When Jimmy Eat World formed more than 20 years ago, the band members didn’t think the group would stay together a year, let alone long enough to record nine studio albums, scoring a gold and platinum record along the way.
“Never, no way,” said singer and guitarist Jim Adkins from his home in the Greater Phoenix Area of Arizona.“I didn’t even know what we would be doing a year from that time.”
Over the past two decades, Jimmy Eat World has fulfilled the promise of its name. The high-energy, indie music video for “The Middle,” a song about a girl who feels like she doesn’t belong, made the Total Request Live countdown regularly in the halcyon days of MTV and Carson Daly. The song’s catchy lyrics, “everything will be just fine,” became an anthem for kids who felt like they didn’t belong to the mainstream and led to Adkins joining Taylor Swift on stage during a live cover of the song, years after it was written. Jimmy Eat World songs were featured in cult classic films like 1998’s “Never Been Kissed” and became so popular that these days, strains of “Hear You Me” or “Sweetness” can even be heard during late night grocery trips in Safeway.
Yet, it still surprises Adkins every time.
“Any time one of our songs comes on it’s always kind of a trip for me. It’s never gotten to be a normal thing,” he said.
In fact, Adkins can still remember the first time he heard a Jimmy Eat World song on the radio. The band was in their tour van driving down Laurel Canyon Boulevard in Los Angeles, a stretch he described as a “crazy” two-lane, winding road.
“I just remember it was a very surreal experience. We kind of couldn’t believe it,” he said.
But before all of this, Jimmy Eat World was a group of punk-rock kids who would play wherever they could, including unconventional spaces.
“When we were coming up and just kind of making a name for ourselves, we would play anywhere that anyone would want to promote a show for us, and that meant a lot of different things,” Adkins recalled. “A lot of art spaces that were probably open for a grand total of eight months.”
Along with underground concerts, the band also had a few gigs at bars, even when only half the band was old enough to enter. Adkins said it doesn’t feel like that long ago he and drummer Zach Lind were 20 and couldn’t hang out at some of the venues they played in San Diego or Washington state.
“I remember having to sit outside in our van until we played and then we’d go in and play and we’d have to get out,” he said.
Perhaps this is the reason the band’s upcoming 10-date Integrity Blues Tour includes a stop at Petaluma’s renowned all-ages venue, The Phoenix Theater.
“I’m getting old right now, but you know, I still feel like that kid that’s standing outside who can’t get into the show and is just bummed out. We try to avoid (creating) that situation as much as we can,” he said.
Who: Jimmy Eat World
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23
Where: The Phoenix Theater, 201 Washington St, Petaluma.