songbook: bleed american

In M|H’s weekend feature, songbook, I’ll be looking at some of my favorite songs. Some I haven’t listened to in years, some I keep in regular rotation, but all having in some way informed my life, my taste, and and how I view music.

Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American

Shortly after becoming obsessed with Clarity, I fell in love with Jimmy Eat World’s 2001 release, Bleed American. I remember first seeing the video for the self-titled single on MTV or MTV2 – it was startlingly aggressive compared to the sweetly hazy indie/emo/pop of their last release. I also remember going to buy the album – I went Sound and Vision at the Westgate Mall in Bethlehem, PA. Why this detail sticks out to me, I don’t know, but a quick internet search tells me the shop no longer exists. I haven’t been back to Bethlehem since I was twenty years old, and I imagine much of my high school landscape is similarly missing or altered.

A few months after Bleed  American was released, I found out Jimmy Eat World was scheduled to play a show in New York for the MTV2 $2 Bill series. The coupling of never having seen them play and the bargain-basement ticket price put me on a mission. I needed to go to that show. I was still under 18 at the time, and Pennsylvania had those pesky “Cinderella licenses” – you couldn’t drive after 11 PM and you couldn’t cross state lines without opening yourself up to gaps in insurance coverage and possible tickets depending on the other states’ recognition of the junior license. Regardless of the legal hangups, I doubted my parents would have let me venture to New York by myself, even by bus, so I convinced my dad to drive me into the city on the day they were giving out tickets at Irving Plaza and the MTV Studios store. At 82 and 84 miles door-to-door, respectively, the request seemed reasonable to me, and, as it turned out, to my father, too.

In addition to having a hassle-free, no-cost ride to New York, getting my dad to drive me meant that I could have him drop me off at Irving Plaza and he could try to get tickets at MTV. Each person could claim two tickets, so I figured that at  least I’d be covered and at best I’d be able to treat a couple more friends to the show for free. Also by splitting up, there was a greater chance of getting something if one location sold out. When I got to Irving Plaza (now the Fillmore), the line didn’t look too long. There were a couple hundred kids in line ahead of me, but I had arrived several hours before the box office opened and it was a good-sized ballroom.

After several hours of sitting on pavement, freezing in the shade (the day was colder than I’d anticipated for late summer, and my hoodie was not cutting it) the box office opened and the line moved forward pretty quickly. With two people ahead of me, the line came to a stop. Sold out. I was incredibly disappointed (who knows, had I gotten there five minutes earlier I may have been in front of those people and gotten a ticket), but still had hope that my dad had been more successful. I paced the block, waiting for my dad to call with an update. I watched the cool-looking kids lounging in Union Square Park, wondering if it would end up being a place I spent the day reading if I ended up at NYU. Finally, my dad called – no dice. He had gotten to the MTV store plenty early, but the people handing out the tickets didn’t abide by the two tickets per person rule. Had they, we’d have been home-free. Total bummer. I don’t remember doing anything in the city that day – I think the disappointment and two-hour drive home convinced us to just throw in the towel and head home.

On September 4th, 2001, Jimmy Eat World played the show while I pouted at home in Pennsylvania. Exactly one week later two planes flew into the World Trade Center, just two miles south of Irving Plaza. In light of September 11th, Jimmy Eat World changed the name of Bleed American to Jimmy Eat World, and the title track to “Salt Sweat Sugar”. The New York skyline was scarred, and the American landscape was forever changed. Things eventually evened out to a new normal. I chose the University of Wisconsin instead of NYU, saw Jimmy Eat World at a Y100 Feztival, American flags stopped adorning every available surface, and the band eventually switched back to calling the album Bleed American. I’ve seen nearly ten years pass and attended hundreds of shows since, but this will be a show I’ll never forget in spite of not actually having been there.