Last week, I caught Jimmy Eat World's "secret" appearance at the Mason Jar with Braid. That night, after the show, I had a dream. I was watching Arizona's favorite indie rock sons at some imaginary outdoor stadium, in hospitably mild sunshine. Before the boys played, they were ferried through the crowd on a parade-style float, accompanied by none other than Maricopa County's own sheriff, Joe Arpaio, who had made the foursome honorary deputies in honor of their triumphant return to the stage in the Valley.
Hey, Sheriff, stay the fuck out of my dream. That's not your goddamn jurisdiction.
But back to my head. I often have trouble telling reality from dreamland while I'm sleeping. In this particular dream, I was even stressing out about not being able to find my pen and notepad. I should've known better, though, because the real show, which I was anticipating for weeks, was a miserable, disappointing debacle, only redeemed by J.E.W.'s stellar but too short performance.
If I hadn't known in advance that Jimmy Eat World was playing its first show in the Valley in ages, debuting material from its much-anticipated upcoming album Futures, I never would've ventured into the hellhole that is the Mason Jar that night, as I'm of the opinion that Braid, the headliner, is a bunch of attention-hungry has-been little bitches.
See, back in the mid-'90s, Braid, from Urbana, Illinois, was part of the same generation of pop/emo/indie rock bands that birthed Jimmy Eat World. Braid broke up in August of 1999, but posthumously released three CDs -- the live Lucky to Be Alive, and the two-volume (sold separately) exhaustive collection Movie Music -- a self-important move most bands would be too embarrassed to attempt. The three CDs recycled way too many tracks, especially considering that some of the originals were on the band's last full-length, Frame and Canvas.
Now, remember -- Braid broke up in fucking August of '99. The members went on to pursue even shittier projects: three in Hey Mercedes and one in the Firebird Band. Neither of the bands gained an especially large or loyal following. Thus, the attention-starved boys re-formed for the aforementioned 2004 Braid reunion tour, which bears similarity to the Sex Pistols' Filthy Lucre reunion tour, except it's far more pitiful.
The 'Nix date of the tour, on July 20, was where Jimmy Eat World (longtime friends of Braid) chose to make its "surprise" appearance. If it were my decision, they would've played with Modest Mouse the same week (who happened to be playing with them in my dream), or Sonic Youth. But even Braid wasn't going to stop me from scoping out the Valley's best and most emulated indie rawkers. (I know J.E.W. is on a major label, but it's still fucking indie rock.)
News of J.E.W.'s secret set spread as the show drew near. On the afternoon of the show, an e-mail was sent out to the Jimmy Eat World mailing list, suggesting there would be a surprise guest at the rock show. "Damn it," I thought, knowing the show would be crowded as hell if everyone knew they'd be playing there.
When I arrived at the Mason Jar, it was clear that everyone else in the packed house was there to see Jimmy Eat World, too. The size of the crowd exacerbated the unfortunate fact that once you stepped inside the venue, you were in a subtropical haze of still, moist, hot air. It was fucking miserable. Before J.E.W.'s set, I bought a five-dollar draft Budweiser from the bar. Now, I'm no accountant, but if you're charging five dollars for fucking Budweisers, you ought to be able to afford a decent air-conditioning unit.
In between Jimmy Eat World's songs, singer Jim Adkins announced, "We're all from Arizona, but this is the first time we've played the Mason Jar." After the sweltering, oppressive experience the other night, I'm guessing (and hoping) that'll be the last time the band plays there as well.
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With the humidity threatening to blow Adkins' longish hair into a mushroom cloud, J.E.W. opened its set with "Sweetness," which had teenagers in the all-ages section unselfconsciously wiggle-dancing in circles, making me wish I was 16 again. Then the band played "Nothin' New," an explosive new song that will be on Futures, the new album slated for release on October 19. Jimmy Eat World played several other songs off Futures, but threw in classics like "Salt, Sweat, Sugar," "Get It Faster," "Goodbye Sky Harbor" and "A Praise Chorus." The intimate 40-minute performance, the likes of which is unlikely to happen again anytime soon, was arena-worthy in its energy and larger-than-life sonic grandeur.
The new songs -- portions of which can be heard in a medley posted on the band's Web site, jimmyeatworld.net -- continue the band's legacy of guitar-heavy, hook-laden rockers that simultaneously tug on the heartstrings. The set was vintage, old-school Jimmy Eat World, everything a fan could have asked for from our state's biggest rock stars. If only it had been at a considerate, thoughtfully run venue, with a better band than goddamn Braid, it would have been fucking historic.
The J.E.W. show in my dream, however, totally rocked. Good weather, no Braid. I'm hoping Jimmy Eat World plays the same spot in my head really soon. Just without the sheriff, next time around.