I hate clichés. I go out of my way not to use them and not to be one. But clichés are ubiquitous for a reason. Sometimes they can’t be avoided, and sometimes, it can be enjoyable to become one.
So when I turned the volume to high in my forest green 1997 Saturn SC2 coupe and cued up Third Eye Blind’s Graduate, literally minutes after I actually graduated college, I knew exactly what the fuck I was doing.
I waited a long time to escape the halls of academia. And while I did enjoy college supremely more than my other educational endeavors, I had no problem waving goodbye and leaving higher ed in the rearview mirror. Not just on that day, but for the rest of my life.
So when Stephan Jenkins posed the question, “Can I graduate?!,” it sounded more like a demand than a quiz, and I could relate. I did the work, now let me the fuck out.
“To the bastard talking down to me, Your whipping boy calamity.”Third eye blind, graduate
It was the recurring dream that wore me out. The one that always ended the same. I don’t graduate. A credit or a class short. Every. Freaking. Time.
But now I had proof. One speech from Governor Cuomo (Sr.) and a piece of paper later, I was graduated. Official. And Third Eye Blind said so.
3eB’s 1997 self-titled debut was an hour of end-to-end goodness. It was pretty rare in the late 90s to find a CD that didn’t warrant skipping tracks (the exception being the severely underrated and woefully named Toad the Wet Sprocket).
I only saw Third Eye Blind play live a few times. The first time was on Election Day as the MTV Campus Invasion Tour rolled into Hofstra University. Eve 6, aka, “the next big thing; maybe even Green Day,” was the opening act.
Both bands were OK. College girls drowned out the vocals, and a couple of pre-show beers drowned out my ability to care.
The summer of ’98 had me hearing a shitload of 3eB. There was no escape between producing a morning show at a local alternative rock station and my girlfriend obsessively watching Dawson’s Creek.
“Jumper” was my favorite back then, even though the cold open made it a bitch to transition when mixing songs.
The station’s playlist looked something like this:
Shawn Mullins, “Lullaby” (Lovely man; talented musician)
Semisonic, “Singing in My Sleep” (Their best song)
Lenny Kravitz, “Fly Away”
Matchbox Twenty, “Real World”
The Verve, “Bittersweet Symphony” (Slow fade out)
Third Eye Blind, “Jumper” (BAM! COLD OPEN!)
Something about Third Eye Blind has always felt comfortable. Despite the sex and drug references I couldn’t relate to, hearing them has been as soothing as cozy slippers and a hot cup of English Breakfast at any point in my life. Third Eye Blind “Graduate” still brings me back to the moment I raised a middle finger and left the halls of academia in the rear-view mirror.
And even though Stephan Jenkins has carried the rep of being a douchebag since the beginning of time, I’ve always had a knack of separating people from art.
The band’s relentless touring and ability to stick to what they know best, swagger, charm, and catchy hooks, has helped them become a mainstay well-beyond their initial Gen-X audience. Several years back, while on a business trip in downtown Providence, I walked the streets with a coworker searching for something interesting to eat. When in the distance, I heard a sound that I knew so well, I thought it was in my head: the opening notes of “Never Let You Go.”
Could it be? How fucking random.
I followed the sound of my siren and ended up at the Alex and Ani Center in Providence’s Kennedy Plaza. Face pressed against the fence, I made it just in time for “Graduate.”
But I knew what I had to hang around to hear. Buried deep on that aforementioned self-titled debut, it was a song that I somehow didn’t wear out years earlier: “Motorcycle Drive By.”
Written by Jenkins at a Greenwich Village coffee shop, the song feels like freedom. The freedom to love and the freedom that comes when love ends. On this late-summer night in Providence, the young crowd seemed free–and I filled with envy.
More recently, I was slated to check out Third Eye Blind with one of my faves, Jimmy Eat World. But Mother Nature had other plans and dealt a bitch of a storm that night. The geniuses at Live Nation or Jones Beach decided to start the show before 6pm. The ticket said 7pm. And they gave no notice. We all know rock shows never start on time–but early!? We also all know about that infamous New York traffic. Needless to say, I missed the show and had to swallow a sizable expense.
I know, I know, middle-aged suburban problems.
It amazes me that the music industry’s greed can still surprise me and bite me in the ass. I even took to Twitter (a rarity for me) to ask Jimmy Eat World WTF. I got a pretty lame response, shirking all responsibility.
Yet another example of thankfully being able to separate people from their art.
Even well into his 50s, Jenkins and Co. can still rock. Albums and singles keep getting dropped as if Third Eye Blind still has another hit in them. “Horror Show,” released as I was prepping this post, is pretty darn good. But will it give the band enough clout to fill venues without the aid of severely discounted Groupon tickets? Unlikely, but this is a band that keeps the dream alive and remains true to its original sound, and I respect that.
3eB. An acquired taste? Perhaps. Satisfying? Always. I hope those fuckers never graduate from what they do best, keeping 90s alt-rock alive and well.