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Die Happy: The Oral History of Dashboard Confessional ‘Unplugged’

It was, hands down, the best day in the history of the emo stalwarts. Here’s how it came together and how it sounded in the room, through the eyes of frontman Chris Carrabba, his band, and most importantly, the fans.

Zeke Peña

My Chemical Romance is touring again, Paramore and Jimmy Eat World are headlining a major festival this fall, and there’s a skinny, tattooed white dude with a guitar dominating the charts. In case you haven’t heard, emo is back, baby! In honor of its return to prominence—plus the 20th anniversary of the first MCR album—The Ringer is following Emo Wendy’s lead and tapping into that nostalgia. Welcome to Emo Week, where we’ll explore the scene’s roots, its evolution to the modern-day Fifth Wave, and some of the ephemera around the genre. Grab your Telecasters and Manic Panic and join us in the Black Parade.

The first time Alex Coletti went to a Dashboard Confessional show, he felt like he was the only person in the audience not belting out the songs. “How does everyone here know all these words?” he recalls saying to himself. “What is going on?”

The veteran MTV producer was so gobsmacked—and admittedly tipsy—that he called station president Van Toffler’s office number, held his phone up into the air to record the sound of the Saturday night crowd of teens at Irving Plaza 20 years ago, and said, “Listen to this.”

“It was like the Chuck Berry, Back to the Future moment,” Coletti says.

On Monday morning, he explained the noisy voicemail to his boss and pitched an idea: a Dashboard Confessional Unplugged. Toffler quickly gave him the OK. After all, Coletti had steered many of the most memorable episodes of the acoustic series, including Eric Clapton, Nirvana, and Alice in Chains. He’d just discovered Dashboard, but he knew right away that they were made for the show.

“Something about the music, the singing along, the earnestness; these were well-written songs,” says Coletti, then the head of programming and production at MTV2, the new home of Unplugged. “All the things that I’m known for—the sarcasm, the cynicism—it was missing. And I was like, ‘Oh, this feels good. This is really good stuff going on here. And I want to be part of this.’”

Coletti soon met with Chris Carrabba, who started Dashboard as a solo project in 1999 while still with Further Seems Forever. Three years, two albums, hundreds of concerts, countless tracks illegally shared on Napster, and several new bandmates later, the emo act had built a cult following. “Screaming Infidelities,” the first single off their second record The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most—on indie label Vagrant Records—was slowly climbing the rock radio charts. And their frontman, who was reared on classic Unplugged sets, was excited to follow in his idols’ footsteps. But he also worried that his already-stripped-down music was a little too well-engineered for an intimate setting.

“That was my first question,” Carrabba says. “I think I phrased it like, ‘Well, we’re not really taking pieces away and replacing them with an acoustic guitar.’” But Coletti eased his nerves: “His feeling was like, ‘No, what we’re going to do is we’re going to add the pieces that aren’t on the record, which is the audience.’”

A Dashboard Confessional show wasn’t a passive experience. It was a singalong. Shot on April 24, 2002, in New York City, MTV Unplugged 2.0 captures the band at its interactive best. Carrabba and his teenage chorus are entwined; when he drops off, they come in. Loudly, emotionally, and occasionally off-key. Their ever-present voices, as overwhelming as they often are, make the Dashboard Unplugged unique. Without them, the recording would feel incomplete.

“Maybe you hadn’t heard Dashboard at that point,” Carrabba says. “But anybody that had understood what an important piece of the puzzle the audience was—and is.”

Part 1: “I Have No Idea How They Learned the Words.”

In 1999, Carrabba and Dashboard embarked on a tour that kicked off in his home state of Florida. Even back then, crowds seemed to know every single word to all of their songs.

Dan Bonebrake (bass): When we showed up at Tallahassee, he had 150 CDs with him. That’s what we were taking on the two-and-a-half-month tour. I was helping him set up, do merch, drive the van, everything except for playing. We sold 50 CDs, and I decided that we needed to stop selling them because it was the first night, and we had two and a half months of this. I was astounded by how loud everyone was singing.

