Standing in line, waiting in the crowd, generally hearing talk amongst the night's patrons - everyone seems to have an opinion of Max Bemis. In hindsight, it sounds like Bemis has made quite a name for himself both on and off record, but more importantly, made a name for the music both he and his band create that ends up connecting with thousands upon thousands of fans.
A few years back, Bemis decided to do a small solo show in his now hometown of Tyler, Texas. I hear it was quite an intimate experience for those who went. Seeing one of your favorite artists stripped down is quite an experience. What really makes a show like this an experience is the audience participation though.
With the crowd singing back-up during "Ahhhh...Men" and "Alive With the Glory of Love," to me, that trumps any old (but well done and thankful) rendition of Say Anything songs that never surfaced on stage before this night ("Slumming it With Johnny"). You can feel the intimacy as a musician walks away from the mic and is belting out against a wall that is yelling back at him or her. There's a feeling of that which we witness at many shows we go to, but at a solo show, it's almost tenfold.
Even when Bemis, on his final song during the evening, botched the second verse's line, the crowd had a good laugh, he joked it off and everyone went on to vocally end the night in chorus. Well, that says a lot about the staying power of not only one band, but one man, one singer-songwriter.
Hours before the show, Bemis and I were talking via text messages, and there was a bit of fear and worry with it being the first show of the evening for what was to be a big solo tour for many fans. After the show, he expressed how awesome he felt after the first song. He continued to announce that he already felt like doing this again in the future multiple times in the night and later via his Twitter. I could see it in his face though and in a bit of his own self-doubt and disbelief of the crowd as he was playing through the set. This is a man that still cannot believe he is in the position he is in, and as cliche as it sounds, it's just some guy writing passionate songs about his everyday life and convictions that just so happened to resonate with so many...it's really that simple, and that's really the greatest triumph.
I've been thinking about how to write this review since Saturday, and I don't even think I can come up with the right words to do this justice. Besides seeing my date turn into a 17-year-old girl again while hearing songs she hasn't heard in quite a few years, the nostalgic moment was certainly present in the room. With the craft of Bemis' new Painful Splits songs, potentially future Say Anything material/direction, the man's songwriting and truthfulness won't be ending anytime soon. No matter your opinion of Bemis, his music, past and present behavior, etc. - he generally just seems like a guy humble for his position as a leading man in the drudge that often seems like the scene these days.