaos and daisy prints and dreams of a My Chemical Romance reunion – we have, rather frustratingly, not actually managed to go back in time.
We shuffle back to our cars and the parking lot empties in seconds, one final reminder that we’re old and tired and it’s a weekday and everyone has to get up for work tomorrow.
But we hit a few pokestops on the way home.