Chris Carrabba (vocals/guitar): I can’t overstate this. It was just about from the jump. It caught me by surprise. I think it’s become more common for people to sing en masse. I’ve seen this happen more often since, but at least I hadn’t seen it beforehand, and it all just felt very punk rock and hardcore, the scene I was from.

Bonebrake: I have no idea how they learned the words, though, because there’s no way they could have had copies of those songs. Maybe they did what everybody did back then: put it on a cassette or burn a CD-R or something like that. He just kept telling the audience, “Go steal it on Napster … I’d rather you have fun when you come see me play.”

Carrabba: Kids at those shows were used to singing loud and not being heard. To them, they thought this kind of reaction was normal, but this time we could all hear each other. And I do remember the first time it happened that I just stopped singing, but thankfully didn’t stop playing. Because I kept playing, they kept singing, and I thought, “Oh, wait a minute. I’ve got to get back in there.”

Mike Marsh (drums): I was used to Chris as this rock guy. When I first saw him perform, I was kind of like, “What is this folky shit he’s doing? Where’s the Les Paul and the Marshall?”

John Lefler (guitar/piano): You’re getting this wall of kids. It was like certain college football towns that have like the 12th Man crowd. I’d never seen anything like it—coming out of the ’90s and seeing bands like Radiohead, there was more of a cool factor. I don’t think fans are singing along to “Subterranean Homesick Alien.”

David Cohn (general manager, MTV2): They’re screaming at the top of their lungs for every song. That seemed like exactly the kind of thing that we wanted to jump on and get behind.

Cory Casella (fan): The emo genre ultimately came out of punk and hardcore and instead of fans kicking each other and pushing each other out of the way, everyone was just like, “Oh my God, can we cry together?”

Dave Grazynski (fan): When you were at a Further Seems Forever show, or any band like that, the first four rows of people were screaming all the lyrics and the guys were sticking their mics in their faces. And this was just the acoustic version of that—an easier way to listen to something that is usually faster, louder, and more bombastic.

Sarah Flanagan (fan): We were so used to everyone having this big front. Everybody was “posers.” Nobody was punk enough. And then, all of a sudden, people just weren’t trying to be that.

Kate Flanagan (fan): They were just crying in their polo shirts. It was like, “Wait, what? This is allowed?”

Grazynski: Everybody at 19 in 2002 was just full of self-pity. I mean, it was just the most miserable time to be alive for no real reason whatsoever, right? There’s all these girls around, but I’m listening to this dude, and I’m like, “But man, nobody’s going to love me.”

Evon Valentine (fan): Chris’s songs were just so emotional and just hit the heartstrings … That sounds so emo.

Alex Coletti (executive producer/director): He’s like this miniature Wolverine.

Stephanie Bonavito Singh (fan): I remember him being so small. His butt was the size of a deck of cards.

Coletti: All tatted up, singing his heart out.

Marsh: Chris was a really handsome guy. This punk kid with the pompadour and the tattoos. He had this look about him. It pulled people into the folk thing that may otherwise have not been pulled into it. Here’s this punk rock kid who’s kind of trying to do the Dylan thing, you know?

Bonebrake: It was great. If we sent him to the merch stand, everybody followed him.

Lefler: They’re not reacting to me. Let’s be very clear.

Kate Flanagan: Of all of the different emo bands—All-American Rejects, Saves the Day, and everyone else—[Dashboard] were the kind of most mainstream. 9/11 had happened in September, and they were the ones who encapsulated, for me anyway, those insane feelings I couldn’t express.

Casella: For me, an 18-, 19-year-old girl, I was just very into his look in the sense that I thought he was dreaming, writing songs about looking for love. And I was like, “I’m looking for that, too.”

Part 2: “We’re Actually in This Together.”

