“Nineteen eighty-seven? Been seeing a lot of those today,” the Aztec Theatre bouncer murmured as he examined the birth year on my driver’s license. “It’s like a class of 2006 high school reunion in there.”
This was probably the most appropriate thing anybody could say about going to an Underoath concert in 2016.
While Underoath kept busy over the last decade to their initial break up in 2013, they reached peak success in the time span of 2002-2006, the same years we ‘87ers were in high school. It was difficult to go through a social media feed and not seeing at least half of your timeline talking about going to the show or about how upset they were about missing it. In hindsight, the band was integral in changing the face of the music that defined our generation. They have managed to not only prosper off of nostalgia, but show why they are still relevant to so many people.
It almost feels unfair to group Underoath with the barrage of screamo bands that exploded on the scene in the mid-aughts, but they were so engrained in that scene that to talk about the band without mentioning it is omitting an important aspect of their legacy. In a return to a level of androgyny that hadn’t been seen since the hair metal days of the 80s, emo brought an era of dudes wearing girl pants, straightening their hair and wearing eyeliner.
This also initiated a changing of guard in the Warped Tour where more double time drum beats and sloppy power chords were replaced with double bass and octave chords. The skate punk became more sporadic as a new wave of post hardcore and metal core and a bunch of other cores essentially took over. Underoath was a catalyst for this transition as they enveloped a lot of these influences and basically took the reins of the coveted “music teenagers listen to that pisses off their parents” cruise that Kevin Lyman started in the mid-90s.
“Can I ask you a question, bro?” a very drunk dude who looks like he probably played some garbage time on a playoff-bound varsity football team in high school a couple of decades ago asks me. “How old are you?” Caught off guard, I respond with 28. He immediately interjects,“Pshh don’t worry man, I’m 34, I’m probably the oldest dude here, hey man let me buy you a drink,” slurring and hiccupping as he stumbled to the bar to get me a vodka water.
I like Underoath, but I think I missed the boat on their significance when I was a teenager and it’s a bit unfortunate. Seeing my friends’ posts on social media about what the band meant to them and how much of a role their music has had in getting through the awkward years of adolescence was not only endearing but also made me appreciate the band even more. While the girl-pants and straightened hair are gone, the energy was just as much there as it was a decade ago. I mostly observed up against the wall (up against the wall) of the Aztec Theatre as the crowd sang along to every song and absorbed the performance for everything it was worth and the band left everything on that stage that night. In a time where so many bands are phoning in reunion tours and cashing in on nostalgia, Underoath attacked the stage like it was a new frontier, like their lives depended on it. What we witnessed that night wasn’t just a reunion, it was a resurrection.