I love Third Eye Blind more than I should. Seriously.
I know that according to popular history, they were a flash in the pan band in the 90s, who had a few good songs, but were never quite taken seriously. Maybe it was due to the infectious catchiness of their first single (they didn’t even get street cred for the blatant reference to meth) or maybe it was the the west coast peace, love, and happiness style of lead singer Stephen Jenkins (they didn’t even get credit for all the inter band fighting), or maybe they just peaked on the charts at a time when every band seemed like a one hit wonder. Whatever it was, they never really rose to that level where kids will be hearing about them generations later, like we all heard about the Beatles or the Rolling stones, or hell, even Styx and Journey.
Semi-Charmed Life came out when I was a freshman in high school, I was 14 years old, had no idea what crystal meth was, and starting to transition from the late 90s alternative rock into punk rock. But hell, I couldn’t help but succumb. All of the songs on their self titled album have that 90s alternative pop sound, and are catchy as hell, but they also have a ton of substance, they are smart, intimate, personal, and at times tongue in cheek.
This show was the sixth time I saw Third Eye Blind, (told you I love them more than I should). The first time was on the strength of Semi-Charmed Life alone, when they played this awesome local Scranton Bar, Tinks, that had one killer booker. A few months later, my mom drove my best friend and I to Binghampton NY when they had Eve 6 opening for them. Those first two shows were great I still remember the banter and the charisma of the band. They were still the new kids and were trying to make their mark and stay on the scene. The next time was a few years later, after Blue came out, in a giant outdoor arena that was our excuse for not have a stadium and I was super bummed out. I am sure their performance was good, but it was so distant and rehearsed and I could have had the same experience sitting at home. After that show I kinda stayed away and lost track of the band. A few years later I heard they were playing an all ages bar show, so I figured, what the hell. It was a small venue and a small attendance, but the band was great again. I think they had just gone through a personnel change, but they, as a band, seemed awesome. The band members who weren’t Jenkins hung out outside the bar signed autographs and took photos. Through that little meet and greet I met the bassist of the time and was persuaded to make the trek to NYC (It doesn’t take much to persuade me to take a trip to NYC) to watch the perform on some morning show, which was actually pretty cool, even if it was just for a few songs. A few years ago, while I was living in NYC they played a semi-secret show at Crash Manson, giving tickets to the first however-many-people bought Ursa Major. It was a cool experience, but it was so full of new songs that I was slightly lost through the night. But the super intimate atmosphere was something that I always love in a show. I don’t need the theatrics, I just want the soul.
This show at Stage AE was in between a large and small show. The venue itself is an interesting size, it is no where near a stadium or arena, but it is less intimate than a bar. What was great about it, we hung out on the lawn area and still had a great view of the stage. Third Eye Blind isn’t a band that you really need to be in the pit for.
I honestly had no idea what to expect from the crowd, I was going with three punk rock kids, but I was sure that we were going to be the exception, even though Dashboard Confessional was some how linked to the scene for a while. And none of us were going to see them anyway. The crowd was one of the most diverse crowds I have seen. Ages and styles ran the gamut. 20 some year olds with their parents, jocks, punk, club girls, teenagers, and even a little girl who was about 5.
Dashboard was what I expected, all the songs sounded vaguely the same even though he changed guitars every song. He did have a great line though, endearing himself to the whole audience by saying how much he loved playing summer shows in towns that have long winters. (And Pittsburgh is still trying to shake off this last winter). Bored as I was during their set, one of the guys in the band seemed worse, he was a super cool dude dressed in all black with a man-bun. He lit a cigarette before Chris Carrabba and the rest of the band finished their last song. Not the coolest move when people have paid to see you play.
Third Eye Blind started their set a bit rough. The lights strobing behind the band, everyone in silhouette, for a few songs. I know that they were going for weird, but it just doesn’t fit with their sound or who they are. I felt like I was in the type of club that I had tried very hard to avoid my whole life. It lasted though their first few songs, which was just long enough for you to wonder if they were going to use this for their whole set. Other than the odd opening lighting design, they comprised a smart set with a great balance of old and new stuff touching on all their albums.
They opened with Graduate which is just full of the fury that gets a crowd going, Blinded was next, which was an interesting choice since it is on the slows side. Jenkins hadn’t hit his stride yet, he seemed to never quite get the melody of the song. By Wounded and Crystal Baller he was kicking ass, oh, and the lights came on, that may have help too. It wasn’t until two songs later, in the breakdown of Never Let You Go, when he spoke to the audience. The banter was a bit sunshine and rainbows for me, but that is something that makes them who they are. And hell, we are all in the same place for the same reason, so yeah, Stephen, let’s presume that we are all friends.
The crowd sang along to Losing a Whole Year, but it turns out that Motorcycle Drive By is everyone’s favorite Third Eye Blind Song. The crowd collectively exploded as he introduced and launched into the first chords of it. A couple in front of me locked arms and sang along and someone behind me screeched. I too have my own attachment to that song stemming from me moving to NYC and a not-boyfriend not moving to NYC.
Jenkins played Slow Motion on stage alone in the spotlight then let the audience pick what song he played next. How’s it Gonna Be won out over Deep Inside of You (which is a travesty) and I got a bit reminiscent for whatever Real World finale use that song that year. Then we had a drum solo, come on 3eb, a drum solo? File that one along with your weird opening light effects. A new song and Jumper followed,
They did the obligatory “pretend the set is over but you and I both know we are going to come out for an encore” thing. It was a pretty short encore, 2 and a half songs. I didn’t know the first song, but the second was Semi-Charmed Life, and the crowd 100% lost their shit, the whole crowd sang along, like screaming, but trying to catch the melody and inflections of the song at the same time. The crowd did a great job, until the last “goodbye”. Jenkins had dropped out measures ago, letting the crowd have it, but they just couldn’t reach those final high notes and we all had a laugh. He took that break as the time to thank the audience and express his love for Pittsburgh before rewinding the song to the last verse and finishing it properly.
Semi- Charmed Life finished, the band shed their instrument and Jenkins picked up an acoustic guitar and the band joined in the chanting and clapping along. A pretty cool ending to a set, an ending that seemed to fit Third Eye Blind far more than their techo-light opening or their drum solo.
I have heard bad reviews of them in the past few years, but this show was anything but. Maybe they needed some time to find their stride with new members, or maybe this new album has invigorated them, but if you enjoyed Third Eye Blind when they were at the top of the charts, their show is totally worth the price of a ticket.