We Were There, and It Felt “Just Like Heaven” 2024

Five years and going strong, Just Like Heaven continues to deliver on its promise to be the quintessential 2000s indie music experience. In just one day, bands like Tegan and Sara, Death Cab for Cutie, and Passion Pit hit the “I wanna go back!” button so hard it’s been difficult to adjust our playlists to the present day.

The skies may have been blanketed in grey as the 2024 edition of Just Like Heaven kicked off in Pasadena’s Brookside at the Rose Bowl. Still, the generation of like-minded music fans and a few shockingly fresher-faced comrades who flocked to this nostalgic celebration were anything but gloomy. As excitement grew, the universe answered in kind by clearing up the skies over the Arroyo Seco Canyon with warmth to match our collective spirit in the verdant surroundings.


As I soak in the pulsing energy that permeates the festival grounds in these early hours, I’m struck by the complex emotions evoked by these events, which seem to bridge the past and present. The appeal of “throwback” shows is not simply a yearning for simpler times, but rather a chance to reconnect with the formative musical experiences that have shaped our individual and collective identities, to see if the magic is still there, as it were.

There was a period not so long ago, back in 2019 and 2020, when it felt like the tangible, communal experience of live music was hanging by a thread. The isolation and uncertainty of those years cast a pall over the cultural landscape, leaving many to wonder what would happen to music. And yet, here we are – immersed in the energy of a festival that celebrates the music that once served as the soundtrack to our youth. The sense of relief and gratitude is palpable, as fans and artists alike revel in the ability to reconnect after so much time apart. This was evident when Lovefoxx from CSS was moved to tears by the audience’s outpouring of affection, and later that evening when Phoenix took the stage and frontman, Thomas Mars, remarked on seeing many familiar faces after such a long time. This sentiment resonates with me as well, since it has been quite some time since I last had the opportunity to witness live performances by many of these acts.

As the sets continued, with a little bit of alcoholic revelry and some nostalgic melodies here and there, it wasn’t long before a sense of carefree joie de vivre took hold of my little group. However, this didn’t necessarily seem to be the case for most of the audience. What could be the reason for this?

Perhaps the audience’s relatively subdued energy reflects a broader cultural shift, where the pressures of work, social obligations, and the relentless hostility of life have taken a toll, leaving little room for the unbridled abandonment of youth (which I had mistaken for the point of it all perhaps?). The festival, while evoking powerful feelings of connection and shared experiences, may also serve as a bittersweet reminder of how much has changed – both in ourselves and in the world around us. Navigating this balance between the allure of the past and the realities of the present is a delicate dance, and maybe it would be more accurate to say that, at its core, Just Like Heaven is about paying these amazing artists their dues. The era that saw their birth may be gone and buried, the 00s and the new ‘20s couldn’t be more different, but what truly endures is the more timeless quality of their music and talent, which is exactly why many of them keep touring and releasing new albums after all this time. They’re not locked in an era; there’s very little for us to recapture, and they’re as much a part of us today as they were back in 2003 or 2009 or what have you.

At some point, the always stunning Beth Ditto from Gossip jokingly referred to the function as the “Remember Us?” Festival, and I think the resounding answer is that we’ve never forgotten in the first place. Just Like Heaven isn’t a nostalgia bait event; it’s a celebration of a vibe that simply won’t go away for as long as we live.

As night fell, the festival grounds were bathed in a kaleidoscope of colourful lights as you’d expect, plenty of blue and purple. The time had come for Jenny Lewis, Ben Gibbard, and Jimmy Tamborello to transform into The Postal Service, as promised, to send the crowd off for the evening, and while I had been hoping to hear personal favourites like “Clark Gable,” “Brand New Colony,” or “Natural Anthem,” I knew it was highly unlikely they would forgo the iconic double whammy of “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” and “Such Great Heights.” To the audience’s elation, that’s precisely what they delivered, and in a very memorable fashion to boot.

And with that and satisfactorily raucous applause, Just Like Heaven wraps up as a celebratory homecoming for the indie faithful, a chance to revel in the shared experiences and timeless power of these awesome musicians etched into our souls. For those lucky enough to be there, it was a hell of a good time, a brilliantly curated experience that will linger long after the music faded… until next year, that is.