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ACL Fest review: Jimmy Eat World

Staff Writer
Austin 360

By Erin J. Walter

Editor’s note: This article was originally published October 11, 2013

“I wanna always feel like part of this this was mine! I wanna fall in love tonight!” a red-faced and already sweaty Jim adkins wailed during Jimmy Eat World’s opener, “A Praise Chorus.” It was a pitch-perfect choice to kick off the pop-rock band’s 2:30 set on this first day, second go-round of ACL Fest.

A youthful crowd packed the lawn in front of the Samsung stage well before adkins and company took to it. While the kids mostly seemed to know the Arizona band’s few radio hits (“The Middle,” “Sweetness”), they were clearly eager for the transcendent experience so many J.E.W. songs describe—to fall in love with a band and claim a part of it as your own.

Jimmy Eat World brought a tight, upbeat hour of 16 songs, representing almost their entire album catalog. One-word-title head-boppers like “Work” and “Pain” sounded much as they do on studio recordings and fit in mid-set where other less practiced bands might have wasted time bantering. Indeed, Jimmy Eat World scarcely took a breath between songs. adkins chopped the air with his guitar and sliced through set highlights “Lucky Denver Mint,” “Chase This Light,” and the swirling, dynamic “23.” More songs from classic album “Clarity” would’ve been nice, but who’s in the mood to complain after such an enthusiastic show?

During the one bit of down time, when backup guitarist/vocalist Tom Linton’s guitar needed tech attention after new song “No Never,” the band engaged the cheerful crowd in a round of corny jokes. (adkins: “What did the snail say when it rode on a turtle? … Wheeeee!” He added, “You’re at a real Jimmy Eat World show now that something’s broken.”)

Indeed, something has long been a little off about Jimmy Eat World. They’re too polished to be punk now, but mainstream music fans still view them as fodder for the one-hit-wonder, “Where Are They Now?” bin.

On “Always Be,” adkins sings, “I’m alone in this. I’m as I’ve always been: right behind what’s happening.” There is a sense of open-hearted uncoolness to Jimmy Eat World after all these years, and it’s a huge part of the band’s continued, if not particularly widespread, appeal. If there’s any justice, new album “Damage” and warm ACL reception will remind music fans what old-school J.E.W. obsessives already know: Few bands play tighter, more inspiring powerpop than the uncool kids in Jimmy Eat World.