Able to transcend genres, “scene” labels, audience demographics, and conventional musical business models, Say Anything, largely the live vehicle of eclectic frontman Max Bemis, have, over the last decade and half, become one of the most important pseudo-underground bands in rock. Celebrating the release of their surprise new album and ferocious return to form, I Don’t Think It Is, the group return to Nashville for the first time in four years (and only the third time ever) May 22 at Marathon Music Works. They’ll be joined by a stacked bill of supporting acts, including beloved Philly art rockers mewithoutYou and buzzy punk up and comers Teen Suicide and Museum Mouth. Undoubtedly one of the most-anticipated shows of the spring, you can still snag tickets for just $18 right here! Read on for more about the lineup.
To simply peg Say Anything as a “pop punk” band, or a product of the pop punk scene would be to sell short their long, nuanced, and expansive history, throughout which they’ve become one of our era’s greatest rock bands, period. Helmed by singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Max Bemis, the group formed in 2000, when Bemis was merely 16. A far-cry from your typical high school band, however, Say Anything’s early efforts, including self-released debut LP Baseball, were so good, and showed so much promise, that they’ve not only been captured in expansive and sought after box sets and compilations many years later, but they also ignited enough early interest to spark a bidding war, landing the group on Doghouse Records by the time of their 2004 fan favorite …Is a Real Boy. Immediately embraced and swept up by the popular pop punk and Warped Tour scene of the early ’00s, Bemis, who struggled with mental illness and drug addiction in the band’s early days, was forced to put his musical ambitions on hold on several occasions, including while recording Real Boy, eventually seeking treatment and finding his path in time for Say Anything to ascend the ranks of modern punk royalty, and to craft an ambitious, guest-filled, double concept followup album, In Defense of the Genre, in 2007.
After briefly flirting with major label status and glossier, more reeled in songwriting with 2009’s Say Anything, the band re-teamed with Real Boy producer Tim O’Heir for thematic punk concept album Anarchy, My Dear in 2012; perhaps the closest they’ve come to misstep (or, in our opinion, a misunderstood conceptual landing). Largely transcendent of their “scene” roots, and with several successful side projects launched (Bemis alone has at least three, including Two Tongues, a supergroup with Saves The Day’s Chris Conley), the band ditched guitars entirely with self-produced, string heavy Hebrews in 2014; around which time the fairly permeant live lineup of around a decade began to erode into Nine Inch Nails approach of Bemis and whoever else he might tap to contribute to a particular tour or recording. After many years of playing virtually every instrument in the studio, Max enlisted a stacked crew of guest contributors to make I Don’t Think It Is, a ferocious concept album released by surprise earlier this year, which returns Say Anything to their rawest, most punk form, proving that, after all of these years, they still have the ferocity and realness that made them so special at the start. A live powerhouse, Say Anything meticulously recreate the heavy early tunes through experimental more recent efforts, always playing fan service, and, if anything, only getting better with age. We can’t sing this band’s praises enough, and if you only associate them with their pop punk peers, it might be time to give their unparalleled catalogue a proper listen.
Hailing from Philadelphia and formed at the turn of the millennium just like Say Anything, art-rock/post-hardcore outfit mewithoutYou return to Nashville for the fourth time in two years; something that would normally seem excessive, but for a band this good, we’d devour their every show. Still riding high on the success of their stellar sixth album, last year’s Pale Horses, mewithoutYou’s genre-bending sensibilities and blend of conceptual and deeply personal lyricism makes them not only a perfect compliment to Say Anything, but also a clear influence on Max Bemis as an artist. Juxtaposing smart, philosophical and high-concept themes with musical elements of indie rock, alternative, post-hardcore, and art rock, mewithoutYou have amassed a loyal following over the years, enhanced by their personal, electrifying live show. There’s a reason we never miss a chance to see them, and, if you haven’t yet, you owe it to yourself to see what all of the hype is about.
Blurring the lines between lo-fi indie rock, emo, punk, and noise pop, Maryland’s Teen Suicide nearly called it a day before really giving themselves a chance to flourish as a band, initially announcing their breakup in early 2013, after a string of EPs, demos, and a self-released debut album, i will be my own hell because there is a devil inside my body. Thankfully, a year later, they reconsidered, solidifying their lineup, finding a label home at Run For Cover Records, and crafting a phenomenal sophomore album in It’s the Big Joyous Celebration, Let’s Stir the Honeypot. Lo-fi, vulnerable, jarringly emotionally, and yet still palpably punk, the recently released LP is hands down one of the year’s best, and so it’s no surprise that these buzzy up and comers (who, apparently will soon be changing their name to Honeypot) were handpicked by Max Bemis to support this tour.
Another group that couldn’t be more perfectly selected for this bill, Museum Mouth‘s honest, poppy, indie punk sound is especially in line with Say Anything’s latest album. Hailing from North Carolina, the trio, energetic and emotionally earnest, are now signed to Max Bemis’s Rory Records imprint of Equal Vision, through which they recently released their fantastic fourth LP, Popcorn Fish Guinea Pig. It should go without saying, but show up early and see these guys; you might leave with a new favorite band.
Say Anything, mewithoutYou, Teen Suicide, and Museum Mouth will perform Sunday, May 22 at Marathon Music Works. The show is 18+, begins at 7:30 p.m. (doors at 6:30 p.m.), and tickets are available for $18-22.