Taking Back Sunday Takes Us Back

20 years of the band marks a reunion of emotional souls

There are two types of Taking Back Sunday fans—those who willingly revelled in the incredible scene-ness of the band and their sounds without shame—and those who for whatever reason chose to keep their fandom on the downlow back in the band’s heyday yet openly express it as adults now.

Folks who fall on both sides of that line banded together in a reunion of Hot Topic hearts on a sold out Friday and Saturday Taking Back Sunday shows. It was the 20th anniversary of the band’s formation, and there were 20 years worth of fans packed in the Crystal Ballroom carousing in all their glory.

Part of what made their sets so amazing, aside from the fact that they came back nearly in original formation—specifically, with John Nolan who left for a few years to do Straylight Run and unfortunately without founding member Eddie Reyes—is the communal air of excitement that blanketed the venue. There wasn’t a meek or apathetic soul in sight—everyone was on some level of inebriation openly vying their love and affection for the band that helped most of them get through high school.

Stories of Taking Back Sunday shows past, favorite songs and band member attractiveness were the most frequent topics overheard. None of the numerous side conversations could hold a candle to the volume level of the crowd once the room fell black. As each member filtered out one by one, the loudest collective cheers echoed off the venue’s walls.

Nothing about that reaction was strange—in fact, it’d be weirder if the audience wasn’t at full vocal capacity. Yet, lead vocalist Adam Lazzara hit everyone with a bit of a peculiar take on his normal speech.

“We come to you in the spirit of celebration,” Lazzara said as he took on the character of a southern preacher, choosing to speak with the drawl regular Dixie church attendees are used to. Sure, Lazzara was born in Alabama and currently lives in North Carolina, but the juxtaposition between his individual theatrics and the emo post-hardcoreness of the Long Island band was difficult to get used to when considering his normal approach to words isn’t as contrived.

It didn’t matter, though. Once Lazzara ever so dramatically expressed that they’d be playing their debut album Tell All Your Friends from start to finish, the southern confusion of the crowd seemed to slip away. Banter between Lazzara and Nolan led into a very boisterous opening of “You Know How I Do.”

After rolling right into “Bike Scene,” the band paused for another moment of personal storytelling. At this point they revealed how most of the songs on the record were named after 4 a.m. forays of Nolan and Lazzara watching the names of programs scroll by on the very old school TV Guide Channel, which, if you’ve ever actually looked at the titles of their songs, makes sense.  

These little moments of repose gave a history into the band that as fans, we don’t get to hear through the music. Still, we didn’t come for the conversation—we came for the music, and everyone’s reactions to “Cute Without the ‘E’ (Cut from the Team),” “There’s No ‘I’ in Team” and “You’re So Last Summer” definitely showed that. Everyone knew all the words to every song, shouting them in unison along with Lazzara as if they were having a conversation lyrically. He said Portland was the most hyped and hottest city of the tour so far and based on how near unbearably loud everyone was, that statement was probably true.

After finishing “Head Club,” Lazzara yet again took some time to preach. This time, he communicated how the previous night’s show entertained a coin toss of which album would play next in its entirety. The choice was between their sophomore album Where You Want to Be and their third record Louder Now. The previous night got Where You Want to Be, leaving the Saturday set with the latter. Saturday’s Taking Back Sunday purists expressed slight displeasure, some of them sticking around to hear “MakeDamnSure” before dipping out.

Many others, though, didn’t let what could be considered a modest low point for the band deter them from continuing to celebrate their existence to begin with, forging on through the rest of the show to the album’s end.

Despite the mild displeasure of a few, the general consensus was one of amazement, appreciating and bonding. Strangers traded the discomfort of the accidental bumps and shoves typical of show atmosphere as a chance to scream lyrics in one another’s faces.

It was evident that as a whole we relived a specific moment in time. It was an emotional night for emotional hearts, and it was one surely none of us would take back.

Cervanté Pope is a music and culture journalist whose work has been included in various publications around Portland including Willamette Week, the Portland Mercury and the Portland Observer, as well as a couple of creative nonfiction anthologies. When she's not tackling a giant mountain of deadlines she can be found headbanging at a metal show, advocating for animal rights or trying to scheme a way to get on Family Feud.