Leading up to the Unplugged taping, Coletti and MTV set out to recreate the atmosphere of a Dashboard show—in the same Times Square studio where Total Request Live was staged. Meanwhile, the band had a lot of work to do to prepare for their biggest gig yet.

Carrabba: It worked in my favor, the fact that it happened so quickly. Because you didn’t have time for the disbelief to creep in.

Marsh: We were all these punk rock kids. We’re just like, “MTV? Holy shit. This is insane. This is really happening.” It was really exciting but it was kind of unnerving. I honestly don’t know that we were ready for that type of thing at that point.

Lefler: It’s shooting on April 24. I met Chris and the rest of the guys in the band on April 10. That’s exactly two weeks. And so I’d only been listening to the music for two weeks. Luckily, this was prior to me having any sort of singing role in the band, but it’s pretty nuts.

Bonebrake: My idea about bands is that every single night you always want to be better the next time. Dashboard was a band where we would talk about how well the show went and what we would work on. It was a band that tried to be better every night, every time we performed. So I think that helped out with the Unplugged episode.

Lefler: There’s a show called Quantum Leap, with Scott Bakula. That was what my life was like—like I woke up in someone else’s life.

Carrabba: The prep for this set was fairly intensive, even though we had a short amount of time to do it. We just rehearsed a lot.

Marsh: We weren’t really the type of band that was trying to polish something. We were really just interested in the raw nature of the music that we were creating. Even with the way Chris was screaming and holding these notes, they weren’t in tune. He’s just screaming. He’s just going for it.

Carrabba: To be honest with you, I think I blew my voice out a little bit from rehearsing. Which probably helped me to lean on the audience in such a way that they sang even more.

Coletti: A lot of times with MTV Unplugged, especially the ones in the bigger rooms where the audience isn’t so present, you’ve got ad sales people, you’ve got marketing people, you’ve got the label people. But when everyone’s on camera with the artist in that small studio, it’s crucial that they are real fans.

Carrabba: I don’t think there was anyone there that it was their first time seeing Dashboard.

Coletti: We ended up going to another Dashboard show in New York and getting names and numbers for people. We made sure we walked around and said, “You, come here. Give me your phone number. You. You. You.”

Casella: We were seeing Dashboard Confessional in New York City, and while we were on line to get in, somebody from what seemed like a street team came up to us with these flyers and was like, “We’re having a free Dashboard Confessional concert if you’re interested.” It was very weird. It almost kind of felt like a scam because it didn’t say anything except “free concert” and it had a phone number to call. And when we called the number, it was actually MTV.

Then-teenagers Sarah and Kate Flanagan’s father, Bill, was an MTV executive.

Kate Flanagan: He kind of let it slip that Dashboard was playing.

Sarah Flanagan: We probably had to say we were 16 or older. I don’t think we were actually supposed to be there.

Kate Flanagan: We really had to talk him into letting us go on a school night. But I remember when I got there, I was like, “How are all these other kids here on a school night?”

Sarah Flanagan: They were older than us.

Kate Flanagan: So much older.

Grazynski: I was a big Dashboard Confessional fan—as most 19-year-old, sad college dudes were, right? And my friend Eric got tickets through a girl that he was dating. His girlfriend was not a real big fan of the band, but basically, he remembers thinking, “I think they’re just trying to fill this place with hot [people].”

Casella: When we got there, they had us all wait in a line that wrapped around the building. And then I think somebody was coming around and deciding who they wanted to put in the front.

Carrabba: I remember telling Alex that I’d like to say hello to the audience themselves before they came in. I thought it was important that we met outside of the room. When we go on stage, there’s this artificial barrier, and I think one thing that makes me different from some other people that do music is that I don’t care for that. Other people like to have the division in order to feel that they can maybe get into the character of the song or something. I feel like it reeks of self-importance.

I just thought the cameras were going to worsen that divide. I think Roger Coletti, Alex’s brother, was working on the day too, and he walked me through the line. And I think that he thought I was just going to pop over, say hi, in like a performative way or something, and I settled in for long talks with so many people because I was like, “This is it. This is my one chance to make them feel like we’re actually in this together.”

