Third Eye Blind Stand the Test of Time

In the summer of 1997, I purchased an album with my own money. As a kid who was about to enter his 8th grade year, this was a big deal, considering that my income consisted of earnings from mowing lawns. In those days, I was lucky to have the nearly $20 required to purchase a compact disc from Sam Goody.

I purchased Third Eye Blind’s debut self-titled album because, like everyone else that summer, I heard “Semi-Charmed Life” endlessly on the radio and fell in love with a song filled with content far beyond my understanding. I loved the melody. I loved Stephan Jenkins’ offhand delivery. And most importantly, I loved that my mom wasn’t really into it.

Two decades later, Third Eye Blind is still one of my favorite records, even though my innocence has worn away and I rarely find myself enchanted with the carefree “doo doo doos” of life. In the time since the summer before 8th grade, songs like “Losing a Whole Year” and “Narcolepsy” have come to hold actual, painful meaning.

Needless to say, the feelings are complicated when the lights go up and Jenkins croons, “Losing a whole year” just before the guitars spill out of the monitors at White River State Park in Indianapolis.

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Jenkins and drummer Brad Hargreaves are the only remaining members from those early days of the band, as the past 20 years have brought their share of turmoil. Regardless, it’s hard not to be impressed with Third Eye Blind’s resilience and relevance, especially when considering the fate of so many of their peers. The Summer Gods Tour is a celebration the band’s debut, but also feels like a victory lap for Jenkins.

Silversun Pickups are along for the ride this summer, serving as a shining example of where indie rock has exceled in the wake of the 90s. In fact, you could argue the success of bands like Silversun Pickups as offering a platform for Third Eye Blind’s revival in the latter part of the last decade. Their set offers the perfect bridge to the night’s main act.

Summer Gods is a reference from the song “Weightless” from last year’s We Are Drugs EP and opens the set with Third Eye Blind occupying a stage at the back of the actual stage. It’s a Jenkins move, to be sure, but on this night, photographers are invited to spend the entire set in the pit, dispelling any fear of getting a good shot. By the time the band’s six-song intro is finished, Jenkins stands alone at the front of the stage. We watch with our cameras down as he gives a slightly hyperbolic but heartfelt speech about the impact of his debut.

Third Eye Blind

Until you witness these songs in this setting, it’s easy to forget the magnitude of this album. Every damn song is a hit, but not in a mindless sense. Many of us can remember the real conversations we had about the meaning of “Jumper” and how it impacted the way we treated those around us. We shouted along to “Graduate”, eager to move on to a new stage of life. “Motorcycle Drive By” became a bleeding-heart anthem for first breakups in the pre-Chris Carrabba days.

Each song pulsing into the summer night is another reminder of just how good this album is. It’s also a reminder of how hard it is to craft timeless music. The late 90s were littered with pop songs that sounded hollow in the years that followed. Jenkins, with his Gen-X indifference, drug references, and knack for flipping the light on dark subject matter in unexpected ways, has shrugged away the harsh reality of time, against nearly all odds.

In 1997, I didn’t expect to be listening to Third Eye Blind 20 years later. My foresight rarely expanded beyond the upcoming weekend. Nevertheless, it’s always nice when you can look back at a moment of your youth and be proud of your judgment, even if it was mostly superficial – 8th grade Kiel spent his $20 well.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Third Eye Blind’s fall tour and the many faces of Stephan Jenkins

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Stephan Jenkins begins Third Eye Blind’s set shrouded in smoke, standing at the back of the stage in a black hood. It’s an appropriate display for a man whose motives and persona are purposely enveloped in mystery, seemingly changing with each subsequent appearance in the pop culture ethos.

On this night, in front of a sold out crowd in one of Indianapolis’ premier mid-sized venues, Jenkins will speak frequently of community and how Third Eye Blind is a product resulting from the energy and passion of its fanbase. In his openly wry attempts to sidestep the spotlight, you can still sense the ego and smugness of a man who has made no bones about his place in rock-stardom throughout the years – in a multitude of forms.

Perhaps that’s part of the appeal. Of the many bands to rise from the post-grunge ashes in the mid to late 90s, Third Eye Blind has managed to weather the storm of time and remain relevant – not just in a nostalgic sense, but as a formidable and respectable act amongst the indie and underground rock throngs.

Whether it be their explosive appearance at this year’s SXSW festival that resulted in a full-scale police shutdown or their recent box-set vinyl release that sold out in a matter of minutes, it’s clear that the band has a foothold on the market, and at the front of that charge lies the masked face of Jenkins.

After a performance of “Semi-Charmed Life”, he reflects on the band’s early days, noting that he can’t even remember who he was when he wrote those songs. In Jenkins opinion, this is not of relevance – the real story of Third Eye Blind is the community of people and fans that surround them. His pseudo-humble demeanor reflects starkly against the many roles he has played over the years.

Looking for a Generation X reluctant star with a nevermind shug? How about a dark, complex ex-celebrity reflecting on his fame? The resurgent icon shedding the spotlight with an “aw shucks” attitude? Jenkins has played them all with gusto and expanded his audience every step of the way. This is not necessarily a slight, but a nod to the intelligence of Jenkins as a businessman and his ability to sell his product.

It’s certainly true that many of these songs stand the test of time, still as catchy and oddly meaningful as they ever were. Yet it would be foolish to refute the role of Jenkins himself and his shape-shifting abilities in keeping Third Eye Blind on the tip of everyone’s tongue. This, alongside the ever-present promise of new music that lies just beyond the horizon, preserve fans’ attention and fuel the engine of a band that is still selling out shows nearly 15 years after their heyday.

As the giant crowd belts out the words to “Jumper”, Jenkins moves away from the mic and smiles in admiration. He’s in full character, but no one seems to mind. It would be easy to dislike the man, but it’s a difficult task when he’s so damn good at what he does. Jenkins outsmarted the system and extended his stay in our collective consciousness, and strangely, we’re probably better for it – because these songs are still really good.

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by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.