Third Eye Blind at The Chapel, by Joshua Huver
Third Eye Blind (photo: Joshua Huver)

On Thursday, April 6, one of San Francisco’s biggest commercial acts celebrated an intimate and rowdy birthday party at The Chapel, a high-profile venue that maintains a low-key magic throughout each and every show. Hosting the 20th birthday of Third Eye Blind‘s self-titled debut album was no exception, and it was a night to remember.

Despite the undeniable success of Third Eye Blind, frontman and bandleader Stephan Jenkins will be the first to inform the people that their success was not the impersonal, overnight kind it appears from outside the band, the fans, and the city that they call home. Part of maintaining that real connection to the streets of San Francisco played into Jenkins’ decision to make the 20th anniversary of Third Eye Blind a benefit concert that supports 826 Valencia, a neighborhood establishment down the street from The Chapel and near and dear to the heart of Third Eye Blind. Originally founded in 2002 by Dave Eggers and educator Nínive Calegari, 826 Valencia is a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting under-resourced students ages 6 to 18 with their writing skills through two writing centers located in the Mission and the Tenderloin districts, as well as three satellite locations located in neighborhood schools, all offered free of charge to students, schools, and families.

Third Eye Blind at The Chapel, by Joshua Huver

The fervor surrounding the Third Eye Blind appearance was high — the show had sold out weeks in advance, shortly after being announced. At noon on Thursday, the day of the show, a batch of tickets were allocated to be released online and another small batch were set to be released at The Chapel’s will call window at 6:30pm. As die-hard fans of the band and supporters of 826 Valencia waited in line, crowding the side of the building to stay out of the rain, Jenkins surprised everybody by providing free pizza to alleviate the waiting and rain-soaked crowd.

Local San Francisco singer-songwriter Emily Afton took the stage first. Being a hometown artist playing for a (mostly) hometown crowd (later in the show Jenkins recognized a group of fans from the East Coast), Afton was well-received by an enthusiastic audience of old friends, fans, and new listeners. By the time her short set had ended, shorty after 9pm, the crowd was cheering for more.

Third Eye Blind at The Chapel, by Joshua Huver

By 9:30, the main event rolled into place and Jenkins walked onstage with band members Brad Hargreaves on dums, Kryz Reid on lead guitar, Alex Kopp on keyboards, and bassist Alex LeCavalier. For the first four songs of the evening, “Good For You,” “Company For Strangers,” “Horror Show,” and “Queen of Daydreams,” two songs from their latest release, 2016’s We Are Drugs EP, one from the Varsity Blues soundtrack and one from the celebratory birthday disc, Jenkins kept his sweatshirt hood all the way up and covering his face, revealing himself only by his voice.

“Say It” off of 2015’s Dopamine and “Wounded” from Blue, their sophomore follow-up, gave the audience several peaks and valleys of emotion before reminding the crowd “Don’t Give In,” another from the We Are Drugs EP.

“This show is gratitude for you guys, the true fans and friends,” Jenkins said at one point. “We’re digging deep. If you want to hear the hits you gotta go to the Greek Theater this summer.”

The next six songs, from 10:30 to the end of the set at 11:15, were all off of that debut LP, beginning with “Narcolepsy,” “Thanks A Lot,” “Burning Man,” “London,” “I Want You,” and ending with “The Background.” Every song was an intense sing-along, and the crowd often overpowered Jenkins microphone.

For the encore, Jenkins returned to the stage solo for an acoustic medley beginning with Dopamine‘s “All These Things,” moving into “Motorcycle Drive By,” “God of Wine,” and ended with “Slow Motion.”

The rest of the band returned to the stage along with a very special guest who had set up a cake on stage. As Jenkins was expressing gratitude to the crowd and handing out cake, he was struck by inspiration yet again and directed the band into a second encore, watch below:

Following the rare “Alright Caroline” Jenkins gave in again and jumped into “Jumper,” a move that seemed to surprise his bandmates — but they were ready. The house lights finally came on and about half the crowd had made their way outside The Chapel; the handing out of cake had moved to the exit.

But several people were not ready to go, and the cheering did not lessen even though half the room had emptied. within 15 minutes, Jenkins returned to the stage for a third time, glass of champagne in hand, with the rest of the band right behind him and they played “Semi-Charmed Life.” Again, the crowd’s volume took over and at one point even changed the structure of the song, completely taking control of the lead guitar line and meshing it with the doo doo doo‘s.

Don’t miss these guys at The Greek in July.