Saves the Day and Hot Rod Circuit at Starland Ballroom, Sayerville, NJ, 11/2/19 | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Sunday, July 25th, 2021  

Saves the Day and Hot Rod Circuit at Starland Ballroom, Sayerville, NJ, 11/2/19,

Nov 07, 2019 Photography by Alice Baxley
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Nostalgia is one thing. Catharsis is another. And the difference was starkly apparent at Starland Ballroom on Saturday.

Twenty years ago, Saves the Day recorded its second album, the seminal emo touchstone Through Being Cool, less than two miles from where we stood on this chilly Saturday night in Sayreville, NJ. The occasion was to commemorate the album’s anniversary. In 1999, Through Being Cool propelled the Jersey natives out of their hometown and into the big time, leading to the band’s signing with then giant Vagrant Records and touring with the likes of Dashboard Confessional, Green Day, and Blink 182. But judging by the packed house at the Starland Ballroom, Saves the Day never moved that far from its roots.

Before the band of the night stepped on stage, a milestone from one-time tour mates Hot Rod Circuit was to be celebrated. Playing the band’s 2002 album Sorry About Tomorrow in its entirety, Hot Rod Circuit sounded as vibrant as ever. Guitarist Casey Prestwood’s gyrational gymnastics are evidently absent these days; while he used to jump and contort onstage like a wild man some 17 years ago, his onstage demeanor on this night was more subdued. Many in the sellout crowd sang along to ever ingrained words of the band’s classic album, before it ended with a jubilant rendition of “Irish Car Bomb,” from its 1999 debut, If I Knew Now What I Knew Then.

But back to the band of the night. As tension was mounting leading up to Saves the Day taking the stage, the packed house seemed to get even more so, people like sardines mashed to the front, readying themselves for the sentimental onslaught.

Through Being Cool is an album that packs a punch. Twelve songs in a little over 33 minutes, recently reissued with a second disc of demos and live tracks, the album remains a fan favorite. And it was evident 20 years later by a hometown crowd who sang every word. It was clear that this was not just nostalgia. For these fans, it was necessary. Whether the band playing its much loved album provided closure or just simple cathartic release, being here on this night seemed essential for those in attendance.

Singer Chris Conley seemed in his glory the entire night, basking in the chords and melodies of his early masterpiece and the crowd’s exuberant reaction. To imagine revisiting our late teen years may seem horrifying to some, but Conley and company seemed to be relishing in it tonight. The album, played front to back, sounded just as fresh as ever (when you could hear the words overtop of the crowd’s collective voice).

But Saves the Day did not stop at Through Being Cool. The band played on, a grand total of 27 songs in what seemed like a never-ending set. After blazing through the album, the band left the stage and Conley re-emerged alone to play a four song solo set, comprised in large part of tracks from 1999’s I’m Sorry I’m Leaving acoustic EP, as well as “Three Miles Down” from 1998’s Can’t Slow Down, which he sung acapella.

The full band then returned for a mix of tracks that included rarities “Sell My Old Clothes, I’m Off To Heaven,” “A Drag in D Flat,” and “When It Isn’t Like It Should Be,” the last of which Conley introduced as being from the original Saves the Day demo. It also peppered the set with four songs from 2001’s Stay What You Are, the excellent follow up to Through Being Cool, and others, including “Anywhere With You,” from 2003’s In Reverie.

Saves the Day then ended the night with “At Your Funeral,” the vibrant, melodic gem from Stay What You Are. The crowd remained through it all, until the last note rang clear, singing every word.


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