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Why We Fight 

Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love -- or at least respect -- Third Eye Blind

Wednesday, Nov 24 1999
This band will surprise you.

--From press materials for Third Eye Blind's Blue

On Thursday, Nov. 25 -- Thanksgiving Day -- the members of Third Eye Blind will donate their time to perform at the half-time show of the Chicago Bears-Detroit Lions football game in Pontiac, Mich. This, as National Football League spokesperson Brian McCarthy points out, is a big deal. Over 40 million people will be watching, and this is the first time an NFL half-time show other than the Super Bowl's will be televised nationally. "This is a national way of saying thanks to people who have contributed time and contributed money to the United Way," says Patricia Ellis of United Way Community Services, which has worked with the NFL for 26 years. The 9 1/2-minute "half-time spectacular" will include about 1,000 dancers, singers, and performers, including a choir, followed by Third Eye Blind. The band will play "Never Let You Go," a song from Blue, the follow-up to its 1997 self-titled debut album, which has sold 4 million copies.

"The NFL was looking for ways to better serve its fans, and one of those ways was entertainment," says McCarthy, who notes that while Clint Black will be performing at the Dallas Cowboys-Miami Dolphins game the same day, Third Eye Blind appeals to "obviously, a younger demographic."

"They came highly recommended by the NFL," says Detroit Lions publicist Tim Pendell.

"We're very happy to have them, of course," says Ellis.

None of the members of Third Eye Blind were available to comment to SF Weekly about the Thanksgiving performance, the release of Blue, or anything else related to the band.

The band, it would seem, is in no hurry to talk to me. "There isn't a good reason to do this," the band's manager, Eric Gotland, told me last week. "You guys have never meshed."

To help explain why that's so, a brief recap is in order. On May 6, Third Eye Blind played a sold-out show at the Paradise Lounge under the pseudonym Titty; having reviewed that show negatively, I received a number of strongly worded pieces of hate mail, which made their way into my e-mail in-box for several weeks. Some observers found the whole thing amusing, including me, since I'd never expected such outrage. After all, a critic expressing dislike of a band, even in that band's native San Francisco, isn't a novel concept.

But, figuring some of the stronger opinions about Third Eye Blind -- both positive and negative -- were at least getting expressed, I decided it might be fun to hold a contest in which readers could suggest titles for the band's then-untitled second album. The grand prize winner would get a copy of the band's 1995 demo tape (and accompanying letter from lead singer Stephan Jenkins), and the second place winner would get a bottle of Sammy Hagar's Cabo Wabo tequila.

Snotty? Oh, sure. But I'm fully cognizant of the amount of power I possess to influence public opinion about Third Eye Blind, which is to say: precisely none. At Third Eye Blind's stratospheric levels of sales and airplay, snottiness changes nothing. And really, I don't begrudge the band's members their success. All of this was, frankly, an off-the-cuff and not-terribly-serious way of writing about the most famous rock band to come out of the Bay Area in the past five years.

In late September, Stephan Jenkins, off-the-cuff and not-terribly-serious, implied to a reporter that I had an ax to grind regarding the band. Then, in early October, an Elektra publicist based in Los Angeles, presumably oblivious to all this, called to talk to me about Third Eye Blind: The band was available for interviews. So I submitted my request. Would it be possible to get the band on the cover of the Weekly? he asked. Well, we'd have to look into that.

A few days later Third Eye Blind manager Gotland got in touch. He was polite, but also expressed a bit of confusion. Gotland pointed out that had the band been asked to name the one publication that has been uniformly negative toward it, the only one it would be able to think of is SF Weekly. And, he asked, if I don't like the band, why would I be interested in talking with its members? I explained that while, yes, I've been critical -- snotty, even -- toward the band in the past, that didn't mean I wouldn't handle an interview professionally, or that I couldn't make room for the members' opinions just because they might differ from mine. And while that difference in opinion might be tackled in an interview, it's not like I'd jump over a table and attack Stephan Jenkins.

Gotland said he'd run my interview request by the band. Last week, he told me that he hadn't actively pursued the matter with the members. His feeling is that my efforts might be better geared toward more unknown local groups, such as the five other bands he represents.

Now, Gotland is just doing his job, which is to look after the best interests of his clients. And, make no mistake, this is a nervous time for Third Eye Blind. Maybe not as human beings, but certainly as a commercial entity, as a limited partnership organized to generate income for itself, and for the company under which it has been contracted. Sophomore albums rarely perform better than their predecessors, sales-wise or critically. Also, Third Eye Blind has always presented itself as a pretender to the big-time rock star throne, and if pop music in the '90s is going to be remembered for anything, it will be the death of the big-time rock star. So the release of Blue comes with risks attached. While the influence of print media -- and music journalism in general -- is in this case limited (radio airplay is the make-it-or-break-it venue), from a PR standpoint, however silly PR standpoints often are, you can't take any unnecessary risks.

About The Author

Mark Athitakis


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