As pop-punk pioneers Jimmy Eat World gear up for the second phase of their performance series, Phoenix Sessions, frontman Jim Adkins wants to get one thing clear first. Phoenix Sessions is a cinematic experience. It’s not a livestream and it’s more than a concert. It’s a way for Adkins to chase one more experience and learn about himself, while connecting with longtime fans the only way he can right now.
The global stream series is in partnership with Danny Wimmer Presents and includes three performances, each episode diving into three of the groups’ albums for a full play through. The series kicked off on January 15 with a performance dubbed Chapter X, featuring the band’s newest record Surviving. The second performance, Chapter V, will traverse their 2004 release, Futures, and will air on January 29. The final performance, Chapter III, will take place on February 12 featuring their 1999 record Clarity. Each session was recorded at The Icehouse in Phoenix and featured the same production crew that Tool frontman Maynard Keenan used for his side project, Puscifer, and his Live at Arcosanti stream. The thematic elements were so unique that they could not simply be livestreamed. Everything had to be carefully and thoughtfully planned out.
“We were just inspired by what everyone else was trying to do—getting out there, then connecting with fans anyway they could. It’s basically a concert film,” Adkins told American Songwriter. “Technically there is a premiere, but we’re not actually performing as you’re watching it. I want to be clear about that, because it always bums me out when I’ve paid for some of these tickets and thought it was a live thing, and then, obviously, there were edits and stuff.”
Adkins didn’t want to disappoint his fans in the same way. Instead, he has curated an experience that can be watched and digested more than once. Fans also played a role in the selection of the albums chosen to play in the series. Surviving was an obvious pick for the band, who is excited to play it for the first time since it was released last year. Futures and Clarity were picked for popularity and tenure. The goal was to have something to represent each era of the band and offer something for every kind of fan—from new to old.
“I guess they’re both kind of older at this point—Clarity is like 100 years old,” Adkins laughed. “But basically, you have something that’s kind of more of an undisputed hardcore fan favorite album, with another popular record. So, something for everybody and then something selfish for us.”
Clarity, originally released in 1999, included songs like “Blister” and “Crush” and peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart, launching the young band into stardom just before releasing their biggest song to date, “The Middle,” featured on their 2001 record Bleed American. In 2004, the group released their follow up record Futures, featuring the single “Pain,” which bore a hidden resemblance to “The Middle.” Both songs were hits that came to life at the last minute and very quickly, neither of which Adkins had very much prospect for.
“It’s interesting because ‘Pain’ and ‘The Middle’ were songs that I didn’t have very high expectations for,” Adkins said. “Because they were both, when it came down to it, just pretty quickly written. I think there’s all this fallacy about the fate of a song—something is better because you labored over it and struggled to make it, but the thing that came and fell into your lap and was easy to do, it isn’t worth as much. Really, when it comes down to it, to a listener, none of that matters.”
Over the last two decades of performing with Jimmy Eat World, be it virtual or in a traditional live setting, Adkins has found the most insight through fan perspectives. There are always additional meanings to be revealed about material through performing it and Adkins hopes to continue that pattern with Phoenix Sessions.
“There’s that balance of kind of letting go, but also driving the shift,” he said. “I guess it’s always after the fact a little bit, that you kind of learn what it is you’re trying to tell yourself. You have a little bit of an idea when you create the song, but it isn’t until much later that you actually get an idea of it. When you’re performing that night after night, you’re constantly revisiting it in different situations, in different ways, in different moods for different people with different reactions. It sort of shows itself to you more clearly when you’re exploring it just like a fan would.”
Amid finding the balance between chasing and learning, which has often times been stressful, Adkins said, it all comes down to checking off something new, and conquering another endeavor. It’s all about constantly moving, learning, and transforming for Adkins and Jimmy Eat World, who undoubtedly have so much more to tackle with the Phoenix Sessions and long after.
“It’s just about accomplishing something and also having this experience in our bag,” Adkins said about the series. “It’s like when you get done overextending yourself, hosting a giant party or something. It’s over and you’re exhausted, but a week later you’re already thinking about the next thing you can do.”
Watch the next phase of the Phoenix Sessions on January 29. Purchase tickets in advance here.