Bert doing his thing. Photo: Christopher Reeves
When I found out The Used was playing at Dew Tour on Friday, I squealed in delight. Well … the 16-year-old scene girl buried inside of me squealed, that is. I tried to nonchalantly ask my boss if SLUG had any interest in covering the show, and as Angela Brown scrunched up her nose in what I knew was going to be a no, I hurriedly breathed, “Because I’ll go ...”
“Are you a closeted Used fan?!” she asked, seeing through my failed attempt to sound as if I was heroically taking one for the team. I’m really glad SLUG applications don’t ask about your past musical tastes, ‘cause I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be celebrating three years of employment with them if so …
My bestie Anna Johnson and I rode our bikes down to the Delta Center (I don’t care what it’s called now) about half an hour early to find a daunting line inside the gated area across the street. As we asked the clueless security guards where to pick up our tickets, I eyed them to find out which one would be more receptive to letting us cut to the front if I pulled out a boob. Just kidding. Fortunately, I got lost in the basement of the Delta Center for about half an hour after that, so by the time we got back across the street, there was no line and I didn’t have to use my … sexuality.
The concert was held outside, the LDS temple serving as a backdrop to the small stage surrounded by pre-teens. I saw The Used many times when I was in high school, mostly at In The Venue, and every time there was hardly any room to breathe. I expected the same thing after seeing the line, but the crowd was spread out and there was still plenty of space in the back, which is perhaps what first set my mood for the evening. This wasn’t quite as nostalgic as I … well … wanted it to be: I wasn’t wearing nearly enough eyeliner, my outfit was more Mr. Rogers than Marilyn Manson, there was no one smoking next to me for me to scowl at and no Hot Topic models I could pick fights with. It also doesn’t help that for the past five years, my musical tastes have moved in a more experimental/post-rock direction.
Enough about me, though, let’s get on to the facts. As we walked through the gates, The Used were being introduced as a local band. Umm, okay, I guess. Of course, before any music could be played, Bert McCracken had to put in his two-cents with a script that sounded less sincere than fucking a hooker in the bathroom. He still has his Jesus hair and that evil smile, but now the hair frames plump cheeks that match his waistline. But hey, at least we know he’s not doing coke, right?! I know it’s superficial of me, but it’s hard not to think back on how obsessed I was with Bert and Quinn at 16 and compare them to the Bert and Quinn I saw last night, plump and balding. I realize that it’s been eight years and I’ve grown older, too, but I’m not still swooping my bangs in front of my eyes, wearing band tees and writing emo poems …
I have no idea how many albums The Used has out now, but they started off with the last new song I’d heard from them, “The Bird and The Worm.” People were jumping up and down in front and waving their arms, but where I was standing, no one seemed too stoked, and I can’t say I was, either. Bert interrupted the music again (they could’ve played about five more songs if he had kept his mouth shut) to tell us he wasn’t allowed to swear on stage. Seriously? Telling the lead singer of a band not to swear is like putting chocolate in front of a little boy and telling him not to eat it while you’re gone. You’re going to come back to find chocolate all over his face. It’s okay, though, Bert used his wits to get around it by telling us a swear word in “African.” Unfortunately, African isn’t a language, but I wouldn’t expect him to know that, he went to public school in Utah, after all.
They continued on with some newer songs for the first half, some off the album In Love and Death, some I didn’t recognize, but Anna told me they’re off their album Lies for the Liars, same as “The Bird and The Worm.” Bert continued on with his usual rock star antics: spitting into the crowd, throwing his water bottle out, obsessing about not being able to swear … I guess my problem with all of this was that their show was exactly the same as all the ones I saw in high school, but back then that’s what worked up the crowd, and that’s what made The Used cool. Yeah, you’re the fucking Used, but no one cares anymore, Bert. Your spit isn’t welcome in our faces and I’m more worried about the germs in your water bottle than I am hysterical about swapping saliva with you. The worst part of it all, and perhaps what made it look even more pathetic in my eyes, was the crowd. Though I was grateful to be surrounded by pre-teens solely because I could easily see over them, these kids did not know how to mosh. Now, let me note that I have never been a mosher, and I get annoyed when people push me, not pumped up. However, getting pushed around at a Used concert was supposed to be part of the nostalgia for me. Bert tried on two occasions to start a pit, even explaining to the children how to Braveheart for the second try. Anna and I didn’t even bother moving, and we were standing in the wake of it all. Someone needs to step up and teach these kids how to dance, ‘cause I’ve seen bigger side-kicks and windmills in a preschool tae-kwon-do class, and I went to hardcore shows in fucking Cedar City. Needless to say, if you’re trying that hard to pump up your audience, and the security guards take one look at the pit and walk away, it’s time to change professions.
The last half of the show was slightly more pleasing, as “Maybe Memories” and one or two more songs from their self-titled album got me singing along. Anna and I were leaving as the encore started up, and I forced her to stop and turn around, as it was one of my favorites, “On My Own.” But it just wasn’t the same … those emo lyrics don’t give me goosebumps like they did when I was an angsty, suicidal teen.
We walked away with “Box of Sharp Objects” fading behind us like the pleading whisper of an ex-lover wanting more. “Of course they’d end with that one,” I thought quietly.