Max Bemis, River City Extension | Schubas | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Max Bemis, River City Extension All Ages Early Warnings (Music) Soundboard

When: Wed., Feb. 16, 7 p.m. 2011

When Max Bemis was 14, someone at Drive-Thru Records—one of several labels already courting him—told him he'd be the next Bob Dylan. That's a lot of pressure to put on a teenager, but Bemis rose to meet it: though he's certainly not the pop-cultural force that Dylan is, in the world of pop punk he's become an iconoclast not unlike Dylan. As front man for third-wave emo act Say Anything, Bemis has done more to force the evolution of aughties pop punk than anybody else—even Green Day's celebrated American Idiot hasn't had such a huge effect. Say Anything's ambitious second full-length, 2004's . . . Is a Real Boy (Doghouse/J), is a rock opera that strikes a balance between the passionate grandeur of a Broadway musical and the hard-nosed sincerity of, say, Saves the Day. Bemis's lyrics in particular—idealistic and witty enough to make songs about neurosis, clinical depression, and the Holocaust unexpectedly accessible—set the band apart from the Warped Tour pack. Neither 2007's In Defense of the Genre (J) nor 2009's Say Anything (RCA) reach the heights of . . . Is a Real Boy, but they both advance the group's efforts to meld Top 40 pop and emo. This is a solo show for Bemis, and as well as his often intimate songwriting works with Say Anything's arena-size rock, it should sound even more raw and potent when he's up there alone. Sold out. —Leor Galil

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