Opening the night were Tampa natives, Tallhart. Initially sounding like a Christian rock band with “No Sound for You”, they soon morphed into folky alternative with bitter sweet love songs like “8th and Electric”, meriting much praise from the 20-something crowd. Co-opener, lead singer of Eisley, and wife of Max Bemis, Sherri Dupree joined Tallhart on one of their songs, adding lovely female backing and driving the crowd into fits of anticipation. After thanking Max and Sherri for giving them the chance to open, Tallhart left the stage on a high note.
Sherri Dupree then calmly returned, guitar slung over her abdomen, a pick in one hand, and a warm drink in the other. For the event, she donned lavender mid-length hair, a vintage green dress, rolled up socks, green converse and a skull hair piece, treading the line between Emily the Strange and color. Mrs. Dupree gave a solid effort in her performance but her cold caught her off guard, making her sound a bit whiney and lacking annunciation in her otherwise ambient acoustic set. About halfway through her performance, Sherri was joined by Max Bemis in a rare performance of their side project, Perma, singing “Trippin’” and “Fallen Pollen” off of their early EP. Rumors about their potential divorce were tabled for the night when Max lovingly kissed Sherri on her temple and ran back stage to let her finish. Dupree’s brief set was capped by an original Christmas song that “was inspired by Nightmare before Christmas and Hansel and Gretel”, sounding like a creepy stab at “White Christmas”.
Now for the headliner. Max Bemis came to the stage softly but not unnoticed. Without an introductory word, he began strumming “Alive with the Glory of Love”, their first hit off of …Is a Real Boy, immediately following up with fan favorite, “Every Man Has a Molly”.
While Bemis was singing, the crowd nearly drowned him out. For this energy, Bemis thanked the crowd several times throughout the night. After a few songs, he stopped on stage to wipe his face with a tan towel, explaining “this is the first show on tour that has made me sweat. You’re challenging me, and I like it”.
Bemis continued, perhaps feeling coerced by his crowd of fans, to power through catalogues of music from Say Anything and side project Max Bemis and the Painful Splits. There were seldom songs that Bemis could play that the audience did not recite. The notable few were from Say Anything’s upcoming release, Anarchy, My Dear.
While his acoustic translation was well received, some of the band’s songs did not cross over very well. Most notable was “I Hate Everyone”, which lacked the vocal and electric punches that were delivered on the album.
Upon briefly exiting the stage before encore, a group of fans began sing-talking “Admit It!”, arguably one of Say Anything’s best songs. Upon returning Max played topped off the night with “I want to know your plans”. Standing in front of the hungry crowd, whose voices were growing hoarse from singing along, he announced his last song. A weighty boo echoed, to which he responded “What, you don’t like that?’, repeating this and adding a playfully suggestive tone. Bemis assured the crowd that he would be touring with Say Anything in the spring.
Their next record, Anarchy, My Dear is to be released in Spring 2012. The band will be playing the Beacham Theater in Orlando on April 25th, supported by Tampa folk band Tallhart and Naples rockers Fake Problems.