Part 3: “It Felt Like I Was in an Abercrombie Store.”

The Dashboard Confessional Unplugged is a perfect snapshot of 2002, when MTV was at its tastemaking peak, home to the massively popular TRL and several reality franchises. The network still had cachet among artists gunning for their big break, and was the epicenter for trends in fashion and pop culture.

Carrabba: Famously, I don’t have a vast wardrobe. I stick to a uniform that you can repeat and fit in a backpack and go on tour for the rest of your life. I do remember a lot being made of, “You should have a new version of this exact same stuff.” Oh, man. Is it possible Ben Sherman sent over that shirt I wore? I don’t think I’d ever been given anything for free.

Lefler: It’s like when you’re a kid and you just kind of take what clothes are given to you. Then when you have your first job, you’re like, “Oh, I’m going to go the next step higher. What’s the nicest store at the mall?”

Bonebrake: They took us to Diesel. That was a little awkward for me. I’d never owned a pair of Diesel jeans and all the other guys in the band had had some Diesel jeans. I felt like I couldn’t possibly pay that much for a pair of jeans, but they were giving them to us.

Marsh: When you’re a 20-something-year-old kid and have no money to buy designer clothing and someone’s like, “Hey, do you want a bunch of free designer clothing?” It’s like, “Fuck, of course I want a bunch of free designer clothing.”

Lefler: I actually wore a Diesel watch, which I still have actually. I don’t know why I was wearing a watch. I think Mike asked for a watch and got a watch and I wasn’t one to be outdone. You can imagine you’re playing acoustic guitar, anything clunking against the guitar is going to be heard in the recording. So, not a very smart move for me.

Carrabba: I was in a band doing something, and I remember being really proud of that, like, “Hey, look, I got a free shirt!” The same way that I might have been if I had bought enough two-by-fours at Home Depot and they threw [one] in [for free] or something.

Bonebrake: You got to do hair and makeup, which is always a weird thing. I think I used a picture of Jeff Tweedy from Wilco, and I remember asking the lady that cut my hair like, “Hey, can you do something like this?” I remember we had sushi in the green room.

Lefler: You get a little photo booth. It’s MTV and it’s kind of like you’re a tourist.

Carrabba: Gibson outfitted us with some better guitars. I remember that more than the clothes. There’s a long, long list, but one of the first bands that ever stuck their neck out for us was a band called the Anniversary. And so I grabbed that pin and put it on my strap just as a way to make sure they understood I was really grateful. We were all, as a scene, in this rapid succession. First it was me, and then My Chem, and Fall Out Boy, and there were a lot of chips that would fall. We just all—especially those earliest bands—really tried hard to understand that we’re a community with or without commercial success.

Casella: Going to one of those concerts, you felt a sense of community immediately.

Grazynski: I was a sophomore in college at Fairfield University. So we go in, and I remember feeling jealousy because there were a bunch of my fellow students that were seated behind the band. And I was like, “That is bullshit.” Because I actually have seen this band before and I was in the scene, sort of.

Casella: There were just a whole bunch of seats in the center where you were sitting on the floor facing the band. And me and my girlfriend were actually sat right next to the band. We were literally just two people away.

Grazynski: I remember going to this taping and it felt like I was in an Abercrombie store.

Casella: I was wearing a blue T-shirt that I had thrifted from a Salvation Army. With a colored shirt underneath it, because that was the emo look.

Singh: There were three banks of bleachers, and we were on the upper left. I had a short haircut, like a pageboy. I’m pretty sure you can see Evon’s tongue ring, because our mouths are open the whole time singing.

Kate Flanagan: I remember being super self-conscious about how close we were all sitting too, and how lit it was. There was so much light.

Coletti: We lit it a little brighter, too. Usually in an Unplugged, it’s a little darker in the studio because at times it’s hard to control that amount of light. But it was kind of like, “[The audience is] part of it. They’re part of this. It’s a Greek chorus.”

