Ten years ago, if you’d asked The Spin what we’d be doing with ourselves on a Friday night in 2011, we probably would have casually replied as follows: “I dunno. Probably, like, writing a review of a Jimmy Eat World or Pedro the Lion show for, like, a newspaper or something.” And then we’d have indifferently swept our hair out of our eyes. Typically, we like to think of our teenage Spin selves as little Dorkensteins who hadn’t yet realized our full potential, street cred- or hip-wise. But, in this instance, Teenage Spin was right.
When we rolled into Cannery’s parking lot at 8 p.m., we sensed an uncommon amount of earnestness billowing forth from the venue and into the February air. It was former Pedro the Lion frontman David Bazan, performing tunes from his 2009 release, Curse Your Branches. It’s a record we genuinely enjoyed when it came out, though it was unsurprisingly riddled with the same sort of spiritual angst Bazan has always worn on his (record) sleeve. The Cannery was sold out and packed with gauged ears, Volcom hats, be-hoodied snugglers and even one particularly gigantic mohawk. Still, it was worth braving if only for the Pedro songs Bazan performed — “Big Trucks” and “When They Really Get to Know You They Will Run,” most notably — while backed only by a bassist and a drummer. Bazan was joined on vocals by Jim Adkins — the “Jimmy” in Jimmy Eat World — for “Criticism as Inspiration,” a particularly Christian-guilt-injected slice of nostalgia.
After chatting with our photographer for a bit about our middle-school days — when countless Ichthuses and shitty Christian band names were doodled on our respective backpacks and notebooks — The Spin caught JEW kicking off their set with “Bleed American,” the titular tune from their 2001 hit record. (You may recall that the song was renamed “Salt Sweat Sugar” in the days of post-9/11 oversensitivity.) Though he’s perhaps a bit more svelte these days, Adkins was pretty much just as we remembered him — same wet haircut and everything. While lit by a large, gangly lighting rig of some sort, the four-piece — well, five-piece now, counting that new lady keyboardist — shocked us into realizing that we remember a shit-ton of lyrics from Bleed American.
So JEW certainly know which side their emo bread is emo buttered on, as they front-loaded their set with plenty of B.A. numbers and saved the newer ones (most of which we’d definitely never heard before) for “the middle” (wink). A lot of the mid-set material blurred into an indistinguishable, aggressively heartfelt haze of ditties about “goodnights” and “goodbyes” and so forth — plus a song called “Coffee and Cigarettes” that we have to say is no match for Otis Redding’s “Cigarettes and Coffee.” But at the tail end of their set — as if to prove that they still have our number — they busted out a couple of songs from 1999’s Clarity, and encored with “The Middle” and “Sweetness.”
All right, listen: Because of the era from which they emerged, Jimmy Eat World still have more than their fair share of emo stuck to them. But they’re a power-pop band, and power-pop has long been the soundtrack to sappy-as-balls perpetual 17-year-olds’ lives. At least these sappy sons of bitches can actually play well live. At least that's the story we're going with if anyone questions our cred.