Celebrating 20 Years of Dashboard Confessional
The essentials for every Marines survival during deployment are as follows - five pairs of desert utilities, black socks, white socks, undershirts, towels, shower gear, tent, sleeping bags, pillow, running shoes, two pairs of boots, dip, cigarettes, tuna, crackers, spam, sardines, jerky, sunflower seeds, powdered gatorade, pringles, refried beans, ten pairs of skivvies, batteries, four pairs of silkies, caffeine pills, porn mags, disc man, CD’s and a full combat load. All these shoved tightly into two duffel bags and a rucksack. Now try surviving six to eight months in the desert with only these items in your belongings.
The year was 2003; I was twenty-four and newly-wed with a newborn baby boy. Life was bliss. On the verge of deploying to Iraq, in what could be my last deployment ever. My time in the Marines was dwindling and I struggled with the idea of reenlistment or leaving this way of life.
All these thoughts were weighing me down as I laid in my cot, living in an airplane hangar while on stand-by to fly out to Kuwait (the staging point for the Iraq invasion). I had the rest of my life rolled up and packed tightly into two duffel bags and a rucksack. There were six to eight months worth of living in those bags. Even though I had life’s essentials packed neatly into my ruck, I still managed to commit the worst crime a self-professed music lover could in the early 2000s - I forgot my CD case at home.
I was lucky I had left two with me in my car. The first CD was NOFX’s “Punk in Drublic”. It’s timeless, and is one of my all-time favorite records. It defines my angsty youth growing up in the suburbs of San Antonio. The other CD was Face to Face’s live album; Every track that I love is on that record.
Throughout my journey, from California to Delaware to Spain to Kuwait to Iraq, back to Kuwait to Greece to Ireland to Newfoundland to Cincinnati to Indiana, then home to California, I picked up four more CD’s. There was Incubus’ “Morning View” and Coldplay’s “A Rush of Blood to the Head”, which I bought at the Post Exchange (what I consider military Walmart) while in Kuwait. I bought them for the purpose of adding some depth to what had been an anemic and overplayed playlist.
Somewhere in my journey, I borrowed the other two, but never returned them. One was Jack Johnson’s “Brushfire Fairytales” and Dashboard Confessional “The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most”. Those six CD’s were my escape, my way out, a piece of home in a land where peace and indoor plumbing was nowhere to be found. It was an important distraction from the heat, the sand, the flies, the daily barrage of mortars and bullets. Each of us had our own way of coping. This was mine.
Fast forward twelve years later, July 3rd, 2015, to a packed stadium in northwest Austin. The crowd was anticipating to see Third-Eye Blind as their headliner. Opening, was billed to a local Austin band Quiet Company and to Dashboard Confessional.
As I stood in the photo pit, anxiously waiting for Chris Carrabba and the crew to come out and play, I realized I was no longer a photographer. I became a fan again. As Chris played through the first song on the set. My excitement turned into clumsiness. I was comically fumbling through my Nikon as if I had no fingers. I am usually composed and a professional in the pit, but there was a point within the first song that Chris was literally standing over me. I couldn’t move - I just stood there in awe for ten seconds before I started shooting again.
As Chris wrapped up his first song, he took a quick second to announce to the stadium staff that the photographers could stay in the pit for the entire set. I TELL YOU WHAT!!! I took my three songs worth of pics, like the house rules stated, while muttering the lyrics to myself the entire time. I proceeded to take advantage of the time I had and stayed mostly in the photo pit for the duration of the show. I had no intentions of leaving. I even took the liberty to Snapchat a few pics and videos to my friends. This was by far the best seat in the house.
As the set progressed, I recalled those moments vividly. Those moments where I layed in my sleeping bag, in my tent, on my cot, on the dirt, or underneath my truck, with just my thoughts and my music. I was centered, I was at my calmest, I was less afraid and I was more at home. Those were my moments to decompress, plug in and shut down. As Dashboard performed in front of me, I was taken back to the time where I listened to my music. So, I sang along every lyric to every song that helped define my final deployment as a Marine. It was back in that desert again. That set was a reminder of how, I am among the lucky few and I am thankful. This was the soundtrack to my entire 2003 and I was seeing it live.