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#ParklandStrong concert: 8 questions for Chris Carrabba

In a conversation from the road, on his way to perform at New Found Glory’s #ParklandStrong: A Benefit Concert for the Victims of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday (May 16) at the Pompano Beach Amphitheater, South Florida rocker Chris Carrabba spoke about the movement created by MSD students, the Second Amendment and his personal history with guns. Carrabba, who helped define the confessional, heart-on-sleeve style of post-punk music known as “emo,” recently released his first Dashboard Confessional album in nearly a decade. He never brought it up.

You went to Boca Raton High School, not far from Douglas. How did you get involved with this fundraiser?

Two of the members of New Found Glory are from Douglas [vocalist Jordan Pundik and bassist Ian Grushka] and they jumped right into action. They called me as they came up with the idea. … My connection to that school is multifaceted. I was friends with people from there because I went to high school nearby. A girlfriend of mine went there, so I spent time there plenty of times. Now, years later, I have friends that are teachers there, and I have a friend who lost their child. I have to say, this is a devastating experience for me on a lot of levels, as it is for everyone down there.

The child of a friend died in the Stoneman Douglas shooting?

Yes, I have a friend who lost a child. I don’t want to go too far into it. But it hits very close to home. … It’s a unique scenario, where we’re all feeling the same thing. There’s no debate about it if you’re from down there. The rest of the country, there’s some outliers, who are saying things that are complete nonsense. If you’re from down there, there’s nothing polarizing about it. It is just an absolute, tragic shock. …

But what makes me hopeful about what I’m seeing right now is the activism of the students from the school. I don’t think we’ve seen a youth movement like this with the likelihood to actually affect change in such a powerful way since the Vietnam War. This small group is going to change things. It may not be tomorrow. It may be years from now, when they make activism their whole life, but I believe they are going to be the center point of a new and safer society. … I believe that these specific kids from Parkland, they’re going to make the change that sees to it that it will never happen again with such a level of brutality.

I’ll be honest with you, I will go to a firing range. I enjoy shooting guns. But I have no interest in high-firepower, automatic weaponry, anything like that. I think that just comes down to common sense. I think these kids are going to apply that and say, “We’re not trying to take away the right to bear arms, but let’s maybe take away to right to bear some rifles that wipe out people.”

You grew up shooting guns as a kid?

We’d go out to a firing range. It started with a BB gun, then a rifle, handguns every now and again. I enjoy it. … I grew up around guns. I have respect for guns. I know the safe way to use them. I’ve never been a hunter. I enjoy the sport of it. I like darts, too. The thrill of that is I like to aim at targets. I don’t begrudge anyone their right to bear arms, but I absolutely agree that bump stock and modified weaponry is beyond the pale.

When you look out on your audiences, do you see the same kind of kids you’ve always played for, or do you see a generation that is starting to take life more seriously?

I think they do already. I see it every night. I think there’s a seriousness and a social consciousness that is very powerful right now. That actually predates this horrifying situation in Parkland, but I think it’s come to a head with this tragedy. … They’ve had enough. The cards have been stacked against them, high school and college-age people, for quite a while. I think they’ve had enough. I believe it will change from the youth upward instead of elected officials downward.

Can you talk about the #ParklandStrong show, what your set list will be like?

I don’t think I need to think of a set list. Once I get there, that audience will let us know what they need from us. This is not a normal show. It will be impossible to predict what kind of show to try to put out until I understand, just by standing there, what the audience seems to be feeling.

There likely will be Douglas students in the audience. Is that pressure? How do you feel about that?

I feel pride. I’m proud of — I hate to call them kids because they are managing their lives right now as adults, but they are kids. Extraordinary kids. Extraordinary young adults. And I’m in awe of them, I’m inspired by them, and I feel spurred into activism myself because of them.

What kind of activism?

For me, personally, it’s about looking toward the midterm elections and then the presidential election and trying to figure out who to stand behind and to throw whatever small amount of influence I have behind them.

Is that new for you?

No, but it has been done quietly and personally, and now I intend to do it publicly.

New Found Glory, Dashboard Confessional and Ryan Key will perform during #ParklandStrong: A Benefit Concert for the Victims of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 16, at the Pompano Beach Amphitheater, 1806 NE Sixth St. General-admission standing-room tickets cost $25. Visit TheAmpPompano.org.

bcrandell@sun-sentinel.com

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