MU­SIC Home­com­ing cloaked in mys­ter­ies

Chris Carrabba is mak­ing a come­back

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - Showtime - Palm Beach - - FRONT PAGE - By Ben Crandell STAFF WRITER

Pom­pano Beach in­die-rocker Chris Carrabba, whose humbly emo­tive mu­sic has taken his band Dash­board Con­fes­sional around the world, is re­turn­ing to South Florida for a free con­cert on Tues­day, his head spin­ning with new, mys­te­ri­ous in­spi­ra­tion and, at a time of great per­sonal loss, his heart again worn promi­nently on his in­tensely tat­tooed sleeve.

Dash­board Con­fes­sional last week com­pleted a North Amer­i­can tour of more than 60 shows in 2017, and Septem­ber will bring con­certs in In­done­sia and Aus­tralia. Not bad for a band that hasn’t re­leased an al­bum of orig­i­nal ma­te­rial since 2009’s “Al­ter the End­ing.”

That soon will the change, says Carrabba, es­ti­mat­ing that he has writ­ten dozens of new songs, many al­ready recorded and await­ing post-pro­duc­tion tweaks. He can’t say when the al­bum will be re­leased — con­ver­sa­tions with la­bels are on­go­ing — but he will say that this mu­sic marks a come­back for the kind of pas­sion­ate, ide­al­is­tic song­writ­ing that filled Dash­board’s break­out al­bums “The Swiss Army Ro­mance” and “The Places You Have Come To Fear the Most,” re­leases that helped de­fine “emo” as a mu­si­cal genre.

“It re­minds me a lot of the way I wrote the songs — with a sense of ur­gency, in a van, in front of the build­ing com­plex I lived in in Pom­pano — the sum­mer be­fore col­lege,” Carrabba says. “I would go to Davie to my friend James — James Wis­ner, who would go on to be­come a very big pro­ducer [New Found Glory, Paramore], but at the time was a dude with a closet and a mi­cro­phone — and I would record my songs there, with­out any ex­pec­ta­tion that any­body other than he or I or the few peo­ple that we would play those songs for would ever hear them.”

The for­mer Boca High and Florida At­lantic Uni­ver­sity stu­dent, raised on a steady diet of mu­sic from the Cure and Jaw- breaker, ad­mits his youth­ful ide­al­ism and ap­pre­ci­a­tion for non­con­for­mity was dis­torted over the years by “pry­ing eyes” and com­pro­mise. He’s not sure how or why he’s been able to rekin­dle the fire of his younger self in new lyrics and melodies.

“The way I ex­press my­self is still sort of a mys­tery. I don’t try to de­code it,” he says. “My first cou­ple of records, I knew, sounded and felt good. This one, I know, sounds and feels good.”

Carrabba was speak­ing from his place in Nashville, a few days af­ter the Dash­board tour ended, but al­ready look­ing for­ward to a free Fill­more Mi­ami Beach per­for­mance on Tues­day. (“I hate not play­ing shows,” he says.) The con­cert is part of the four-city Ford Front Row se­ries, a part­ner­ship be­tween Bill­board mag­a­zine and the au­tomaker. Ad­mis­sion is free with an RSVP at Bill­board.com/ FordFron­tRow. Los An­ge­les folkpop band the Mowgli’s are the open­ing act.

Friends de­parted

Carrabba still has a home in Pom­pano Beach and plans to ar­rive sev­eral days be­fore the con­cert to meet with lo­cal friends to re­mem­ber the life of Mike Hur­ley, dy­namic f ront­man f or t he straight-edge punk band Ten­sion and an in­te­gral or­ga­nizer of the bur­geon­ing South Florida mu­sic scene in the1990s. Hur­ley, 45, died on July 18, two days be­fore Carrabba lost an­other friend, Linkin Park’s Ch­ester Ben­ning­ton.

Each mu­si­cian was chased by per­sonal de­mons. Each died by his own hand.

Ben­ning­ton was “not just a great artist but a great per­son, and a great voice for peo­ple who deal with ad­dic­tion and de­pres­sion,” Carrabba says. “I deal with de­pres­sion. I thank­fully don’t deal with ad­dic­tion. He was em­pow­er­ing to those of us that felt a lit­tle bit, maybe em­bar­rassed is how we feel? It was em­pow­er­ing to see some­body with such a pow­er­ful singing voice — frankly a su­per­star in our medium — to come out and say, ‘I deal with these strug­gles, and yet I’m happy.’ And that is the thing that peo­ple don’t un­der­stand. I’m a very happy per­son, even though I deal with anx­i­ety.”

