Nostalgia Meets Fresh Tunes: Just Like Heaven 2024 Recap

Article Contributed by L. Paul Mann | Published on Wednesday, May 22, 2024

The one-day Just Like Heaven festival returned to Pasadena on Saturday, May 18th, for its fifth year. With so many acts overlapping, choosing which bands to watch was a challenge. The day began with DJs spinning tunes from the 00s on both stages. The timeline of the music seemed to be the one fact tying the diverse lineup together. Prioritizing becomes particularly challenging at a festival like Los Angeles’ Just Like Heaven, which features indie bands whose most acclaimed albums emerged in the early 2000s. Fans of one of these acts would most likely want to catch the others, too.

DJ Them Jeans | Just Like Heaven Festival

Death Cab for Cutie | Just Like Heaven festival

Death Cab for Cutie | Pasadena, CA

Just Like Heaven 2024 presented bands like The Postal Service and Death Cab for Cutie, concluding their tours dedicated to "Give Up" and "Transatlanticism," respectively. Alvvays, Broken Social Scene, Metric, and Warpaint complemented these acts. On the other hand, Phoenix, headliners of the inaugural edition, led a synth-inflected indie path. Fans of Phoenix likely found themselves drawn to Two Door Cinema Club, Passion Pit, Miike Snow, Phantogram, and Washed Out. The overlap between these two groups is significant, and this year’s lineup boasted one of the most diverse selections, musically and geographically, since the festival's inception. The bands themselves were celebrating the occasion on Saturday, acknowledging that they were grateful to still be performing with groups they had come up alongside. “In France, we don’t have high school reunions,” Phoenix frontman Thomas Mars remarked during their set. “So this is kind of like ours.”

Phantogram | Pasadena, CA

Phantogram | Just Like Heaven Festival

CSS | Just Like Heaven Festival

CSS | Just Like Heaven Festival

The festival featured diverse performances from bands like the reunited CSS from Brazil and Gossip from Arkansas. These days, big, multi-genre festivals often overlook established indie acts, relegating them to genre-specific nostalgia events like Just Like Heaven. This reflects indie rock’s diminished cultural dominance, particularly among Gen Z and festival-going teens. The crowd was surprisingly older, with many pushing baby carriages across the vast festival grounds. The focus on nostalgia sometimes created a strange tension. Death Cab for Cutie, for instance, opted to perform "Transatlanticism" in full rather than a career-spanning setlist. They were booked as a package deal with Ben Gibbard’s other band, The Postal Service. Celebrating an album as remarkable as "Transatlanticism" 21 years later is understandable. Still, given Ben Gibbard's fantastic sound, it would have been nice to hear newer songs. Nonetheless, their performance of “Transatlanticism” was spellbinding, each refrain of “I need you so much closer” resonating deeply.

Two Door Cinema Club | Just Like Heaven Festival

Phoenix, by contrast, chose a career-spanning set instead of focusing on their breakthrough album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. “LA, I would love to talk to you… but we have seven albums and 50 minutes,” Thomas Mars told the crowd. They raced through a medley of their greatest hits, including tracks from their terrific 2022 album, Alpha Zulu. Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend, a band sorely missed at this festival, joined Phoenix to perform Alpha Zulu's “Tonight” and later played guitar on “1901.” Phoenix’s music remains fresh and relevant, making their set a standout.

Passion Pit | Pasadena, CA

Miike Snow | Just Like Heaven Festival

Miike Snow | Just Like Heaven Festival

Many bands at Just Like Heaven delivered solid performances, including Passion Pit, led by Michael Angelakos with remarkable vocals. The crowd responded with the most enthusiasm seen during the entire festival. As The Postal Service neared the end of their set, Ben Gibbard paused to thank fans for supporting "Give Up," their only studio album. “When we made this record, we thought it would be a tiny little thing our friends would like and then go away,” Gibbard said. “We never imagined we’d be here 21 years later playing it for you.” Their performance, including a moving rendition of “Brand New Colony,” capped off a day filled with indie rock favorites. For much of the crowd, however, the excitement seemed to peak after the set by Death Cab. A steady stream of festival-goers could be seen heading to the exits nine hours into the festival. But quite a few stopped at the far stage to hear an exquisite set by Swedish rockers Miike Snow.

ALVVAYS | Just Like Heaven Festival

ALVVAYS | Just Like Heaven Festival

Tegan and Sara | Pasadena, CA

Tegan and Sara | Just Like Heaven Festival

Other highlights included strong sets from female-fronted bands and duos. Beth Ditto of Gossip, Molly Rankin of Alvvays, and Emily Haines of Metric delivered memorable performances. Tegan and Sara shone exceptionally bright, captivating the crowd with hits like “The Con” and “Closer.” One notable difference from other festivals was the presence of many young children. Just Like Heaven fans, now in their prime parenting years, brought their families along, creating a unique, family-friendly atmosphere.

Just Like Heaven Festival | Pasadena, CA

In essence, Just Like Heaven 2024 was a festival rooted in nostalgia but capable of delivering powerful, contemporary performances. It reminded us that while the past was fun, the present holds its own unique charm.