If midwest emo trailblazers American Football had only ever existed for their initial, short, three-year run, and only released their single eponymous, now-classic 1999 debut LP, as for many years, seemed would be the case, they would’ve undoubtedly been remembered as icons of their scene; a band whose existence was all too brief, and whose immense influence on the emo explosion of the subsequent decade wasn’t fully recognized or appreciated until the cult status they achieved after their breakup. But, by some miracle, the group sprung back to life out of nowhere in 2014- 14 years after initially calling it quits- for what, at the time, was suggested to only be a handful of shows in celebration of a 15th anniversary reissue of their debut. Incredibly, though, American Football stayed back together, continuing to tour, and going on to a release a second album, also self-titled, in 2016, a work that in many ways picks up right where their first record left off, with the same math-y, confessional, resonant emo and indie sound they helped define in their youth, though from the perspective of a group now in their late 30s (they were still in college when the first album came out), with so many more years of life experience and musical refinement. A third album- you guessed it, also self-titled- arrived in 2019, which, though true to American Football’s sonic roots, felt like a band finally gaining the confidence to push to new musical territory rather than simply ruminating on their past, tapping guest vocalists Hayley Williams, Elizabeth Powell, and Rachel Goswell, and incorporating elements of indie, dream pop, and post-rock, proving that they’re as relevant as ever two decades later.
Initially a trio of frontman Mike Kinsella, guitarist Steve Holmes, and drummer Steve Lamos (Mike’s cousin Nate Kinsella joined as bassist when they reformed in 2014, rounding out the core lineup), the members of American Football grew up in the Chicago suburbs, and ran in the same musical circles, playing in other fantastic groups within that scene like Cap’n Jazz (emo legends in their own right, fronted by Mike’s brother Tim Kinsella), Joan of Arc, and The One Up Downstairs. They were students at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign when American Football became active in 1997, crafting a melodic, jangly, math-y sound distinctive from and more complex than other midwest emo groups at the time, but just as lyrically raw and emotionally resonant, releasing an eponymous debut EP in 1998 and their aforementioned debut the following year. The band graduated from school around the same time their LP was released, and though they played some shows in support, it wasn’t a huge hit at the time, and by the following year, they had drifted their separate ways. Mike went on to perform solo as Owen, carrying on much of American Football’s vibe, as well as to drum in Owls- featuring most of his former group Cap’n Jazz- and indie supergroup Their / They’re / There, whereas Holmes and Lamos largely stepped away from music, going on to work in tech and academia, respectively.
Since their return, the band have been given the recognition and critical acclaim they deserved the first time around, and pulled off the rare feat of crafting two late-career albums in their second act- which has now lasted three times longer than their original run- just as timeless and lauded as their debut. Earlier this year, they even made headlines when they (as well as their label and some other interested parties) bought the famed “American Football House”- the former punk rock house in Urbana, IL which served as the cover of their debut (and sophomore LP), gaining such an iconic reputation over the years that it had become a tourist attraction (and was in danger of being demolished). Shortly after that announcement, back in May, American Football returned to the stage for the first time in three and a half years (with Lamos rejoining as well- briefly leaving the group during their recent period of inactivity), kicking off in Chicago (where they had last performed in New Year’s Eve of 2019 going into 2020, months before the pandemic hit) before heading to the UK for a run of shows and fests- including in support of The 1975- then embarking on a small run of the U.S. which concludes tonight, Sept. 10 right here at Brooklyn Bowl Nashville!
This appears to be the legendary group’s first show ever in Nashville (and certainly the first since they returned nearly a decade ago), so for O.G. emo fans or newcomers to their music alike, it should be an absolute must-see, and the perfect cap to an especially full summer of nostalgic emo tours. We can’t state enough just how criminally underrated American Football were in their day and even now, amidst a wave of new interest in the scene they helped influence, they still don’t seem to be as well-known as they deserve for how incredible and important they are (for our money, “Never Meant” might be the greatest emo song of all time). It’s a busy night of shows, but we implore you to give American Football’s discography a spin if you’re not already familiar, and not to miss this rare chance to see one best bands of their era to ever exist, one still crafting incredible music after so many years, live in Nashville! New York alt/indie trio Hello Mary– whose great, self-titled debut dropped earlier this year- are set to open, and tickets are still available right here!
American Football and Hello Mary perform tonight, Sept. 10 at Brooklyn Bowl Nashville. The show is 18+, begins at 9 p.m. (doors at 8 p.m.), and tickets are available for $45.80.