Post ‘Brent-ern’ starstruck by Jimmy Eat World
By Brent Johnson
We slipped through the crowd with our passes raised like golden tickets as security waved us into the only room closed off to the public. A guard creaked the door open just enough for us to squeeze through; a tiny crevice and glimpse what the public eye would only see when the gods were in their human form.
There were a few people backstage with passes like ours. They soon departed, and we were left with the band Jimmy Eat World.
Earlier in the evening, I was pacing around the house, walking from room to room, pretending to do something. Then the door bell shrieked, and Sarah Hall, my mentor at the Post, was at the door. We were going to Amos’ South End in Charlotte to interview the famous band Jimmy Eat World. I had jumped at the opportunity a few days earlier when she asked if I wanted to go.
Our ride to Charlotte was calming. Sarah and her daughter, Abigail, talked about Sarah’s recent coverage of local haunted houses which, ironically, helped ease my fear of meeting the band.
Over a stop for tea and coffee, we talked about meeting celebrities. Sarah admitted to being nervous while interviewing Chris Barron, lead singer of The Spin Doctors. Abigail, a former Post intern, talked about interviewing Chewbacca, the hairy man-beast Wookie that starred in the classic “Star Wars” movies.
The talk made me anxious again.
We got to Amos’ an hour early for the interview and there was quite a crowd gathering outside to get into the venue. Sarah made a quick phone call and we were instant VIPs. We passed by the line, and went to the front where we were given media passes.
The concert hall was nearly empty, but after the doors opened, people began pouring in. I was looking forward to seeing Jimmy Eat World perform but I couldn’t shake the nervousness over the anticipated interview.
The scheduled interview time arrived. We were told to go the second floor where the band would be having a “meet and greet.” We were a little disappointed thinking we were going to have to interview them in front of a lot of other people, which would not have been as personal. And the loud music already being played from speakers around us was going to make it hard to hear.
Then someone approached us and asked us to follow him. We looked at each other and did so.
We went back downstairs and up to the front, passing through the swarm of people pressed up to the stage. We crossed the stage and entered the green room.
And there they stood ó Jimmy Eat World. The door shut behind us and the floor was ours.
We introduced one another and all I could think was, “I’m shaking the hands of musicians whom I, and the rest of the world, really admire.” It was an honor.
“Chicken scratch” would be a generous description of my notes. I was so thrilled to be there with them that, instead of writing about what they were saying, I wrote things like, “I can’t believe this is happening.”
The Arizona (not Arkansas which I blurted anxiously and incorrectly) band was in Charlotte to work with Samsung to bring the audience a unique show experience. People got to experiment with Samsung and Alltel technology while waiting for the concert to begin. The band said this was the first time they had partnered with a company this way.
Jimmy Eat World is a little hard to classify. Are they alternative? Pop? Rock? Emo? During our interview, bassist Rick Burch says they are a “guitar-based rock band.”
Drummer Zach Lind jumped in and said they are a “drum-based rock band.”
The band’s song writing is collaborative, which in turn goes through the typical “strainers” of producing music.
Sarah was great. She asked calm, collected questions which the band was happy to answer. She shared an experience about teaching a middle school music class, which was allowed to play “The Middle”, Jimmy Eat World’s smash hit single, on their recorders if they were behaving.
Guitarist Tom Linton said his first music experience was playing the recorder in third grade. Band members all got a good laugh out of that.
“You can’t help but like it,” Sarah said about “The Middle.”
We talked about the way the band made their way to the top through their own determination after being dropped by Capitol.
“People think that when a major label takes you on, that’s the end of your problems,” said singer Jim Adkins. “But sometimes it just brings on a new set of problems.”
After being put aside by Capitol Records, Jimmy Eat World really took off while distributing their music themselves. They are now signed with DreamWorks.
When I asked about their influences in music, Burch said “You are influenced by everything you hear.”
The beauty of this band is that they resist the temptation of trying to mold an idea into their listeners. They create a special sound that audiences ó from all aspects, angles and perspectives ó can enjoy and appreciate.
Even on stage before a thousand people, there was no pedestal. They were human. Always have been, always will be.
Intern Brent Johnson is a student at Catawba College.