Kate Flanagan: There was no hiding. And that felt super uncomfortable before they started playing. But then when Chris started playing and the band came, suddenly, it was like the right focus was there.

Carrabba: You are keenly aware of how well you can be seen and you can see the audience. And so, you’d start to fret about maybe how the camera’s capturing you, but then your eyes can land on somebody and you can see their eyes, and you can find this moment to share like, “OK, we’re playing music.”

Part 4: “What the Essence of Dashboard Confessional Is”

Carrabba opened the show solo with “The Swiss Army Romance.” Then, during “The Best Deceptions,” he unleashed such emphatic screams that viewers at home could see the fillings in his molars. (“I had to have work done on that two years later,” he says. “And they replaced it with the current one that’s just the same color tone as your tooth. I’ve been asked about that so many times.”) After finishing the second song, he told the audience, “You guys sound good. Don’t be shy.” Not that they needed any prodding.

Singh: Everyone’s singing their heart out and thinking about their ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends. It was very intimate.

Casella: I feel like Chris loved the fact that it was like a singalong.

Sarah Flanagan: The thing that I remember the most is trying to sing along to every single song, and Alex being like, “Sarah, you didn’t know all the words did you?” I really thought I did. Occasionally, I would definitely miss a word, but I wouldn’t tone it down at all. I still sang very loudly.

Coletti: Chris knew when to step out and let them take over.

Carrabba: It’s funny: There’s a few people I can picture because they’re part of the album artwork.

Bonebrake: It was weird because usually when I looked back at Mike, there was nobody behind him. It was just a tarp or a backdrop. There were kids back there, and it’d be like, “Oh shit.”

Marsh: I remember the people that were singing behind me were so loud and just so out of tune.

Lefler: Chris is so confident during that performance. If he was nervous at all he certainly doesn’t seem like it. You’re just kind of like, in awe. And there is a security in knowing that the audience is going to sing the words.

Coletti: My editor Derek [Ambrosi] had nicknames for everyone in the audience based on what they were wearing and what they did. So if I needed a shot of someone, he’d be like “Pearls.” So we knew the audience kind of as well. They were just an extension of the band for us.

Carrabba: The very first time he saw me at the show at Irving Plaza, Alex told me, “What I saw here tonight was what I’d always hoped would happen during one of the Unplugged and it never did.”

Coletti: Any mic that was open was getting audience. The audience was in everything. But it doesn’t feel egregious to me. I just watched it after many years and it feels like it did when I walked into Irving Plaza that night.

In reality, it wasn’t easy recreating the feel of a Dashboard show for a TV taping. Like almost all Unplugged episodes, this one had some retakes.

Casella: It was very obvious to us as audience members that that was what MTV wanted to recreate and showcase, because the band would play a song and then the producer would come out on stage and be like, “OK, that was really great, but we’re going to play it again. And we want everyone to sing along louder.”

Marsh: Being given direction at a live show, like, “Hey, do this, or let’s do that over,” it’s just a weird thing. I think any band would agree. It’s a weird thing to have to redo a song. Once you redo something and redo something and redo something, there’s something that becomes kind of contrived.

Grazynski: In between songs, I remember saying to somebody, “We’ve gotta get out of here. We’ve been here for hours and we’re going to miss our train.” I know that I spoke to a producer directly. I remember the words coming out of my mouth, “It is not worth it for me to sleep in Grand Central for this band or this taping.” And then I remember some of the producers were trying to be like, “Well, aren’t you worried that you’re going to miss it?” I just remember saying, “No, I have to leave. Enough is enough.”

Casella: We ended up having to sing along to “Screaming Infidelities” seven times. And I remember just being like, “I can’t do this anymore.”

Carrabba: I know how she feels.

Marsh: It was like, “I don’t really know what we’re even chasing now that we’re doing this for the fifth time. What are we chasing?” Oh, well, I know what we’re chasing: We’re chasing lighting, audience, and camera angles.

