All words: Lauren Bulbin
All photos: Franz Mahr
I remember the first time I saw Say Anything live. It was 2004, and I was just beginning to fall in love with the emo punk scene fueled by bands like Good Charlotte, New Found Glory, Taking Back Sunday and Brand New. I remember wearing pants I bought from Hot Topic and a pilling gray tee shirt (which I still have) with a fading Who logo on the front.
Walking up the stairs at the Black Cat, being greeted by signs stating “NO STAGE DIVING OR CROWDSURFING,” brought back fond memories of times gone by and hours spent waiting in lines before performances, having conversations with people who “got me.” Anyone born in the early 90’s will tell you that Say Anything is not just the name of the 80’s movie in which John Cusack holds up a boom box. It is also the moniker of the band that almost 10 years ago made me put on my first pair of skinny jeans and taught me how to mosh at shows. Last night, Say Anything returned to DC to throw down and show Washingtonians what we’ve been missing since their last stop here.
It didn’t surprise me to see the show was sold out, or to find familiar faces in the crowd, only proving that even as we all get older, great music still connects us. As several opening acts took to the stage, warming up the crowd for Say Anything, two in particular stood out: Fake Problems, who have a sound very similar to A Rocket to the Moon and Of Mice & Men; and Kevin Devine, a former child actor notable from the Reese’s Piece’s and Kit Kat commercials that used to run between Saturday morning cartoons in the 90’s. He had a sound that was like a mix of Manchester Orchestra and The Script.
Then the big moment was upon us. Five members of the six member band Say Anything took to the stage and began to play as the crowd screamed and shouted, pushing towards the stage in a mass of human bodies. After a few moments, Max Bemis hit the stage, mic in hand, and began shouting and singing Spidersong. Everyone in the room sang along, screaming “I AM A SPIDER”, and jumping up and down. All the while, Bemis worked the stage in the same way he has for the last decade, from the drum set to front stage, around the guitarist to the crowd, bobbing in between his fellow band members, captivating the audience and connecting not only with those in close proximity but also with the people in the back of the room. The melodies and harsh vibrations of the amps were oddly comforting, reminding me of the days when I didn’t care what taxes were or when they needed to be filed.
Say Anything performed mostly older songs and fan favorites, as well as a few tracks off their new album, Anarchy, My Dear, which pays homage to their past sound with a few new twists.
The set list included Burn a Miracle, Shiksa, Hate Everyone, Belt, In Defense of the Genre, Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too, Say Anything, Eloise, Slumming it with Johnny, So Good, Every Man has his Molly, The Church Channel, Property, A Walk Through Hell, Alive with the Glory of Love, AHH MEN, Admit It and Admit it Again. The band played an hour and a half long set as well as a healthy encore that was even stronger and more energized than the beginning of their performance. The audience, as Bemis proudly noted, was “totally stoked” during the whole show.
The energy level at the Black Cat was high, with screaming fans, entertaining bands and a great beat. It was certainly a night to be remembered.