By Jessica Goodman
June 23, 2015 at 12:00 PM EDT
Larry Marano/Getty Images

When news broke that Dashboard Confessional and Third Eye Blind would spend the summer touring together, millennials rejoiced. Pairing a band with a dozen hits in the ’90s and an ’00s band mostly associated with sobbing teens and the birth of the modern emo scene was sure to draw crowds in droves.

Dashboard frontman Chris Carrabba and Third Eye Blind lead vocalist and songwriter Stephan Jenkins knew it too. “Someone suggested why don’t we package up with Third Eye Blind and make it what they call a ‘summer event,'” Carrabba tells EW. “We’re from two different musical generations, but I thought it was a good overlap having known the band and liked the band, seeing my band’s t-shirts at their shows. I knew it would work.”

Jenkins was sold after a promoter approached him to do the tour, which would coincide with the release of the band’s fifth album, Dopamine. “It was an easy decision,” he said. “Chris is a DIY person. He’s never been with some corporate thing. He’s got real integrity as a songwriter. Just real hardcore edge that I like.”

The co-headlining bill was one in a sea of similar “summer events,” organized for peak nostalgia: Nelly teamed up with New Kids On The Block and TLC. Sugar Ray, Uncle Kracker and Better than Ezra launched a tour. Brooklyn isn’t even beating around the bush with its Smash Mouth-fronted ’90sFest.

But Jenkins asserts that fans aren’t just showing up just to hear the older hits, though they close the set with their 1997 monster single, “Semi-Charmed Life.”

“It’s like saying you want to go see Radiohead because you like ‘Creep,'” he says. “These are all songs that weren’t played on the radio, like ‘Slow Motion.’ Those are some of the biggest songs of the night.”

And ‘Slow Motion,’ from 1999’s Blue, was indeed a crowd-pleaser at the tour’s stop in New York City on a sweltering Friday night at the waterside venue Pier 97. But when Jenkins asked fans to pick between two karaoke favorites, “How’s It Gonna Be” and “Deep Inside You,” fans booed in the audience. They wanted to hear both. Jenkins disagrees with that sentiment. “Our audience, they don’t care. They’re there to see us live now.”

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Jenkins and Third Eye Blind have reason to look towards their offbeat material. The band isn’t shy about playing tracks from Dopamine on tour, and dropped in a fiery cover of Beyonce’s “Mine” and new track, “Rites of Passage,” which was greeted with meek reviews upon its release.

But while Third Eye Blind is touting new material for a loyal audience, Dashboard Confessional is only just beginning to think about putting out new music. Carrabba tells EW that new music is on the way, but the idea to make mew music was inspired by being on this tour. The tour, though, was inspired by an explosive set at last year’s Riot Fest, which was the first time the band had properly performed together since taking a break five years earlier.

“Since we never had these radio hits, we realized the one thing we did have was pure honesty and intention up there on stage and when you’re tired, that can go away,” Carrabba said about the break. “The day after Riot Fest, the calls came in so fast and we just said, ‘Are we ready to say yes?’ And we said yes. Why would we not want to be on stage all day every day?”

That unabashed desire to play live came out when Carrabba and his band took the stage first at Pier 97, belting out their most popular tracks like, “Screaming Infidelities” and “Hands Down.” Carrabba knows they want to hear their version of hits — though he’s quick to point out they never cracked the top 50 on Billboard’s Hot 100. “They’re anthems.”