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The Used Rocked The Crowd At Mohawk With Their Clean Vocals & Dirty Screams
Words/Stills : Jake Rabin
I’ll just cop to it.
In 2004, my MySpace username was I Caught Fire, chosen from my favorite track on The Used’s then-just-related sophomore album In Love and Death. That record, along with their debut self-titled LP The Used, cemented what would become a life-long fandom for me with The Used.
Like millions of other kids in high school in the early aughts, I remember first hearing The Taste of Ink on the radio, and how sonically different it was from anything else I had ever heard before. Clean vocals working in tandem with guttural screams was starting to become a more popularized sonic aesthetic, where all of a sudden being super emo and sad is also be cool and tough. But where The Used really stood apart was in the arena of song writing, which partially explains the band’s rapid ingratiation into the mainstream scene despite screaming vocals or double-bass drumming.
The first time I ever heard screaming on the radio was The Used, and I know I’m not the only one to which that applies. And why is that the case? Simply put: The Taste of Ink completely dominated the radio when it was released because, from a totally objective point of view, it’s an absolutely incredible and powerful song and I’ll fight you if you think otherwise. The band masterfully combined elements from metal, rock, hardcore, pop, and punk to create a sound and energy uniquely their own at a time where much of what you heard on the radio sounded exactly the same. The kids were not alright; they were tired of the dick jokes and silliness and redundancy associated with many of the scene’s most popular bands at the time. Enter: The Used.
To say this band changed the entire trajectory of heavy music and its cultural influence is a vapid understatement (heard of soundcloud rap?) So when I found out The Used were booking a 2020 tour of small(ish) venues in support of their to-be-released album Heartwork (due out 4/24/2020), I cried a little (a lot), reapplied my eyeliner, and got my camera ready.
Opening on this tour were Dragged Under, from Seattle, Washington, supporting their January 17th release of debut LP “The World Is in Your Way.” I actually stumbled across this band just after their LP was released, and immediately became a fan. Combining elements of hardcore and pop-punk, Dragged Under are one of many up-and-coming bands that owe much of their sound (and the popularity of said sound) to bands like The Used. A mix of clean vocals with dirty screams, airy choruses with pummeling breakdowns, “genre” really seems to matter less and less these days, so long as the songs are damn good. And that is precisely something The Used have banked on ever since their inception, so it made sense having Dragged Under open for the tour (full disclosure: I overheard a conversation before their set that The Used’s guitarist is also Dragged Under’s manager). Nevertheless, Dragged Under played a fantastic set and got the sold-out crowd at Mohawk more than ready.
After a 30-minute changeover, the stage lights finally went black. “Small, simple, safe, price…” The crowd erupts! The opening spoken word piece from The Used’s track “I’m a Fake” instantly recognized by every single attending person in the audience. All of a sudden the entire crowd at Mohawk is chanting along, vibrating and swaying in wait for that one iconic final line, when the rest of the band begins and the crowd can finally melt and ooze into a chaotic moshing bliss: “love is not like anything, especially a fucking knife!”
Just thinking about The Used’s set gives me chills. Performing songs all across their discography, the band sounded energized and powerful. Frontman Bert McCracken was at his absolute best, effortlessly nailing vocal parts that would cripple other vocalists. The band sounded huge too, obviously excited to be performing on a smaller, more intimate scale, especially with such a rapturous crowd screaming back all the lyrics. The sold-out 900-cap Mohawk crowd was a diverse mix of kids with large, black Xs on their hands, and people that could’ve easily been those kids’ parents. Lots of hair dye and studded belts, but also North Face and Sperry’s. These may seem like trivial points, perhaps even reductive, but the underlying reality of these observations is that The Used are a band that has, since its inception, created a space where everyone feels welcome and included. You don’t have to be this way or that way to be a fan; You don’t have to be a certain age; you don’t have to wear that thing, or buy those things, to listen to this band.
If you like the music and the message and want to see it performed live, you go to a show, and there, you will be welcomed and entertained. You will leave feeling happy and connected to a bigger community. It’s really quite simple. And now, you’re one of us, a fan protective of the art and community the band has created and maintained for years. This is what makes The Used such a powerful staple in the music scene. We love this band, and after such an incredible performance, it definitely feels like the band loves us, too.