All posts by Nate Wert

Food & Beer Blogger with a passion for small businesses, Craft Beer Aficionado, Music & Concert Lover, Video Games & Sci-Fi Addict, Arizona Native, Traveler to distant lands... like Tucson. Currently owned by 3 rescue dogs.

REVIEW: Surviving — Jimmy Eat World’s Subtle Masterpiece

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Released on October 18th, Surviving is the tenth studio album by Jimmy Eat World. Available in every imaginable format; it can be streamed, purchased as a download, a CD, vinyl pressing, and if you really wanted to throw it way back (as frontman Jim Adkins loves to do) it can be found as a cassette tape. Surviving is an expertly crafted journey, one that explores the time Adkins spent battling depression and self-doubt. There are ten songs on the record — a theme, perhaps, given the release in the tenth month of the year.

From the first notes of the driving guitars, before the kick of the drums, before the ever-recognizable voice of Adkins kicks in, it is apparent that this will be familiar but new ground. The first lines of the title track “Surviving” appear to confirm this:

Don’t hide your face, what you were before
it doesn’t have to be you anymore

The song “Surviving” could be considered a confrontation of sorts. One could interpret it as the singer confronting his past, and simultaneously the listener could perceive it as a confrontation of their own past. It is relatable in every line, and because of that, powerful.

“Criminal Energy” was my favorite to watch live at the Crescent Ballroom a few weeks ago, and the album version is just as good, if not somewhat muted compared to the live version. That is not to say it is bad in any way; rather, this is a song that is designed to get the blood pumping and the crowd dancing. And it is delightful — Adkins’ voice soaring behind the crashing guitars and drums. Just as quickly as it comes, it fades to a softer, slower song in “Delivery”.

While “Delivery” is paced more slowly than “Criminal Energy”, it is deep. There is a subtle beauty in the lyrics, an essence of yearning for the love of the years gone by. This is the genius of Adkins: the ability to relate to each listener even without meeting them, and to draw a picture in such a way that they don’t always realize the scope of the art. 

Adkins continues this in “555”. The art could be lost if you got lost wading through the shock that longtime Jimmy Eat World fans will undoubtedly feel: the shock of a song that sounds more like it came from M83. However, it fits with the message from this song so very well. The expectation of Adkins, and in turn Jimmy Eat World, is that there will be an album that sounds much like what has been done before. There is a danger in that expectation, and it is daring to break it. That is exactly what they do, with synth clapping as the backing and one of the oddest and yet entertaining videos you will ever see.

“One Mil” starts the ramp up back into the heavier songs on the album. The story of wasted chances will resonate with the masses, though I would argue that most of them have never fallen for a camera girl.

Camera girl, you still there?
If I look you’ll disappear
Worse, you might wanna talk
I’m so underprepared

To some it is the classic story of the introvert attempting to find love and upon finding a chance at it, wasting it. To others, it is like a remnant of teenage love, which we would all like to think that we eventually grow out of.

Wish I had mastery of wit, luck and fearless confidence
Then shred majestically to your heart

This story changes in “All The Way (Stay)”, a song that is raw, raw in sound and lyrics, the clang of a guitar and then the echo of a snare drum your only companions at first. It is not comfortable in the first 30 or so seconds, and that discomfort draws you in to listen to lyrics like:

 We get discouraged by the pointlessness
And we’re pretty quick to judge things pointless
There’s what I want and what I need
And the latter takes a while to see

Behind it all, you realize that this is again urging the listener to show who they really are, to allow others, or possibly just one other, to see under the layers where you hide. While the song starts with a crashing drum that may force you to shift uneasily, by the end you will find yourself swaying to the catchy beat and powerful vocals. It is a great lead into a song that has a far more comfortable feel, “Diamond”.

“Diamond” is the song you didn’t know you needed to help you through a really rough time. Hopes, dreams and careers take time, and it’s easy to want to take the easy way out and get a quick payout. After over a quarter of a century playing with Jimmy Eat World, Adkins can say with the utmost confidence in the lyrics:

That’s how a diamond grows, yeah
Give yourself the right chance over time
Don’t believe them
If they try to sell you something quicker, yeah

This theme extends to “Love Never”, where Adkins vocals are on display second only to “555”. This is another life lesson, this time a reminder about love, set over a near frantic beat. Depending on your stage in life, it either serves as a warning for those who still romanticize the ideal love and the idea that cute, fat angels will shoot you with an arrow shortly before you meet the perfect match, or a reminder that love looks a whole lot more like you summoning the strength to not murder your partner for not picking their socks up. At any rate, it is a fantastic, underrated song on this album. 

“Recommit” feels like something that all of us have wanted to sing, or yell really, at that one person in our lives who sits on the fence when push comes to shove. To some, the music may feel a little underwhelming in comparison to the rest of the tracks. However, one can appreciate its beachy pop revivalist vibe that flows and ebbs from the verses to the contrasting heavier chorus that barrels in between them.

