By Brent Glass (@BrentAMG)
This past weekend, Blake Baxter and I (along with our fraternity brother Matt), went to a concert put on by our favorite band, Say Anything. Surprisingly, neither of us had ever seen the band perform live before this past Saturday. I have been a die hard fan of the band since early 2009. A little into our freshman year, Blake was introduced to the group and also decided he was all-in. If you are a sucker for clever lyrics, catchy melodies, and angst-y vocals, it is almost impossible to not love the band; especially their older music. Consequently, when Blake and I saw that Say Anything was performing a “Rarities and More” tour, we didn’t hesitate to click “buy.”
I must say that this was one of best days of the year. We knew it was going to be a great day when I was duped by a bum on the streets of St. Louis. We had to grab a bite to eat before the concert so we decided dine in downtown St. Louis. We attempted to eat at Pi Pizzeria with no luck; the wait was 45 minutes and we were pressed for time. While standing outside deciding where to try next, a likable (obviously homeless) man started shaking people’s hands and saying “Happy 4th.” He approached Blake, Matt and myself. As he did before, he shook Blake’s hand, said Happy 4th, shook Matt’s hand, said Happy 4th, and then called an audible. He shook my hand last and then said “Do you know what I know about you that you didn’t know I knew?” I responded, “What’s that?” “You’re a Christian” he said. “I am” I responded. Being a hopeful sap, I thought something cool might actually have been in the process of happening… this was not so.
He went on to say “Do you know how I knew that? Because you have a nice hair cut and all clean shaven. By the grace of God I was told to come up to you. Me and my family haven’t eaten for days and I just need a few bucks to buy a bucket of chicken.” I like to be generous with the less fortunate, I believe I have an obligation. I pulled out three bucks, handed it to him. He gave me a fist bump said “God bless” and walked away. Just then Blake said “What’s that?” Sure enough, in his back pocket was a tall boy wrapped in a paper bag… I didn’t care that a bum probably just got three bucks from me to buy more booze, we all found it hilarious. I took it as a good sign that the night was going to be full of fun. It was.
We arrived at Pop’s Nightclub & Concert Venue in Sauget, IL. Sauget, mind you, is really just East St. Louis… the ghettoooo. We got to the venue around 8 pm – far from the 7 pm door opening – to find that most of the space has already been occupied. That didn’t affect me much, considering the first two bands were unknown to me. The first band that played with called “I the Mighty.” This was a typical punk band. There were heavily distorted Gibson SGs playing power chords in drop D tuning while the lead singer let out some high pitched squeals. I probably didn’t fairly assess them because their music just is not my thing. However, I was relatively impressed with the next band, HRVRD.
I have not done much research on the band, but I figure there must be some sort of connection to Judaism, considering their band name, pronounced “harvard,” is missing the vowels. HRVRD was much different than I the Mighty, being somewhere between U2 and Death Cab for Cutie. The lead singer was extremely passionate in his performance, often making love to the microphone and corresponding stand, if you will. There was also a good amount of electronic sound and loops used throughout their performance. It was different… in a good way.
Next was Eisley. I did know of this band before the concert. I had heard of and then listened to the band because one of the leader singers is the wife of Max Bemis, the leader signer/songwriter of Say Anything. I enjoy their music. The band consists of Sherri DuPree Bemis (rhythm guitar and vocals), her blonde haired sister (keys and lead vocals), her dark haired sister (lead guitar and backup vocals), one of her brother-in-laws on drums and her cousin on bass. Just a big happy family. And a talented one to boot. They are a rock band, of sorts. Some songs are ballads, led by the keyboard, while others have a driving guitar riff and powerful vocals. Overall, it was great. I apologize now for brushing over the first three bands, but Say Anything will take quite a while.
All the while we were sitting at a high table with stools at the back of the crowd, waiting for Say Anything to go on. I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed the venue. I thought it was a great place to see your favorite band. It created an intimate atmosphere that is lost in most venues.
The basis of the “Rarities and More” tour was fantastic. Say Anything played plenty of their old songs which were never released on an official album, interspersed with hits from each of their four official albums. For passionate fans such as Blake and myself, there couldn’t be a better combination. Unless, of course, they played an entire concert of their original songs. Unfortunately, however, most people would not be okay with that because they are too attached to the hits. Pish posh in my opinion, but I’ll let it rest.
Max Bemis was electric. Once he stepped onto stage the energy in the building escalated to an incalculable level. The band certainly has a cult following, which added to energy, but I’d argue it would turn a non-believer. The band opened with one of their old songs, “Colorblind.” Like most Say Anything songs, this one highlights their range, even within one song. Hearing the song performed live, brought a whole new life to the song. Next, they performed a song called “The Futile” off of their first official album … Is a Real Boy. For a while it seemed as if they would alternate between unreleased and released songs, but in the end they played more released songs. Despite this, it was the best experience I have ever had at a concert, and one of the greatest events in general I have ever been to. Although Say Anything’s music does not necessarily require the most talented musicians, they can really put on a show. Max is definitely the star but each of the musicians fed off of one another to create the most exciting atmosphere imaginable. Additionally, anyone who truly loves the band understands that the lyrics are the crux of each song.
Side note: Halfway through the show Max brought his baby onto the stage. His baby! She is still only a few months old and was decked out in huge pink noise-cancelling headphones. She has to grow up to be a great musician. Both her parents are songwriters and musicians. Not to mention, they have her on tour with them right now!
I could go on about how great the performance was, but I won’t. It was fantastic. If you have not heard any of Say Anything’s music, then look it up. If you need some, email me. firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have heard them and you don’t like them, something is wrong with you. Simple as that. Kidding.
Probably the greatest part of the entire night happened after the concert. Blake and I met some news friends while we were there, Eric and Julie-Anne, who told us we should go wait by the fence with them near the tour buses. We obliged, and it was a great idea. While we did not get to meet Max or Sherri, we did meet multiple members of the band. We chatted with the drummer, the bassist, and a guitarist. A couple of the members actually took some of our memorabilia into the tour bus and had Max and Sherri sign it. Luckily, Blake had his latest Say Anything CD with him to get signed. Matt found two picks after the concert and had one of them signed. I, unfortunately, only bought a black “bro tank” at the concert because everything else was sold out in my size. Black permanent marker doesn’t show up well on a black shirt… because of my lack of foresight, I took the cover off of my phone and gave my iPhone to be signed by Max and Sherri. Something I learned: black Sharpee doesn’t show up very well on an iPhone either. It is still visible though, and that is good enough for me.
In my mind, this is exactly how a concert should be. It should be intimate, fun, electric, and personal. I really wanted this out of the concert and I was not disappointed. I don’t think more mainstream, popular bands offer as great of an experience that often. I’m not saying that it’s not possible, just not as probable. I will not soon forget my time at the Say Anything concert in Sauget.
Brent Glass is a Michigander who graduated from Eureka College in May of 2013. He spent time at the Sagamore Institute in Indianapolis, IN (a non-partisan think tank) where he worked on political economy pieces for Detroit, MI and Elkhart, IN. Additionally, he spent the summer of 2012 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA, working on social media management. Currently he is beginning a marketing project designed to expand the reach of Sagamore Institute and Eureka College, creating a social media management business, Connect You Consulting, and working full-time as a Management Assistant to the owner of a car dealership. He plans to further his education in the fall of 2014 in either public policy, political science or business.