Teenagers not yet old enough to buy cigarettes spill onto Hollywood Boulevard and wait for the opening bands to finish their sets and let headlining act Say Anything take the stage of the Knitting Factory. It’s the band’s last show of the year, and the crowd is more than excited. Words are exchanged and dozens of kids shuffle inside.

A slightly pudgy 20-something awkwardly approaches the mic. Max Bemis, a poetic wonderkid labeled by LA Weekly the “Charlie Kaufman of the rock world,” looks slightly uncomfortable, as if it’s his first time on stage. Then I remember he mentioned that he self-medicates a social anxiety disorder, and it all makes sense. The smiles on the faces of the other members of Say Anything balance his shaky level of confidence.

At the sound of the first two chords of “Spider Song” bodies begin to collide with one another, forming a small, yet respectable mosh pit that never stops churning. The heavy drums and other instruments crash together, and Bemis’ thick, powerful voice comes alive. It’s starting.

The band released its debut, a “rock opera” entitled Say Anything…is a Real Boy (Doghouse Records) last August, and is quickly turning heads. The group has opened for punk heroes Saves the Day and the Get Up Kids, and has completed a full tour with emo legend Dashboard Confessional.

If you’re hesitant about giving the band a listen, I don’t blame you. I’d rather clean up mounds of camel poop than listen to some rich brat strum four chords and sing, wretchedly, about his fractured relationships with his loving parents and flat-chested girlfriend. Say Anything can’t escape the critics, who label the band “unoriginal copycats” and accuse Bemis of succumbing to the same clich