Taking Back Sunday 3rd Annual Holiday Spectacular


For the last three years, Taking Back Sunday has performed their Holiday Spectacular show the same mid-December weekend at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ. Right in the midst of the holiday season, fans lace up their old Converse and wait in anticipation for Ol’ Saint Adam Lazzara to come on stage and deliver some holiday cheer. With a couple of dollar store Santa hats and a lengthy “Best of TBS <3” Spotify playlist, former CV members Zachery and Justin Westdyke, our oldest brother, and I took off to see the Saturday night show. The two bands that opened for Taking Back Sunday, Gates and Acceptance, were well-received by the audience. Gates is notorious for its vibey, emotional anthems. If you’re a fan of Have Mercy or The Story So Far, you will fall in love with this band. If you haven’t heard them, definitely give “Not My Blood” and “Captive” a listen. Their live performance was even more awe-inducing than I had expected it to be. The way all of the members headbanged with their flowing hair in perfect synchronization really jingled my bells.


Acceptance, best known for their 2005 album Phantoms, ventured all the way across the States from Seattle, WA to play for the Holiday Spectacular. I’ve only just started listening to these guys recently and completely underestimated just how talented they are until I saw them live. Their instrumentals are ingenious and they absolutely nailed them onstage. Not to mention, Anberlin’s Christian McAlhaney is their guitarist and seeing him play brought me back to 2008. Acceptance just released a new single on December 5 titled “Diagram of a Simple Man.” I highly recommend giving that a listen in addition to Phantoms.

The arrival of Taking Back Sunday energized the crowd. While I expected them to play a bunch of songs off their newest album, Tidal Wave, they mixed in a hefty number of classics from Tell All Your Friends and Where You Want to Be. The holiday spirit had everyone feeling just as jolly as they were angsty that evening. Strangers and newfound friends threw arms around each other, screaming “I’ve got it bad!” along with John Nolan as the band concluded the much-anticipated “A Decade Under Influence.”

The night took a number of emotional twists as the band played through its set list. I was impressed to see Adam break out an acoustic guitar and perform a song as compassionate as “Call Me in the Morning” shortly after having rekindled the decade-old feud between Nolan and Brand New’s Jesse Lacey with “Timberwolves at New Jersey.” Not-so-joyful memories were recalled when the band performed “Better Homes and Gardens” and shouts of “I hate you (insert ex’s name here)!” came roaring from the crowd (Yeah, I joined in, so what?).

And just when you thought the overwhelming angst was about to steal Christmas, the band broke out with their signature conclusion to the show: “MakeDamnSure.” This has been a fan favourite since the release of Louder Now in 2006. With one last chance to solidify my hate for all the Grinch boys I’ve encountered in my life, I found my way to the center of the crowd and lost the last fragment of my voice I had left.

Holiday magic was made at this show. I look forward to the fourth, fifth, and subsequent annual Holiday Spectaculars Taking Back Sunday performs at Starland Ballroom. I’m endlessly thankful to be lucky enough to live so close to such an extravagant venue that stages such an extravagant performance each December. If you are a fan of these guys and you’re looking to relive your high school years, I enthusiastically suggest taking the trip to see it.


Image via Lauren Ziolkowski.