Carrabba: There were a few testy moments. I have just one memory of getting it all the way right and feeling like it’s going over the top, a performance of a lifetime. Which is what you aim for every time you strum your guitar in front of anybody. You hope this is the one—and then there’s a camera problem or something starts you over. You can’t divorce yourself from feeling the loss of that moment.

Marsh: I remember feeling the same as Chris. I remember even looking at Chris and catching each other’s eyes and being like, “Oh, boy.”

Carrabba: This may be something I’ve invented in my mind, but I say it so often and I constantly attribute it to Alex: I think Alex said something like, “Man, that was incredible. That was almost as incredible as this next one.”

Bonebrake: I do remember something that Alex said to me when we were done recording. I was like, “Oh, yeah, sorry we had to do a retake,” or something like that, and he was like, “I’m going to tell you the truth. There’s only one MTV Unplugged that doesn’t have edits and retakes.” He said, “And that’s the Nirvana one.” I was like, “Holy crap.”

Coletti: I felt a similarity between these two because of how Chris and Kurt both would talk to the audience between songs and not take them for granted.

Casella: ​​Even though there was an aspect of it that was very much produced—“Sing louder. Look more into it.”—I feel like Chris and the band really did try to connect with the fans and engage with them in that atmosphere, which was what made it a really special experience.

Lefler: That’s what the essence of Dashboard Confessional is. Chris playing, being a leader to this moment between him and the crowd—and the interaction between them.

Carrabba: That crowd of people were so game to be part of this. The spirit was easy to maintain.

Part 5: “He Wears His Heart on His Tattooed Sleeve”

Dashboard closed Unplugged with “Hands Down,” a song Carrabba told the audience was “about the best day that I’ve ever had.” “My hopes are so high / that your kiss might kill me,” he sang, “So won’t you kill me / so I die happy.” A few moments later, after the crowd yelled the line, “So we can get some!” the camera found two girls high-fiving. The anthem sent the teenage audience off into the night on a high note. By that point, though, everyone was too tired to celebrate.

Carrabba: I could barely speak. I remember it being relatively unceremonious, but also you have to remember: it wasn’t like it aired. We didn’t feel like conquering heroes. We felt like, “Oh, what an interesting and exceptional experience to have. I hope somebody sees it.” It was late. I know I was just deposited at a hotel where I probably fell into bed expecting to fall asleep, and probably didn’t. That’s how I remember it.

Bonebrake: He would always put in the time, no matter how tired or how weary he was getting, because of the fans. Dashboard’s always been about the fans. They made it something special.

Kate Flanagan: Maybe because we were babies, it felt like the taping went on forever, like, deep into the night.

Casella: I was going to college upstate and the concert lasted so long I ended up missing the last train back.

Singh: I live about 90 miles north of the city, and we missed our train. We actually slept in Grand Central Station that night.

Grazynski: I absolutely made the train back to Fairfield that night.

Valentine: The part where Grand Central meets the subway was open and it was, I don’t know, 50 feet from the street. And there was NYPD there making sure we didn’t go into Grand Central Station. We were all lying on the ground with whatever we had. It was so dirty and I just remember the cops sitting on stools, just looking over all these scene kids just laying there.

Bonebrake: That crowd that showed up was pretty special, man.

MTV Unplugged 2.0 aired on June 16, 2002, and six months later the record hit stores. (Since it was the early aughts, the release included both a CD and a DVD.) That fall, Spin published a snarky spread about the audience’s intense enjoyment of the band’s performance that asked “Have Dashboard Confessional Brainwashed Their Fans?” In early 2003, however, the magazine ran a positive review of the album: “The content is so un-TRL that it feels like television from another dimension: The fans don’t just sing the songs back to Carrabba, they actually start and finish them,” Alex Pappademas wrote. “No matter how far Carrabba has moved from his punk roots creatively or commercially, the performance does what punk is supposed to do: It sizes up the barrier between the ‘talent’ and the paying customers, and then puts a boot through it.”