The album closes out with “Congratulations”, a song that seems so far out of place that it is a bit jarring. Unlike much of the rest of the album, this seems to almost take a political stance, with lyrics such as:

Suspiciously, through editing
The facts are disappearing
With discipline and message
You’ll take awkward possession
Of nothing you really wanted
Welcome, congratulations

The defiance and air of dissonance present throughout the rest of the album melts into the background, as sarcasm seems to run rampant in this unusual and yet enjoyable song. It should also be noted that Davey Havok of AFI and Dreamcar lent his vocals to this song, something subtle you can pick up on once you know to listen for him.

Surviving is an incredibly solid album overall. It harkens back to the energy we all bore witness to in the fantastic journey that was Bleed American (later re-released as Jimmy Eat World). Adkins is a master of self-awareness, weaving life lessons into the verses in much the same way a master weaver would work threads into a rug. While the frontman has been given much praise in this review, the entirety of the band deserves recognition for this album. While it is the norm for the music world to decide to try to build an architectural masterpiece like the Empire State Building, often falling far short of that lofty goal, Adkins and his bandmates decided to build a comfortable mansion in the Midwest overlooking a lake. The band succeeded in doing exactly what they set out to do, giving the world a sometimes odd but overall enjoyable work that will stand the test of time.

Featured photo (top) by Oliver-Halfin


REVIEW: AWOLNATION Conquers the Coliseum at AZ State Fair (10-23-19)

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PHOENIX — AWOLNATION returned to Phoenix after a nearly year long absence, playing at the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum for the first time. The energy and the noise that AWOLNATION brought with them felt like it would bring down the Coliseum. AWOLNATION took a bit of a break from touring in 2019, only playing a total of four concerts all year thus far. This does not mean they sat back and took a year off; rather, they used this time to record. A teaser clip of “The Best” was released on social media on October 15th, and it will be released on November 5th. Next year’s tour dates should be released soon, and per frontman Aaron Bruno, will include another stop in Phoenix.

The Arizona State Fair concert series are unique in that they are shorter, are often only a single band and under an hour and a half in length. AWOLNATION only needed 70 minutes to nearly shake the roof off the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. There was a small crowd on hand when the lights dimmed and Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World” started to play. Halfway through, it was cut short by the start of “Run”, creating a juxtaposition of the peaceful and the loud, of the lyrics, “And I think to myself what a wonderful world,” and, “I am a human being, capable of doing terrible things.” It was attention-grabbing. it was jarring. It was fantastic.

AWOLNATION
| Photographer:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved.

There are very few artists who can control the energy of an audience like Bruno does. He spoke to the crowd throughout the show, inviting them to dance right before launching into “Hollow Moon (Bad Woof)”. Right after finishing up “Kill Your Heroes”, he announced that he, “Came to party with you tonight!”, as the first notes of “People” were being played. It was indeed a party, a dance party to be precise: “We’re trying to throw a dance party tonight! I’m looking for the best dancer in the building, someone doing something I’ve never seen before!”

If one were to scan the crowd while “Not Your Fault” was playing in the moments after that pronouncement, they would find the old and the young doing everything they could to show him something that he had not seen before. He slowed the dance party down from an all-out frenetic dance to what he called a “perfect opportunity to have an old school slow dance” with Table for One” — a slower track that lends itself to just that.

Aaron Bruno (Vocals), Michael Goldman (Bass), Isaac Carpenter (Drums), AWOLNATION
Photographer:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved.

AWOLNATION did not keep the energy down for long, quickly bringing it back up with “Miracle Man”. Bruno had another request midway through this song: “I want everybody to jump with me. You don’t have to, but it’d be a lot cooler if you did.” In a matter of seconds the stands were shaking.

Zach Irons (Guitar), AWOLNATION
| Photographer:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved.

While much of the focus is on Bruno and his ability to connect and energize the fans, it is very important to note that the rest of the band is incredibly talented. In fact, Bruno seemed to insist that we recognize this, stepping out of the spotlight a couple of times so the entire focus was on the band. The first was “The Buffoon”, a song that starts slow and works the tempo up until one must wonder if it is humanly possible for Isaac Carpenter to play the drums much faster. The second was for a cover of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck”, with Zach Irons absolutely shredding on the guitar, leaving many mouths agape.

The show ended with “KOOKSEVERYWHERE!!!”, played for the first time in concert since mid-2017, and finally Bruno looking out at the crowd and saying, “So. What should we do now?” “Sail”, of course. The song that really introduced the world to AWOLNATION closed out this incredible show.

If you missed out on this concert, fear not. AWOLNATION made it very clear that they will be back next summer, and you will not want to miss this one. Keep an eye out for the tour announcement, and buy your tickets to see this amazing band as soon as they go on sale.

