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The Show 2006

Marty Schroeder | Friday, August 25, 2006

The curse of the post-grunge scene plagued a plethora of bands from the late 1990s – they had their moment in the spotlight, some reaching the outer stratosphere of America’s pop music kingdom, but very few of them outlive their initial success and fade into nostalgia for their generation.

Harvey Danger and Hootie and the Blowfish, two examples of such bands, are known when heard every so often on the radio but are also almost instantly forgettable.

Third Eye Blind, who is playing at the Joyce Center Friday, went through such a journey. Beginning in San Francisco, frontman Stephan Jenkins began playing solo shows after graduating from the University of California with an English degree. After playing with various local bands for four years and trying his hand at a solo act, Jenkins joined with Arion Salazar, former bassist for Fungo Mungo. This was the point where the band became known as Third Eye Blind, but the group was not complete and more shows were played.

As luck would have it, a student of famed guitarist Joe Satriani named Kevin Cadogan saw Jenkins and Salazar play a gig in San Francisco. He joined Third Eye Blind as a guitarist in 1995. He also brought a drummer with him, Brad Hargreaves, the former drummer for Counting Crows, who completed the lineup. At this point, a viable mixture of personality and talent had come together and Third Eye Blind set their sights higher than the local scene they had known for the last five years.

However, the constant playing in the Bay Area was not all wasted effort.

“By playing the Bay Area frequently, Third Eye Blind cultivated a dedicated fan base, and the group’s original 14-song demo attracted the attention of major labels,” said critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine.

The band nurtured its image and sound and developed a dedicated fan base, but its big break was still to come. Oasis was scheduled to play at San Francisco’s Civic Auditorium in April 1996 and Third Eye Blind managed to acquire a spot in the line-up as the opening band. This concert was the watershed event for the up-and-coming band. They were able to play to a huge crowd, but more importantly, they were able to get the ear of record executives that were looking for new talent in the late-90s, post-grunge music scene.

A bidding war broke out after the show and when the dust cleared, the band had signed with Elektra/Asylum due to the fact that this label promised the most artistic freedom. Jenkins had also been hired to be the producer, which allowed the band to work completely within itself and make the music they wanted.

Their major label debut came in the spring of 1997 in the form of the self-titled “Third Eye Blind.” The now ubiquitous single, “Semi-Charmed Life,” had become a rock hit at the time of the albums release and pushed the album into the Billboard Top 200 where it stayed for over a year.

Other hits included “Jumper” and “How’s It Going to Be.” This was the beginning of the bands popularity, however it was also somewhat of an end. Third Eye Blind has never quite written a song as popular as “Semi-Charmed Life.” This song is their life’s blood, but it was also a death knell.

Granted, their second album, “Blue,” (released in 1999) did sell over two million copies, though it did not quite bring the critical success of their self-titled debut. However, Jenkins admitted that “on ‘Blue,’ we succumbed to the studio maybe more than we should have,” which perhaps indicates that the spontaneity of their debut was lost on this sophomore effort.

After “Blue,” the band decided to take some time off and take on some humanitarian work. Shows were performed for the Tiger Woods Foundation and, after Jenkins’ mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, the Breathe Benefit Concert in Los Angeles, an event organized by Jenkins to bring attention to and funds for breast cancer research and treatment.

Following this, Cadogan left the band and was replaced by Tony Fredianelli. As Cadogan was often a co-writer with Jenkins, this left a musical vacuum within the band that was hard to replace.

This new lineup went back to the studio and the result was Third Eye Blind’s third album, “Out of the Vein,” was the poorest release of the three. It garnered little critical praise and after some initial market accomplishments, it did not sell the numbers that were typical of their earlier releases.

Third Eye Blind is a band that lives on in the generation that grew up in the late 90s. “Semi-Charmed Life” will always be an anthem of younger, better days for those that remember it. However, the musical gods have not been kind to Third Eye Blind and there seems to be little chance for recovery in the future.

It won’t go down in history as a band to remember, but it will be one our generation does.