Going into Saves The Day’s performance at Bottom Lounge on Friday, I didn’t know what to expect. In the early 2000s, Saves The Day was a band who was integral to the rise of the pop punk genre yet never really became a household name. Achieving cult status but not true commercial success, singer Chris Conley’s songwriting was intensely relatable for dorky teenagers, and the band is known to be the main influence on many popular artists today. Case in point: Fall Out Boy frontman Patrick Stump told Music Radar in 2014 that there’s no chance Fall Out Boy would exist if it weren’t for Through Being Cool, Saves The Day’s second release. A band that is selling out arenas today cites Saves The Day as their sole reason for creating music.
But, as I was walking under the El tracks to the Bottom Lounge Friday night, all I kept thinking was: is this relevant? This isn’t simply a nostalgic performance because of the 19th anniversary of the release of Through Being Cool, this is a tour supporting a brand-new album. A brand-new album described by Conley as “the story of Saves The Day and my own personal journey through life, which all unfolded as my relationship with music progressed”. As much as I love the nostalgia of late 90s/early 2000s pop punk, I couldn’t help but think that the new album and tour might not be relevant or even necessary for anyone except diehard fans and Conley himself.
Arriving a little after 8:00, I caught the tail end of An Horse, an Austrialian indie duo. When singer Kate Cooper remarked that they were going to “slow it down a bit,” I was instantly entranced with their sound and wished I had heard more. They asked Kevin Devine to play with them for their last song, and the energy the group had together was innate.
Kevin Devine continued the evening, who, I’ll be honest, was a drawing factor for me for this show. Having missed his set at Riot Fest this year, it was great to get the opportunity to see him again so quickly. He started off the set quietly with “Ballgame,” a fan favorite off of 2003’s Make the Clocks Move. Devine takes liberties with his own lyrics during live performances, which adds a deeply personal layer to his writing. If the listener knew the original words, the lyrical changes were heart wrenching, to say the least. For instance, in the original bridge he says “There’s a war starting soon and all our flags will be waving/Daniel’s 20 year old friends are ready and willing and waiting/he’s a marine and he told me/ and it makes me sad, really really fucking sad/ but at least he’ll act” to “There’s a war going on and the flags are still waving/ Daniel’s 20 year old friends are now 30 and willing and serving/ they’re marines and they showed me/ and it makes me sad, really really fucking sad/ but at least they act.” The subtle changes make a song written during the Bush era still relevant for Trump’s America.
The other subtle changes in lyrics, like “a bronze box I keep encased in glass and dust off whenever I want your pity” to “…. whenever I’m in your city”, or “I’ve gotten good at that” (in reference to drinking thoughts away) to “I’ve gotten bored with that”, really show the listener a change in tone in songwriting and lifestyle in general for Devine, yet still keeping with the deeply introspective storytelling that resonates with fans. His set continued with a few newer songs and some old favorites, and even featured a few false starts of Smash Mouth’s “All Star”. An Horse and Kevin Devine’s Goddamn Band drummer Damon Cox came out to play a few louder jams. Starting out quiet, continuing through a raucous and slightly goofy set and ending with a passionate performance of “Brothers Blood”, Devine’s set was the highlight of the evening.
Saves The Day was up, starting their set off with one of their more popular songs, “At Your Funeral.” Singer Chris Conley bounced around the stage in clear-rimmed sunglasses, dancing and singing in other band members’ mics. The set continued with a ton of fan favorites and some newer songs. The crowd was surprisingly small, but almost everyone there seemed to be a huge fan of the band. Bellowing the words with their hands in the air while Conley held out the mic, the compact crowd’s energy packed the entire room.
Conley interacted with the audience throughout the set, frequently singing with them and thanking them, even thanking one fan specifically, as he had noticed he was wearing a tshirt only available to those who purchased a presale of their new album, 9. 9 chronicles the history of Saves The Day, with lyrics and clear references to the past that only diehard fans would notice and respect. As I was watching the audience, which spanned multiple age groups, I couldn’t help but think about 9 and its ability to draw in new fans.
The original draw of Saves The Day to fans was the fact that it was relatable to them. Dorky teenage angst, loneliness and recklessness, these were all engaging to the fans at the time because that was them. Now that the fanbase has aged, the new songs come off as distant not only to old fans who have never toured through Berlin in a Mercedes-Benz, but they also don’t have the same teenage angst that previously attracted younger fans. Nostalgia always sells, but a dude in his 40s singing angsty-sounding songs about how awesome his band is somewhat unappealing, at least to me. Still, that isn’t to say that Bottom Lounge wasn’t filled with people obsessed with Saves The Day that night. And more importantly, they are one of the only pop punk bands around still making music, albeit with only one original band member. They have cemented their place as an integral part of the pop punk music scene.
As I was standing in back watching the encore, I watched as a bearded 30-something fan in a collared shirt and sweater screamed the lyrics to “Rocks Tonic Juice Magic” in his disinterested friends’ faces, dancing around them and playing air guitar while they awkwardly nodded their heads, arms folded. I have been that guy before. Any music lover has been that guy before. There is something about seeing a favorite song sung live, even if it’s a song you haven’t heard or cared about in years, a song your friends may consider “lame.” That song can bring back vivid memories with just the first chord, and seeing that song played live, you can’t help but just let it out to those around you. Saves The Day was able to provide that moment for that guy, and many other versions of that zest that I observed from countless fans throughout the night. There is a magic in Saves The Day that I saw take over fans new and old Friday night, but as a bystander, I didn’t feel it.
This concert review was written and photographed by guest author Carissa Coughlin.