The best surprise of the show: Bemis covers ‘Ol Dirty Bastard‘s “Got Your Money” for the encore.
Ten years ago, I saw Say Anything for the first time at The Creepy Crawl in St. Louis. It was the best live rock show I’ve ever seen. So needless to say, I was excited for my once-a-decade Max Bemis experience. Waiting for the show to start, I made my usual, uncomfortable urinal-side chit chat.
“Last time he played in K.C., he played ‘Admit It!!!’ twice,” said Brenden, the guy I pissed next to, who told me Max was the reason he plays music. Dear Brenden was either unbelievably stoked for the show or clearly on ecstasy. “He’s the reason I do what I do. If he plays ‘Cemetery,’ I might die.”
As anyone who has ever tried to talk to someone who is either:
a) overly excited about something very dear to them, or
b) in the throws of amphetamine use, or
c) both at the same time
…knows, it’s hard to get a word in edgewise. As the show was about to start, I pulled myself away to catch the last few songs of The Front Bottoms‘ set. I’d never heard these guys before, and as often happens with live bands I’ve never heard of, I don’t think their albums will ever be able to live up to this first live experience. Their drummer was phenomenal. His energy made me proud to still be at a pop-punk show in my late 20s.
After Max took the stage with a song off his new album, Hebrews, my first thought was, “Whoa, Max has put on some weight.” Then my second thought was, looking down at my own rapidly expanding midsection, “Well, so have I.” Ten more years living in bovine America seems to have that effect on people. But Max, always self-aware, sang my thoughts back to me in his first song, “Six Six Six.” “I’m just a strung out, overweight Jewish guy.”
Touche, Max. Touche.
Reading the above paragraph, I cringe at the idea of Max reading this. Kids like me, who grew up on Say Anything’s music, can’t really objectively categorize it. I have no distance. I told my friend, Marcus, outside the show, “This music has shaped me, dude.” It has. Bemis was like Conor Oberst, but with my sick, self-deprecating sense of humor. He still has that. Every other song he writes continues to drip with the sauce sarcastic.
Before singing “Judas Decapitation” (a nod to Dylan going electric, and a clear example of his still radically honest songwriting) he sincerely asked the audience to: “Sing along. Please. This song is new and I’m insecure about it.” In all honesty, I had listened to this song once. I listened to the whole album once. I’m one of the fans Max despises: I’ve listened to “…Is a Real Boy” at least one hundred times in its entirety. Everything else… not so much. And I’ve read his Twitter rants about this fact. I don’t like supporting mental illness, and in all honesty, I talked to Max after that show at The Creepy Crawl in St. Louis like a deranged fan. “I’ve been into you guys since your demos first came out on Absolutepunk.net!”
“Thanks, dude,” was his response. His eyes were blood red. His curly haired guitarist behind him just nodded at me, a sixteen-year-old nobody. That was that. After that experience, I never wanted to meet any of my heroes anymore. I rather just pedestalize them in my head. The reality was always shattering. They’re just dudes. And so am I. I’m just a dude. Wow, what a realization, Tyler. Anyway, back to the show. (Also, after writing this and reading some of Max’s updates, I’m going to give Hebrews another good couple listens. Dude still gives a shit, and that means something. At least to me it does).
Here’s a copy of Max’s set list from that night:
1. “Six Six Six”
3. “Burn a Miracle”
4. “Baby Girl, I’m a Blur”
5. “Judas Decapitation”
6. “The Writing South”
7. “Do Better”
8. “Surgically Removing the Tracking Device”
9. “A Boston Peace”
12. “This Is Fucking Ecstasy”
14. “She Won’t Follow You”
15. “Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too”
16. Ol’ Dirty Bastard – “Got Your Money” cover
17. “I Want To Know Your Plans”
For the memories:
After playing “Cemetery” (I hope my bathroom buddy Brenden lived through this), Max commented, “I want this show to last six hours.”
He played nine more songs. These nine songs didn’t quite take six hours, but they were an enjoyable nine songs nonetheless.
The crowd went crazy as usual when “Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too” was played. My friend, Marcus, who I had dragged along to the show commented, “Oh, hey. I know this song!” It is the big one. And always fun to hear.
Somewhere between the previous song and the encore, Marcus went to get us another couple hipster-ready PBRs. He came back with two Miller Lites. For some reason, it made perfect sense that the bar would run out of PBR tallboys at this show. Max Bemis did write the ultimate hipster critique after all.
Bemis came back out to play a four-song encore. The first couple songs (see video at top of this post) were an Ol’ Dirty Bastard cover, “Got Your Money.” followed by a solo acoustic performance of “I Want to Know Your Plans” (that’s how it was written after all!)
Max apologized before “Got Your Money,” saying that the song did not reflect his views on women. “I didn’t write these words. … His name was ‘Ol Dirty Bastard. He passed away, and the world is a shittier place without him.”
“I Want to Know Your Plans” was stellar. He then followed that up with the hardcore rager “Boyd” off his new album, and finally finished with “Belt,” one of my all-time favorites:
My guess is he’s getting sick of playing “Alive With The Glory of Love” after a good ten years of near constant rotation. Understandable. But it’s my birthday, and I have to let this post go. I’ve worked on it for days, and it’s still a jumbled mess. It’s hard as hell to write objectively about the bands that defined your youth. I can’t do it. So I’ll just let this stand.
Every record Conor Oberst (he’s gotten married and cheered up too with this year’s stellar Upside Down Mountain — maybe it’s my turn) and Max Bemis releases, I compare to my own life: where I’m at, where I’ve been, and where I’m going. As I finished my last beer before the bar closed, I thought how strange that is. First of all, it’s strange that I spent my formative years listening to these guys sober, but more so than that, it’s strange that for more than a decade I’ve compared their lives to mine. And neither of them have ever given my life a passing thought. Music fandom is strange. And if you can’t be a rockstar, you can at least be a music journalist — at the very least a music blogger. And here I am! A 27-year-old emo blogger writing about his favorite emo bands. That’s me. I admit it!