Back in 2000, I moved to Dallas, TX from NJ for a job opportunity. Full disclosure: Dallas fucking sucks. It’s hot, superficial (think L.A. but with way less interesting, talented or cool people), and there’s not a whole lot to do. One part of Dallas I actually did enjoy, though, was Deep Ellum. That’s like a 10 square block area downtown full of music clubs and bars. Anyway, not long after I moved down there I went to a show at this place called the Galaxy Club. This was a chill little venue that promoted itself as a “Christian” club. They weren’t in your face preachy or anything, they just didn’t serve alcohol, frowned upon swearing on stage and were an all-ages venue. It was fine. The lineup for this show was pure 2000-era pop-punk gloriousness: Newfound Glory, Hot Rod Circuit and Midtown. There was also another opener who came out by himself, with an acoustic guitar. I figured it was the owner’s kid, who begged to get on the bill and was about to melt our faces with some edgy “up with Jesus,” hardcore, acoustic, Christian rock. But to my surprise, he was actually a nationally known performer. The guy was calling himself, “Dashboard Confessional.” Kind of a cool name, I thought, but it was still weird since he was just one guy and not, you know, a full band. Anyway, he played his set and he was pretty good. Sincere, heartfelt, catchy songs, albeit a little out of place amongst a lineup of plugged-in punk rock bands. I liked it and made it a point to tell him as much afterward. He told me his name was Chris Carrabba and he was close to signing with Drive-Thru and this was kind of his first tour under that umbrella, so I wished him luck and that was that.
Well, if you know your early 2000 emo history, you know Chris Carrabba is a pretty big prick and while Drive-Thru fronted him a bunch of money for that tour, re-pressed his first record, fronted him merch, paid off a bunch of his credit card debt, etc. – he ended up NOT signing with Drive-Thru and instead jumped ship to Vagrant. Kind of a dick move if you ask me. So I was not a fan.
Fast forward a year and Dashboard is fucking HUGE. All over MTV, girls with AOL screen names like “bleeding paper tears” were swooning and I was fucking over it. I’m not one of those dicks that begrudge success, but I am someone who casts judgment based on how many people get stepped on in your rise to the top. Chris seemed like a guy that left tiny, lady’s size 6 foot prints all over a whole lot of necks. So fuck him. Anyway, Dashboard, now a full-on band/extravaganza is coming back through Dallas and playing the very same club. Literally, almost a year to the day. I hadn’t planned on going but my good friend, Melissa really wanted to go and she begged me to accompany her. The opener was a band I liked (although I can’t remember who it was), so I reluctantly agreed.
The show was predictably ridiculous. Carrabba doing his best neo-Dylan McKay impression on stage and the songs were unbearable since I’d heard them 75,000 times on MTV and radio over the course of that year. Also, every tween girl was alternating between crying and singing along to every word, so I was ready to go before my eyes rolled fully into the back of my skull.
However, a couple of songs into the set I took notice of Dashboard’s guitar player, partly because he was super tall and gangly, with a beard – so very much out of place among the other, far more clean-cut band members – but also because he looked super familiar. I just couldn’t place him to save my life. In between songs, I turn to Melissa and ask if she knows who he is. A guy in my age demographic overhears and chimes in, “Oh, dude – that’s Dan Hoerner.” For you kids who don’t recognize the name or think that emo started in 2001, let me tell you about a band called “Sunny Day Real Estate.” Probably one of the most life-changing bands I’ve ever listened to. Their debut album, Diary was my soundtrack for a solid 2 years (94-96) and still holds up as a masterpiece to this day. Anyway, Dan was the guitarist/backing vocalist for that band and was to me, a legend, pure and simple. I couldn’t believe he went from Sunny Day to THIS band. It’s like going from playing in the Beatles to joining a band comprised entirely of a crew from the local Hot Topic.
Carrabba was being predictably arrogant and standoffish the whole show, which only annoyed me more. It’s not like he wrote anything in the same solar system as Diary or the Pink LP or How It Feels to Be Something On (All Sunny Day albums I loved), so I didn’t feel like he should be quite so high on himself. As the show was winding down, I felt like being a bit of a prick so I hatched my plan to take him down a peg or two. The club was set up so that bands had to exit off stage, from the front and walk through the crowd to the exit and their bus. I moved to the path I assumed Carrabba would take, which was obviously the shortest path to the door. Sure enough, he finishes his set and (of course) leaves all his shit on stage, while the rest of the band breaks down and helps the roadies load out. As he’s walking toward me, the tweenyboppers are euphorically pawing and fawning all over him. I stepped directly in his path and start GUSHING. I was like, “Oh my God, dude! You have NO. IDEA. how much of a fan I am…” as he starts to reply with a clearly insincere, “Cool, thanks a lot” while avoiding eye contact, I keep on talking and say “…of Sunny Day Real Estate. Could you introduce me to Dan Hoerner?” He glared up at me (he’s like 4’8″, I’m 5’10” – no big deal) and Melissa burst out laughing – in the way Steve Zahn does when he tries to stifle his laughter in the film, Reality Bites. The part when Janene Garafalo says to Winona Ryder, “oh, who told you that? Your psychic partner?!” It’s a great scene, go watch that movie. Carrabba was fucking furious and stomped past me in a not-at-all-intimidating, “toughest guy in the lollipop guild” kind of way. I laughed all the way home and thinking back to his tiny, angry face, followed by his giant bouffant hairdo bobbing through the crowd in a beeline away from me, always warms my heart.
Written by Sean Bergin