By then, Dashboard had already gone mainstream. But Unplugged cemented Carrabba’s status as a rock star. The next year, the band released their best-selling album to date, A Mark, a Mission, a Brand, a Scar, and in 2004, they scored their first top 40 hit with the Spider-Man 2 soundtrack cut “Vindicated.” Twenty years and several lineup changes later, Unplugged remains a signature moment for both Dashboard and their fans.

Carrabba: You’re already plugging along with this success that eclipsed any vision you could have entertained, and then MTV Unplugged came out and it just supercharged the whole enterprise. It was so weird. You didn’t have to explain who you were and where you went for a while.

Casella: It almost felt like my 15 minutes of fame. Everybody was calling me and they were like, “You’re on TV right now.” And I was like, “I know, this is so weird.”

Singh: I remember Evon hitting me up and she’s like, “Yo, we’re on TV.”

Grazynski: I was 19, I was in college. I figured out a way to scam my way into an MTV taping that was very obviously being cast with really hip, Abercrombie, normal hot people. We just snagged tickets and waited in line and conned our way in. If I had to do this timeline again, in the multiverse somewhere, I’d probably fucking do it again. For sure. It probably would play out exactly the way that it played out. I probably would still leave early.

Sarah Flanagan: I was starting high school the next year. Being the girl that was in the background of the Dashboard Confessional Unplugged? Off to a great start. I get a little embarrassed when I see myself singing along. You feel it so much, but it doesn’t look as cool as it feels.

Coletti: The reason it’s called Dashboard Confessional and not Chris Carrabba is because it’s bigger than him, and I think it was always bigger than the band: I think the name was meant to encompass the audience as well.

Carrabba: I’ve been very lucky to meet somebody like Alex, and I’m so very fond of him as a person and as an artist and as a craftsman. He’s one of the all-time great people. There are only a handful of people in my whole life that look at an artist and see everything that they have to offer and just be able to say, “I know how to help them find it for themselves.”

Coletti: I had famously—and infamously—produced the Janet Jackson Super Bowl halftime show for MTV. And when shit hit the fan the next day, the first person to call me was Chris Carrabba saying, “If you need someone to testify as to what kind of person you are …” I was like, “Dude, thank you. I’m good, but thank you.” He was just there for me.

Casella: It’s funny because I feel like Dashboard kind of has had almost a little resurgence over the last few years. And then I start seeing the videos from that night recirculating and I’m like, “Oh my God, there they are again. There I am again.”

Kate Flanagan: I listen to Dashboard to find my feelings, like the feelings I know I probably should be feeling, the things that I know I’m probably somewhere feeling but am not necessarily acknowledging because I’m a grown-up.

Coletti: He wears his heart on his tattooed sleeve.

Bonebrake: I know Chris and the band, they’ve done a lot bigger things after I left. But it’s a career highlight. That platinum DVD, it hangs in my living room.

Lefler: Where Chris came from in the early days of the internet and the relationship he had with fans, with Napster, and the kind of a grassroots way he came about—I don’t think that you could replicate this type of performance.

Marsh: There’s nothing like someone coming up to you and telling you that something that you did that you didn’t even realize you were doing at the time changed the course of something for them. Honestly, nine times out of 10, it’s that performance that people remember.

Carrabba: I haven’t watched it the way people have watched it, the way I’ve watched other MTV Unpluggeds. I want to one day, when all these memories fade. There doesn’t seem to be a hint of that happening now. I can see that audience in front of me. I can picture their clothes, I can picture their faces, I can hear their voices.

Interviews have been edited and condensed.

60 Songs That Explain the '90s

‘60 Songs That Explain the ’90s’: “Basket Case” and the Big Deal About Green Day

The Town

The Future of Live Events and Late Night TV With Grammys EP Ben Winston

Sound Only

Reviewing ‘Bull’ and ‘Let’s Start Here’

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