I was delighted and surprised to find that Saves the Day’s lead singer Chris Conley had a show lined up at the small Sneaky Dee’s upstairs. The show was put together by Toronto-based promotional group called My Friends Over You or MFOY. Their mission on their website states: “Playing all the music you loved when you were 15.” Now, I wouldn’t normally feel inclined to agree with this statement because it excludes many people in saying this, but nostalgia was the dominant vibe of the sweaty Sneaky Dee’s upstairs. Seeing Chris Conley (Saves the Day) and Moneen together is pretty in 2012 is pretty exciting because the first real rock and roll concert I saw without my folks was the 2003 Moneen, Taking Back Sunday and Saves the Day tour at the Kool Haus. Nine years ago, when I was in fact 15 years old.
The openers Moneen are a pop-punk band from Brampton, ON that made it real big on the local 905 circuit in the early 2000s. After releasing their 2003 album Are We Really Happy With Who We Are Right Now? they were signed to the California label Vagrant, home to Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Pete Yorn, Protest the Hero and the City and Colour. In the past, Saves the Day were also Vagrant label mates with Moneen.
Moneen have always been an offbeat band. I remember purchasing a shirt from their 2003 gig that read on the front “What does Moneen mean anyways?” and on the back just below my neck it read “Mo friggin’ neen.” So, in other words, absolutely nothing. I’ve seen them half a dozen times over the last ten years and even nearly a decade later they play their songs with as much vigour and intensity as they did the year the record came out. Moneen are a timeless band that will always have a dedicated following.
I was amazed to see that they were performing as a full electric band as Conley was set to play a solo acoustic set. I had seen them two summers ago play a very intense acoustic set at the El Mocambo as a part of North by North East.
Moneen’s ex-label mates Saves the Day from Princeton, New Jersey, gained momentum in the late 1990s with their release Through Being Cool and increased fame with their career high Stay What You Are. In 2006, they released The Bug Sessions which reached back to their roots with their debut acoustic EP I’m Sorry, I’m Leaving. While hearing Conley play live isn’t completely beautiful and doesn’t do the studio recordings justice, it’s the relationship that the audience has with the tunes that really makes it fun. At this show, he didn’t touch anything past their 2003 release and gave good attention to everything before and up to it. Conley turned the entire set list to the audience and warmly welcomed requests from the crowd. It was interesting to look at the front ten rows of people and see them clinging along to every word that left Conley’s mouth. I’ve had the opportunity to see Conley twice and Saves the Day once over the past twelve months and the set closer is always Saves the Day’s biggest hit “At Your Funeral,” a gleeful, sinister sing-along. He left the stage for a modest fifteen seconds and re-entered to play Stay What You Are’s brilliant album closer “Firefly.”
Many of the songs didn’t bode well as acoustic renditions but Conley was the first to acknowledge it. It was nice to see Conley unhinged and enjoying himself, feeling free to play what both he and the audience wanted to hear. It’s funny to see how as Saves the Day matures Conley feels more comfortable playing his tunes the way he once did. Conley seemed to really enjoy the Toronto crowd’s response to the songs as some folks mimicked the back up vocals and sounds that were crafted in the studio.
I remember seeing Saves the Day play Warped Tour 2006 and the guys that I went with were repeatedly chanting a request for “See You.” Conley acknowledging their plea replied: “That’s not an acoustic song.” It was pretty interesting to note that “See You” was one of the songs he played at Sneaks.