Third Eye Blind has been in the news very recently. They’ve been in that news that everyone is stuck in right now, the muck and the mire that is the US Election, that brutal mess with all its talk talk talk and emotion and button pushing, and its satire that even at the highest level has failed to right the ship, to allow true democracy to happen after all.
But Third Eye Blind, who’ve continued to make new music over the years since their explosive success in the glorious late 90s, gave the world a moment of true enlightenment, actual humour, and a pause for thought that our comedians and pundits have fallen over themselves for months and failed to do. They “trolled the Republican National Convention”.
They did what musicians are supposed to do, and sometimes still do- use their formidable weapons- the only weapons that ought to be open carry (and not by most civilians, either, only the skilled) to create a moment. To resist. To speak out. To criticize. To call out. It was astounding, and it was beautiful. The silly jaded bloggers took notice, and stepped away from their Kardashian coma haze for a minute or two to write about something else. The mainstream media huffed and puffed in disbelief that some band who comes from a time of actual free speech and is not beholden to anyone, who are grown and do not have ugly corporate ties like most big artists, pulled off something out of The Prestige.
The accurate story is that Third Eye Blind “played a benefit concert for “Musicians on Call”, a charity, near the Republican National Convention. The band took the opportunity to speak out against the Republican Party, criticizing their views on science and LGBT rights, and playing tracks specifically critical of their stances, including “Jumper”, and “Non-Dairy Creamer”. (Wikipedia) The media/blogosphere/citizen social media reporter is perhaps so out of practice at seeing normal and necessary dissent, they freaked out a little. This band has always been outspoken, free-thinking. The time is just right for them to jump back into the fray. Let’s all limber up and see if we can get our mosh on again.
Culture watchers, those of us on the margins of the new media counter-culture (as we’ve coined it right here) and fans of this band cheered and laughed, for once, at something interesting, real and actually noteworthy in an ocean of noise, ugly noise emitting from Trump who is here because he’s a Reality TV star and people are TV zombies, and for no other good reason. We laughed at the rediculousness of the whole terrible situation in the US, because what else can we do? What else can a band do, and in fact, no one else seems to have done this, except these guys.
And a week later, Third Eye Blind is slated to play the second annual, and now historic, Canadian music festival, Wayhome. We love good humour up here in Canada. We gave the world the best comedians Hollywood has ever (will ever) know. We are of the frontier mindset, a little wild, yet, and we are free thinkers. We embrace this band with our open enthusiasm, maybe even a little harder than we might have a few weeks ago, but those of us who’ve embraced them since their forever great 1997 self-titled debut do not follow trends or waves. We were always gonna be here, and here we are.
At Wayhome as we have since 1997, our big moments are not the sing-along singles, the ubiquitous “Semi-Charmed Life” (which we will always remember with amusement was used in a Tigger movie trailer, minus the little red panties and meth references, of course, in fact, it could only have been the do do dos…as this was the last time bands were allowed to make blantant drug references in plain English) “Jumper” and “Graduate”, but the epicly beautiful dirges “How’s It Gonna Be” and “Motorcycle Drive By” for which we still know every word, intonation and strum.
The last of these, “Motorcycle Drive By”, gives us “those f0ur right chords (that) can make me cry” Jenkins sings about in Semi-Charmed Life. But it’s more like 8 chords. It gets us every time, and it does today, too. It’s a piece of musical poetry, far away from the misconception of late 90s bands and gigs as a brofest. This is a song about a romantic man being denied a future by a toxic, destructive, troubled woman, a backdrop of drugs and despair and the growing pains everyone endures in their 20s, this time, put to paper and sent around the world. “There’s this burning. Just like there’s always been.”
“Visions of you on a motorcycle drive by
The cigarette ash flies in your eyes
And you don’t mind, you smile
And say the world doesn’t fit with you
I don’t believe you, you’re so serene
Careening through the universe
Your axis on a tilt, you’re guiltless and free
I hope you take a piece of me with you”
What Motorcycle Drive By, is, too, is the example of more than a great song on their first album but indicative tight musical unit that’s been paying their dues and singing in bars and parties working for this moment for some years. It could have been a stand alone, one hit wonder, and thank god it wasn’t. Follow up album Blue brought us “Never Let You Go” and we walk through the crowd seeking optimum viewing spots while singing “the girl is like a sunburn” in scorching heat, and badly sunburned.
Seeing Third Eye Blind on the same day as The Killers it becomes clear that in some sense TEB was the prototype. It was rock, with heart, with highs and lows, rawness and pain, and soaring crescendos. It was anything but Grunge. Or maybe The Killers and other bands who’ve emerged post 2000s who play in the same endless, perfect sandbox of hearfelt rock and roll are really a throwback to something we’ve sorta lost lately, but always need.
The crowds at Third Eye Blind are waking up. Lots of them in the massive crowd have not seen this band on their Toronto stops in recent years, clearly. Many of them have never seen the band live, and have forgotten why this CD never left the 6 disc changer or why it was essential to every road trip (and still will make the miles fly by, we promise.) It’s great to see, to be part of, as it’s exactly the kind of shaking up that music festivals are known for, and are capable of. The headliners ensure the party can sell, the new discoveries give us life for the future and let us say we were there, and the much deserved rediscoveries, like Third Eye Blind, remind us who we were and the musical promise of the 1990s that we all still owe a debt to.
And here we are.
Words by Jacqueline Howell Photos by Dave MacIntyre