Looking back on how Dashboard Confessional changed my life

Published 4 years ago -

Celia Smith

Assistant Editor-in-Chief

When I was in the fifth grade, I was introduced to my long-time favorite band: Dashboard Confessional. I have an sister, Madilyn, who is about four and a half years older than me, or five grades above me. So, when I was in fifth grade, she was in 10th. My parents both work a lot, so most of my time was spent alone with her growing up. I was exposed to a lot of things prematurely, especially certain media, but I don’t necessarily consider that a bad thing. We would drive home from cheerleading practice in her Ford Taurus, blasting Drake’s “Best I Ever Had” and of course, Dashboard Confessional’s “Hands Down.”

We shared a desktop computer during those days, meaning we shared an iTunes. The infamous illegal music downloading program Limewire was still a thing then, so she would download all her favorite Dashboard songs on our computer from that, some of them named incorrectly of course, one of many flaws in the system. We were big mix-CD makers back then, and I still have the CD we always listened to. We would scream along to “Hands Down” as we sped along the backroads on our way home, fitting for the band’s namesake. I have a few defining happy memories with Madilyn, but Dashboard drives homes probably trump them all.

My sister graduated from high school at the end of my seventh-grade year and went away to college in Virginia right before I entered the eighth grade, then at the high school she had attended. I didn’t really get to see her much after that, and all my memories with her after she left are sort of a blur. But, when I got my license at the beginning of the 11th grade, I inherited the Taurus. All her mix-CDs were still in there, and I remember the first thing I did after I passed my test was speed along the backroads, listening to the Dashboard CD and screaming the songs. That Dashboard mix-CD was played on repeat throughout my eleventh-grade year, one of the hardest years I experienced during my adolescence.

So, for me, Dashboard Confessional isn’t just a band I have loved and listened to for years, it’s a band with a lot of sentimental significance to me. To this day, the songs of Dashboard Confessional still help me work through a lot of difficult and painful situations I have faced. However, “Hands Down” is the one song that makes things better for me, because of the positive memories associated with it.

If you aren’t familiar with the band, it was formed in 1999 by singer-songwriter Chris Carrabba. It’s one of the OG Emo bands, for good reason. The other members of the band are Scott Schoenbeck, Armon Jay and Chris Kamrada. The band broke up in 2011 but got back together in 2015. There’s a lot I could say about the history of this long-time love of mine, compliment of Wikipedia, but facts are rather superficial.

As a writer, the song lyrics are the most important aspect of music for me. Perhaps that’s what draws me to Dashboard, their relatable lyrics and raw emotional energy. Carrabba doesn’t hold back. He speaks his truth, his pain and his struggles in each track. Each of his songs has some sort of deep significance for me emotionally. Carrabba’s candid style is something I aspire for in my own work. When you allow yourself to be emotionally vulnerable, you open the door that allows you to connect deeply with your audience, making them feel less alone. Dashboard Confessional’s music tells listeners that mental illness and other pain exists and there are others who feel the same as they do.

My favorite Dashboard Confessional album has to be “The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most,” and one of my favorite songs is the title track from it. My top ten favorite Dashboard songs are as follows, respectively:

  1. “The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most”
  2. “This Bitter Pill”
  3. “Hands Down”
  4. “Carve Your Heart Out Yourself”
  5. “Standard Lines”
  6. “The Secret’s In The Telling”
  7. “Saints and Sailors”
  8. “Ghost Of A Good Thing”
  9. “Bend And Not Break”
  10. “Vindicated”

It is my belief that channeling your pain into art not only helps you but helps those who are exposed to it. Not everyone is an artist and has the ability to express themselves and channel their emotions in this way but allowing others to enter your mind through art can, in some way, help them work through their problems in a similar sense. Before I was able to put my own pain in words and on a canvas, Dashboard Confessional was able to do it for me, and I’ll always be thankful to them for that.

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