On May 26th, for the first time in my undergraduate career, I think Stanford finally hosted a legitimate alternative rock band! Unfortunately, it wasn’t really Stanford’s gig – this time the student body owes thanks to Verizon. As part of their Coffee Shop Series, Verizon Wireless invites local bands to have free events for the coffee shop cultures around the West Coast. For some reason that I haven’t quite picked up on, they chose the CoHo!
And unfortunately for the CoHo (and fortunately for the rest of the student body) the event was moved to Memorial Auditorium. Lead singer Stephan Jenkins explained on stage that the fire marshal had a few problems with Third Eye Blind playing in such a small coffee shop. I’m glad he did, especially since the student population came out in droves. MemAud was packed with students who stood swaying to the music who eventually crowded the aisles to be closer to one of their favorite bands. Fans sang along to songs from the band’s new album Ursa Major, and to old favorites including Jumper.
But the night started out a little bit earlier for the some of Verizon’s VIP winners. These lucky students arrived around 6:00 pm to meet and take a picture with the band. Students excitedly waited in line to have their picture taken, which they received when the show was over. I got a few minutes with the band as well. Jenkins and drummer Brad Hargreaves were kind enough to answer a few questions for me before the show:
Me: So I was actually interested in your Bay Area influence. How do you think the Bay Area’s influenced you?
Stephan Jenkins: I remember being a little kid and Palo Alto felt so stifling in some ways. And KZSU would play this radio shows and I would hear new music on it and that was very exciting to me. I listened to punk rock. It was the first time I heard ska. I listened to different kind of stuff. Now everything’s available – that wasn’t the case when I was growing up. That really mattered to me. I used to go over to KZSU and go in there and look at their records. And I would just go smell ’em. It had that AV room smell. If you’re a musician you have to like that smell. And then you know, the both of us [Brad and I] coming up in Cal was a big part – in the Berkeley environment everything was available to you. You know, I grew up liking Prince and Bob Marley. I saw them as my own. I think one of the cool things about the Bay Area is that I didn’t know that I didn’t have access to that. You know what I mean? No – because I’m not being clear. It’s that I didn’t feel like just because I wasn’t a Rastafarian, [I didn’t belong]. I felt like that music was mine. I had a sense of identity in it. I had a sense of identity listening to KZH Hip Hop. But I also had one listening to Cat Stevens. From growing up in the Bay Area, you didn’t have to pick out your turf; it’s all your turf. Even though my high school was the most totally autosegregated [place] – the black kids hung out over here, the Asians hung out over here, the stoners here, you know, various different white groups separate themselves out. I’m sure it looks just like a f*cking prison. It probably still does.
Me: That actually brings me to my next point – How did Cal actually influence both of you? What did being at Cal (Berkeley) specifically do for you? Did college at all make a difference?
Brad Hargreaves: For me coming from Marin, which was kind of the burbs, I wanted to live over in Oakland and [in a place] that was culturally expansive but you wouldn’t have had to go to Cal to experience that. I remember living over there in 1990, ’91, and it’s like at that time [music] was Dr. Dre and Chronic and it just changed everything. All of a sudden I was listening to rock in Marin but also hip hop up in Cal and it was just awesome. It kind of set me off on another course.
Me: So it exposed you to a different kind of music?
BH: I mean I was into R&B and James Brown and stuff like that and I kind of explored that. But that’s when hip hop, the golden age of hip hop sort of happened. And that was a big influence at the time.
Me: Okay so do you think college itself contributes anything to a musician’s repertoire, experience wise?
SJ: It doesn’t. It’s a gigantic f*cking waste of time, before you guys go work at Google. But it’s beautiful here and the weather’s lovely, so enjoy it! Wear flip flops. I’m just kidding – I’m just joking.
BH: It’s about who you meet at college. It’s not necessarily about what you study although that stuff is great but it’s the people you meet that matters.
SJ: I got a ton out of it. To me college was just outrageous. I started in Biology and then eventually after OChem – they’d write C3O3 and they moved the board and would just keep going – I moved into English. I started studying literature in a different way and it really, besides reading a lot and reading really intensely, taught me how to pay attention and edit. I think that made me a better songwriter. That’s for sure. In short – college, yes!
Me: Alright, thank you so much!
Third Eye Blind also interviewed with the Stanford Daily so you can get more info about the band there.
After an amazing regular set, Stanford students got to cajole the band back on stage for a short three song encore that included God of Wine and their hit song Semi-Charmed Life. Even if you weren’t a VIP winner, every one felt like they won something as they left. Fans held onto glow sticks that were thrown into the crowd and were given band posters and Motorala Xoom t-shirts as they left the auditorium.
But the gift that I’m most excited about is Jenkin’s on-stage announcement about wanting to play again at Stanford after the release of their next CD. They’re going into the studio this summer to create their fifth album. Hopefully we’ll hear from them again soon!