Carrabba says Ben­ning­ton “had big, wide arms, you know what I mean? He could em­brace every­body. Even if it was just the brief times we had to­gether, he let me feel like I knew him well. I don’t know that I did, but he let me feel that way. … I’m hav­ing a lot of trou­ble with the idea that I won’t ever see him again.”

A guid­ing hand

With Hur­ley at the helm, Pom­pano Beach-based Ten­sion had a five-year run in the mid ’90s dis­tin­guished by live shows that drew a loyal army of ad­mir­ers, the revered 1994 EP “The Sick­ness of Our Age” and an al­bum, “Agent of the Peo­ple” (Up­ris­ing Records), recorded in 1996.

Ten­sion was named Best New Band at the 1994 South Florida Slam­mie Awards, an an­nual salute to lo­cal mu­sic that drew more than 1,200 peo­ple to the Edge in Fort Laud­erdale. Ten­sion per­formed on a bill that in­cluded head­liner and Band of the Year Slam­mie win­ner Mar­i­lyn Man­son, Mi­ami’s the Holy Ter­rors and Load, Fort Laud­erdale’s Jack Off Jill and West Palm Beach’s Raped Ape.

While Hur­ley did not achieve Ben­ning­ton-level fame, his in­flu­ence is im­printed on sev­eral South Florida bands with in­ter­na­tional promi­nence. Both as a per­former and a “guid­ing hand,” Hur­ley took young mu­si­cians un­der his wing, Carrabba says, and em­pow­ered them with con­fi­dence and knowl­edge, from teach­ing them how to make an ef­fec­tive flier to adding them to his gigs at the lo­cal VFW hall.

“There’s a few peo­ple you come across in your life, right? I don’t think we’d be talk­ing on the phone to­day about my mu­sic, be­cause I wouldn’t be mak­ing mu­sic, if I had never crossed paths with him,” Carrabba says. “There’s a di­rect line that goes from Mike Hur­ley through [ Carrabba’s orig­i­nal band] Fur­ther Seems For­ever into Dash­board over to Mar­i­lyn Man­son to New Found Glory and many, many more bands. Glasseater, Shai Hu­lud, many bands from that scene grew up think­ing, ‘Now, that’s what a front­man does. And that’s what a scene leader does.’ ”

Tom Bowker booked punk and hard­core shows in South Florida in the mid ’90s and calls Hur­ley a “linch­pin” in that evolv­ing scene.

“Mike was a very in­tense, very fun guy to be around. He had lots of on­stage charisma,” Bowker Where: Fill­more Mi­ami Beach, 1700 Wash­ing­ton Ave. When: 9 p.m. Tues­day. The Mowgli’s are the open­ing act at 8 p.m. Cost: says. “Ten­sion at one point in the early, mid ’90s [was] among the most pop­u­lar bands in South Florida ... 300 kids would reg­u­larly come out.”

Carrabba says he and Hur­ley kept tabs on each other over the years, ac­knowl­edg­ing that Hur­ley could be dif­fi­cult to be around when he was drink­ing.

“He was a very kind per­son, ob­vi­ously a trou­bled per­son,” Carrabba says. “In the cou­ple years since I’ve seen him, from our com­mon friends, I know that he was in a good place. That was what made it such a bit of a shock. We thought our friend had con­quered his de­mons.”

Hur­ley, who was liv­ing in Vero Beach when he died, won a war with drugs that started back in his play­ing days and was hold­ing his own in an en­su­ing bat­tle with al­co­hol, ac­cord­ing to his mother, Pene­lope Hur­ley, of Vero Beach. He had been sober for more than two years, was a re­spected mem­ber of his Alcoholics Anony­mous group and had been mak­ing plans to get mar­ried, she says.

Hur­ley’s girl­friend, Sue My­er­jack, re­mem­bers Mike Hur­ley as “the most lov­ing and kind per­son ever. He was far too good for this world.”

Call­ing his death “to­tally dev­as­tat­ing,” Pene­lope Hur­ley says her son was try­ing to find him­self at the end. He chan­neled his cre­ative en­ergy into paint­ing minia­tures de­voted to the fan­tasy game Dun­geons and Drag­ons.

“He was an ex­tremely tal­ented artist. Michael would build whole vil­lages, painted to ab­so­lute per­fec­tion, and all the fig­ures that went with it, down to paint­ing with one hair of a paint­brush,” Pene­lope Hur­ley says. “The work is to­tally ex­quis­ite. I don’t know what I’m go­ing to do with it all.” bcran­dell@sun­sen­tinel.com

GETTY IM­AGES

Chris Carrabba will lead Dash­board Con­fes­sional at the Fill­more Mi­ami Beach on Tues­day.

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