Just a few days ago two bands that have been responsible for defining genres and writing countless anthems for an entire generation joined forces and hit the road together. These landmark groups brought us together when we were younger, they showed us that it was okay to be ourselves, that it was okay to not be okay, that it was not only acceptable, but our duty to go against the status quo, that the societal standards and the principals held so dearly and preached so adamantly by preceding generations were not standards that we ourselves need be subscribed to. The Used and Rise Against brought about cultural and social change along with a heightening of self-awareness and acceptance of the human condition. On July 16th these two heavyweights embarked on the North American leg of The Nowhere Generation Tour, bringing their brand of sonic revolution to city after city all summer long.
On this tour The Used is celebrating the 20th anniversary of their self-titled debut album. This album contains some of the songs that became the soundtrack to our adolescent years, including “Taste of Ink”, “Blue and Yellow”, and “A Box Full of Sharp Objects”. This album became somewhat of a door opener for me, I remember being in 7th grade when my friend Craig lent me a mix CD, he had made of different punk bands. On that disc were bands like Guttermouth, NOFX, The Vandals, Rancid, and much more, but the one song that stuck out like a flamingo at a pigeon’s birthday party was “The Taste of Ink” by The Used. I swear I listened to that song 300 times before I gave his CD back after the weekend.
I don’t think the term “emo” was quite ubiquitous yet, but it would be soon after the release of The Used’s self-titled album. I remember when being emo wasn’t the coolest thing someone could do. In the early 2000’s emo kids were constantly chastised for their taste in music, their hair, the way they dressed, and the fact that they were in touch with who the fuck they really were instead of hiding it under a facade of false machismo, braggadocios lies and insecurity. Luckily for us, things have changed quite a bit since then. In a recent press release singer Bert McCracken spoke about how the genre has evolved over the years: “I’m proud of where we’ve come from. In my mind ‘emo’ has become a more honored term. What band is devoid of emotion? No band that I like. Tagging a band as ‘emotional’ isn’t really such a bum out, because I’ve always been quite and emotional guy. If you were to have asked me, like 5-6 years ago, I’d have said we’re a rock band or a punk band, but in the past couple of years seeing the resurgence of this kind of punk rock/early 2000’s music, I think it’s cool to be part of a huge genre that was pretty bangin.’”
On July 17th the tour made its way to San Diego, CA and I was there to capture every moment. The show opened with emo legends Senses Fail who will be on most of the dates for this tour. Senses Fail did a great job at getting this crowd ready for the rest of the night. When it was time for The Used to play, the crowd was already chanting their name. as soon as Bert walked out the crowd absolutely lost their minds. What else would you really expect from being in the presence of these rock legends? The band wasted no time getting to the good stuff. They opened with “Maybe Memories” and then kicked it into overdrive with the ever electric “Take it Away”. Bert exuded such phenomenal energy! His facial expressions, his dancing, his voice, everything was perfect. He embodied everything it means to be a front man. Bassist Jeph Howard came out in a furry red Kangol bucket hat, and sunglasses. This dude was just a good time from beginning to end. He was dancing all over the stage with a big smile on his face. Guitarist Joey Bradford was intense! His mane of auburn hair was just as wild as he was. The only word I could use to describe his performance is “Rockstar”. The set carried on through banger after banger, including “I Caught Fire”, The Taste of Ink”, and “Pretty Handsome Awkward”. I don’t think I have ever seen crowd participation quite like this. They knew every word; the band would stop playing at strategic key points and the audience never missed a single beat. Bert thanked senses failed for opening the show, and then asked the crowd if they were ready for Rise Against, I’m pretty sure you can guess the answer…
Rise Against has been one of the largest political punk bands to come out of our generation. They have shed light on many social issues that plague today’s society, from homophobia to racism, from pointless wars to police brutality. Rise Against has given those who have struggled under societal, and state, oppression a voice. They have lent their platform to those who have none. In a time like this, when our rights are being slowly taken away, when governments are pushing for more and more control, when a monopoly on violence is being used to silence us and force our compliance, when government officials/agents can do as they please with little to no accountability…this bands message could not be more important.
When Rise Against took the stage, they entered to the intro of “Prayer of The Refugee” being played on the guitar. They came out swinging like no tomorrow. Tim’s vocals were spot on, the rest of the band was no less impressive. What I love about a Rise Against performance is that they truly love their fans. They interact with people throughout the entire show. At one point they even sang happy birthday to a person in the crowd. How cool would it be to have an amazing band like Rise Against sing you Happy Birthday!? I can only imagine how that would make someone feel. This is how you connect with your fanbase. These guys are truly masters in the art of connection. After “Prayer of the Refugee” they played “The Violence”. When they got to the song “Satellite” Tim pulled out a megaphone to finish the song. I love the symbolism that the megaphone presents. It pays homage to the countless protests and movements going on around the world. It maybe something that most people tend to overlook, but I personally feel like it adds the perfect amount of atmosphere.
Rise Against carried on through their set. Everyone sang and danced. They screamed their favorite lyrics. There were even a few with tears in their eyes as they held their horns high. You could see the passion that this band’s music had evoked in these people over the years. The part of the show that got me was when Tim began to talk about revolution…”There is no racism in revolution. There is no sexism in revolution. There is no homophobia in revolution. If you find yourself in a revolution, and your sider has any one of those things…you might be in the wrong fucking revolution.” After every line, the crowd screamed with agreement. When he was done, I swear the crowd was ready right then and there to take on the world and all its injustice. The band went into some of their biggest hits after that. they played “Dancing for Rain”, “The Good Left Undone”, “Hero of War”, “Nowhere Generation”, and “Give It All”. After “Give It All” (which every single person in the crowd sang along to) they left the stage. The crowd began cheering, and chanting for an encore, and of course, the band obliged with two more songs. They played “Survive” and, finally, one of their biggest hits, “Savior”.
I don’t think I have ever seen a show that carried so much weight or relevance to today’s social climate. I have seen concerts and tours that boasted legendary line ups of bands that have defined genres and changed music, I have seen concerts that played to our nostalgia, but I have never seen a concert that presented the public with exactly what we needed at that moment in time. This tour serves as a reminder to continue fighting against the status quo. To continue being ourselves at all costs. To help others who are less fortunate than us. To rise as one to fight against the tyranny and oppression in the world. This truly was a show for the Nowhere Generation. If you have a chance to attend one of the dates this summer, I highly implore you to do so. These bands aren’t just bringing their music and a good time…they’re bringing hope. Hope to an entire generation that struggles to find it daily as they watch the world crumble around them. This tour isn’t about wanting to see your favorite band, this tour is about giving the world what we need right now. The strength to carry on, the will to change, and the courage to fight to the end for what needs to be fixed.