One of the worst parts about growing up in a small town halfway between Denver and Omaha was obviously a lack of cool shit to do. I never tipped a cow, but I did spend many nights watching concert movies longing for the day that I could see the artists that stared down at me from the posters on my wall. Every few months I would hear about some friends road tripping to a show and try to hop on. The open road, rock n’ roll, no parental supervision. Needless to say my parents never went for it, no matter how many times I told them I was straight edge.
After repeatedly being shot down by my folks, I finally guilted them into letting me go to Denver to see my two favorite bands Green Day and Blink-182 for a once in a lifetime co-headlining show. Not to mention that the opening act on the bill was one of my new favorite bands, Jimmy Eat World. At 16 years old my best friend Cory and I loaded up the minivan, mom and all, and headed west. We ditched my mom immediately at the show, met the drummer for our next band, and the girl that would become my girlfriend that summer held my hand on the way to the merch table, all while feeling 2000 light years away from my real, boring life back in Nebraska. So it felt fitting last Thursday that Cory and I had to drive up to Ft. Collins to see Jimmy Eat World at the Aggie Theater. After a dozen years, it was still just Cory and I on a pop-punk pilgrimage; except this time mom stayed home.
The Aggie is a tall and wide venue that easily could’ve held a stock show and it was packed to the brim for the sold-out concert. Being sort of grown ups now, Cory and I missed all the opening acts and arrived a few minutes before Jimmy Eat World took the stage. They didn’t opened with “Bleed American” like I hoped. In fact, I didn’t even know the song they were playing and neither did Cory. I suddenly realized I probably should have listened to the more recent albums before the show since I dipped out around CHASE THIS LIGHT. We weren’t alone, but the majority of the crowd wasn’t sharing our ignorance.
It was around this time that I noticed a good amount of the crowd looked like people I grew up around in Nebraska, but not the road tripping to shows type of people. They were norms and they loved recent Jimmy Eat World songs. It wasn’t until “A Praise Chorus” that I heard a song that I really remembered. By the time they played “Futures” it was clear this show was not for the aging emo-punks as much as it was the Wal-Mart crowd. The longer they played the more the divide grew and any hope I had for hearing anything off STATIC PREVAILS evaporated.
During “Pain” I made my way down to the pit. As I crossed the all ages barrier I got a waft of a smell I hadn’t smelled in a while. It was sweet and gnarly. It was angst. Near the front I saw a mom taking pictures of her X-handed daughter and best friend. The only difference between these girls and me was gender, a disposable camera, and a mom who left me alone. Even though Jimmy Eat World’s songs have become a bit boring and same-y over the years it is impressive that they are able to cross over many generations of teen angst. Right then all I needed was to hear a song I knew. That’s when the band threw a bone to all the fans that suddenly felt very old and played “Blister” and “Lucky Denver Mint” before closing with “Sweetness” and “Bleed American.”
In the middle of the last song a girl got knocked out by a crowd surfer and the band immediately stopped. Like a class-act, frontman Jim Adkins told the crowd if everyone can’t be safe then they can’t play which was met with unanimous applause. Without missing a beat the band and crowd went right back into the set. For the encore it was a double dose of CHASE THIS LIGHT and FUTURES, until closing with “The Middle” because… you have to.
After 20 years as a band Jimmy Eat World and their music have aged quite well in a state of arrested development. No matter what year it is, 17 year olds will always know what it feels like to be seventeen and Jimmy Eat World will be their soundtrack. The band seemed to know that too, by playing an even and career spanning set for the under-aged kids who came with their mom and those who wanted to remember what having “Xs” on their hands felt like.