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Andrea Stoica

AWOLNATION – Arizona State Fair 10-23-19

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: WP Frank

Photography © Andrea Stoica. All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Jimmy Eat World Launches “Surviving” Era with Hometown Show at Crescent Ballroom (10-6-19)

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PHOENIX — Jimmy Eat World announced on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram on October 1, 2019 that they would be playing a hometown show at Crescent Ballroom in support of their 10th and newest studio album “Surviving”, which will be released a couple of weeks later on October 18th. The tickets went on sale at the same time the show was announced, and those lucky enough to be on social media at that time managed to snag a ticket or two to what would turn out to be one of the most incredible shows the valley would see in 2019. The opener was Gabriel Sullivan, a Tucson native who also was playing in support of a new album, his 4th: Black Crow, released on September 27th this year.

Gabriel Sullivan

Crescent Ballroom in Downtown Phoenix was less than half full when Sullivan took the stage, his band playing a nearly ethereal opening few notes with the stage bathed in blue light before he bounded onto the stage. Gabriel has a passing resemblance to a younger Eddie Money, his low, growling voice reminiscent of Nick Cave, with a sound that would be at home in a Quentin Tarantino movie. He is, in short, what one would think of if someone mentioned music that sounded like the desert.

By the time the final note had played, he had the crowd’s rapt attention and had many heads bobbing along to the music. Mid show, he raised a can and talked about how incredible it was to open “for your hometown heroes, Jimmy Eat World!” He also made mention of Casey Golden, who had played in the lounge before the show and told everyone to grab the record of a fellow Tucson native.

Jimmy Eat World

 As the stage was prepared for Jimmy Eat World, the anticipation in the crowd built, with a near electric feeling prevalent in the room. Finally, the time came for the band to take the stage, with frontman Jim Adkins wasting no time in starting the show: “Howdy y’all! We’re Jimmy Eat World from Mesa, and this is Surviving!”. The title track off of the upcoming record had a retro sound and yet was brand new. This was the magic of the evening; 21 songs, some new, some old, all sounding timeless and explosive.

Jimmy Eat World just reached 25 years as a band, a milestone that is no small feat, and in that quarter of a century of existence they have released nine records with Surviving being the tenth. To say that they have released some incredible songs over those years would be an understatement, and many songs have resonated with fans in various stages of life. To that end, as past hits such as “Pain”, “Sweetness” and “The Middle” played, Adkins’ face would light up as the fans sang every single word back to him, matching his passion and his energy. Very little time was spent talking to the audience, but every word he said was full of gratitude. Repeatedly, he would wait until the applause died down and would say, “Thank you so much!” At one point, while wiping sweat off his face, he told the audience, “you guys are fantastic. It’s just better when we have our fans.

Jimmy Eat World
| Photo courtesy of Nate Wert

Seven of the songs on the expansive setlist were from Surviving. “All The Way (Stay)” and “Love Never” were already familiar to much of the audience, as they were singles that were released when the album was announced on September 23rd. Others, like “Surviving”, “Criminal Energy” and “555” were new and well-received, with the latter two being heavy, and yet soaring songs, a sound that has traces of “Integrity Blues” and traces of the time Justin Meldal-Johnsen, who produced the album, spent with Nine Inch Nails.

Jimmy Eat World has played many venues all over the world, from the majestic Red Rocks in Colorado, to the enormous music festivals such as Kaaboo Del Mar in San Diego and the massive Rock am Ring in Germany. They can, and do, sell out massive amphitheaters, and yet they appear to still be in awe when they return to their hometown and play a concert in a cozy venue such as the Crescent Ballroom.

Saw some old friends. Made some new friends. Pretty solid afternoon. 🙏@rockamringofficial #rockamring

Posted by Jimmy Eat World on Friday, June 1, 2018


The respect they have for the fans could be witnessed multiple times throughout the night. After “Bleed American” Jim asked the audience to give themselves a hand because “That was really cool!”. Later on he would thank the Crescent Ballroom for allowing them to play, and announced, “We’ll be on Jimmy Kimmel next Thursday! Is it Thursday? It might be Thursday.” As the last notes of “The Middle” were still fading away, members of the band shook the hands of the fans in the front of the stage, gave some high fives, and thanked everyone for coming out again.

One of the coolest parts of the night did not happen on stage. Rather, it happened by the merch booth, where Adkins stood and took pictures and talked to fans up until the point Gabriel Sullivan took the stage. Jimmy Eat World came from a Phoenix music scene that was rough in the 90s, and rose to the top of the nationwide charts. However, as this show proved, they have not and will never forget their roots. This show was a love letter of sorts, a thank you to the fans in their hometown.

There will be a Surviving listening event on October 18, with a Zia Records/Jimmy Eat World pop-up shop, while DJ Chelsey Louise (of Fairy Bones) spins emo classics at Arizona Wilderness. Don’t miss it!

It’s finally here. Can’t wait for you guys to give this a spin. #Surviving #vinyl https://smarturl.it/Surviving

Posted by Jimmy Eat World on Wednesday, October 9, 2019