The first time I ever heard the dueling melodies, somber trumpets, rhythmic drums, and the angst ridden vocals that make up American Football I was in High School. I was listening to a lot of different post-hardcore and indie rock and hadn’t really heard anything like what American Football brought to the table. I was intrigued but not over-sold and didn’t really revisit them until college. Now I get American Football. I understand the depth of the music. I understand what they created in the basement of their college house back in 1999.
Getting the opportunity to see them come together 15 years later to recreate the magic that they captured on their self-titled album and EP was something I didn’t think was ever going to possible. The shows sold out within minutes, despite the band’s efforts to add more dates to accommodate the wealth of listeners they had built up over the years. If not for the work of my talented girlfriend, Ashleyann Silva a senior studying public relations and entrepreneurship, this would’ve never happened. Fortunately for myself, the publicity company that she has interned for, Big Hassle Media, allotted her a photo press pass and a plus one, AKA yours truly.
The scene was set from the moment we arrived outside of Webster Hall. The line was packed full of the older emo generation, who were around to remember the influence that American Football had on the genre, but it also contained some of the younger generation, who respects and worships the band as if they were still a part of the scene (I am of the latter). Upon entry we figured it’d good to go up to the balcony to get a bird’s-eye view of the affair. Into It. Over It. had started their set and were ripping tenaciously through their new take on emo, which clearly is influenced by American Football. We couldn’t get a good spot to see because everyone was packed in tight on the railing, so we descended back downstairs into the heart of the crowd. Luckily we were able to post up in the front right corner of the room next to what appeared to be a security guard. He was standing on some sort of ottoman to get a better view of the crowd.
As Into It. Over It. ended their set and gave their thanks to the crowd, the anticipation set in. You could see it across the faces of everyone in the crowd; a sort of blank stare on the stage while they calculated the possible amount of time the band could keep us waiting for. We watched as their guitar tech set up everything for Mike Kinsella and company. We watched as Kinsella appeared on the side of the stage for a moment and received a warm welcome before he disappeared back into the green room. In the meantime, I went to the bar to grab a $7 Stella Artois.
Then after about 20 more minutes of waiting it happened. I had been lucky enough to inherit the ottoman that the security guard had been standing on in between sets, so I had a great view of the entire venue as I sipped my overpriced imported beer. The house lights went down and four ghostly figures appeared on stage in the form of silhouettes, lit only by the flashes from several cameras in the crowd. And then it all began with the riff from the beginning of “Five Silent Miles.” The lights cascaded over everyone in the hall, and behind the band was a projection of the infamous corner of the house that graced their record cover. They continued through their EP, in an out-of-order fashion, although no one seemed to mind. Everyone was too transfixed on the fact that American Football was on the stage.
Everyone really got excited when Kinsella began to play the beginning of “Honestly?” The entire sea of people formed as one and belted the words as did Kinsella: “Honestly I can’t remember all my teenage feelings, and the meanings. They seemed too see-through to be true.”
In between songs while the band would have to move into another one of their calculated tunings, D A D A C# E to F A C G C E, Kinsella would humor the crowd by simply asking, “What do you guys want to talk about?” Several loudmouths would try their best to shout back witty topics at Kinsella as he stood staring intently down at his tuner to make sure he had it all right. I simply stood thinking to myself, “So, new album anytime soon?”
Kinsella traded his Telecaster for a Bud Light as the band went into their most aggressive, for lack of a better word, song, “I’ll See You When We’re Both Not So Emotional.” The crowd chimed into the famous lines: “You’re so cold to accidents and misunderstandings!”
The night went on and the music just seemed to be getting better. Maybe it gets better with age. And after 15 years of aging, I’d say American Football were at their best. While I was at the tender age of 7 the last time they played any shows, they seemed to be enjoying themselves up on stage as they were playing songs from their adolescents, that didn’t really pertain to them anymore. I mean, Steve Holmes has been out of music for a long time, but it didn’t look like it on Saturday night. The band concluded their set with “The One With the Wurlitzer” as Kinsella told the fans, “We’re going to go over to the side and stand there for a bit,” of course anticipating chants for an encore.
Of course, they delivered and had obviously left out two of their staples from their setlist. The encore began with Steve Lamos playing his trumpet behind his drumset, and touring bassist (and brother of Mike Kinsella) Nate Kinsella played a tom in the corner. Mike Kinsella and Holmes tried to figure out who was supposed to come in first on their track “The Summer Ends” and had to restart it a few times before they got it. The mess up just added to the atmosphere and didn’t phase anyone in the crowd other than giving them a good laugh. They ended their set on a classic note, with their most popular song “Never Meant”, the groovy, math-rock jam that had the whole crowd nodding their heads in-sync. It was a perfect scene to end what felt like a perfect night.
As they left the stage, Kinsella grabbed the empty bottles that he’d accumulated during the set and gave his regards to the fans. He even grabbed one fan’s camera and took a picture for them, something I’m sure that fan will remember for the rest of their lives. The reunion of American Football was greater than advertised and really hit home. Maybe it’s because I’m graduating college this year and understand some of the things that Kinsella brings forth in their lyrics, or maybe it’s because I got to see a band that I’d never thought it’d ever be possible to see. Either way, American Football have certainly left a legacy behind. If they decide to go forward and create new music that will be welcomed I’m sure by all, but if they decide to end it all after this round of tour dates, I wouldn’t blame them one bit.