Adam Lazzara of Taking Back Sunday wraps his mic around his neck during "A Decade Under the Influence." | Credit: Caitlin Kelley

“Nostalgia” feels like a dirty word in the age of soulless Hollywood remakes. But Jimmy Eat World and Taking Back Sunday’s October 19 show at the Vina Robles Amphitheater offered a different take on the concept. 

On this chilly night in Paso Robles, fellow aging millennials lined the open-air Vina Robles that, as the name suggests, is an add-on to a winery. Nosebleed onlookers dotted the scenic venue’s grassy slope on beach towels while sipping from wine pitchers. Still, the upscale atmosphere couldn’t stop the pit from opening up. 

Taking Back Sunday

Front man Adam Lazzara emerged from backstage with a dollop of bleached hair covering his face. (A hue my generation may recall from a certain Degrassi episode.) He quite literally came out swinging with the signature baton twirl of his microphone, zigzagging through the air as Taking Back Sunday launched into their back catalog. 

In the pantheon of emo bands with two vocalists, the end-half of “A Decade Under the Influence” has one of the most powerful interplays between different vocal styles. Lazzarra and John Nolan weaved and bobbed menacingly while the former wrapped his mic cord around his neck. 

Taking Back Sunday at Vina Robles on October 19. | Credit: Caitlin Kelley

There were the occasional moments when more recent material shined. “Tidal Wave” went in more of a cowpunk direction reminiscent of Social Distortion — but this maturation of their sound blended seamlessly into the backward-looking arc of the night.

Still, the older tracks weren’t treated like relics frozen in time. It was more like nostalgia became an action verb, an expression of what it means to grow alongside a cherished memory. Case in point: “Cute Without the ‘E.’” The smattering of adults attempted to open the pit in what I can only assume was a bid to mimic the intensity of the Fight Club homage of a music video. But the moshing died out just as quick as it started. Nothing more sobering at a winery than the realization of your own mortality — that maybe 30 is too old to slam-dance. 

That didn’t stop the closer “MakeDamnSure” from proving the gang vocals that are a defining element of emo are that much more potent with a whole crowd singing along like a Greek chorus of long-subsided angst. As one grown man in the pit neatly summed up the night: “We’re all old together!” 

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Jimmy Eat World

Jimmy Eat World may have started with “Futures,” but they were looking to the past — for the most part. After all, it was the 17th anniversary of their 2004 LP of the same name. 

The highlight of that particular rear view was “Night Drive.” Let’s just say this track doesn’t get enough credit in the canon of Down Bad Anthems. By turns lulling and ominous, the fluttering feelings of dysfunctional love were faithfully rendered as the crowd swayed back and forth. 

Jimmy Eat World opened with “Futures” at Paso Robles. | Credit: Cindy L. Huang

2019’s Surviving offered the only post-2007 representation on the 15-track setlist, which wove the slower and dreamier material into the mid-section. In particular, the synth-laced “555” displayed front man Jim Adkins’s talent for moody pop hooks. 

But the Bleed American era took up prime real estate on the setlist, which included beloved deep cuts like “No Sensitivity” along with blockbuster sing-alongs like “The Middle” and menacing earworms like the title track. 

As expected, pre-closer “Sweetness” collapsed the quiet-loud dynamic into the verses while the band cranked it way up on the chorus to the point that the frenzy made you feel dizzy. Then Adkins changed it up with a slowed-down groove at the bridge that made the hook that much “more rewarding” when the mania picked up again. The power of the call-and-response was magnified by the energy in the pit. “If you’re listening,” went the well-worn line. And sing it back we did. 

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