Jimmy Eat World. L to R: Tom Linton , Jim Adkins, Rick Burch, Zach Lind. (Jason Odell )
JIMMY EAT WORLD isn't supposed to be here. Sitting in a dressing room earlier this summer at the Bamboozle Left festival in Irvine, the quartet looks too well-groomed and polite to be playing with a bunch of punk bands, much less headlining a stage.
Mohawks or not, though, a few hours later they'll draw one of the night's biggest crowds, closing their set with a heated rendition of "The Middle" -- the 2002 hit that helped make "emo" a household word.
The song, along with the rest of seminal 2001 album "Bleed American," has been reissued in a double-disc deluxe edition stocked with outtakes and live cuts, a rarity these days when the ailing music industry seldom preps re-releases for anything less than premier acts. The special package -- and a tour that brings them to Hollywood for two shows -- is testament to a band that has carved a niche for itself playing sturdy guitar pop that appeals to a wide swath of audiences.
Frontman Jim Adkins is justifiably proud of the new release -- "There's always a ton of additional material that either gets cut from the record or gets generated in the course of touring on the album, so the reissues are a good way to put all that in one place," he says -- but deluxe editions weren't always in the cards for the Mesa, Ariz., quartet.
Jimmy Eat World was dropped from Capitol Records after the commercial failure of 1999's "Clarity," leaving with a minor radio hit (KROQ standard "Lucky Denver Mint") and a sound too melodic to be grouped with -- or marketed to the audiences of -- the emo-core bands with which they were often associated.
Undeterred, the band took day jobs to pay for studio time to record what would become their third album, "Bleed American."
"It was like, we think it's really good, we think it's something that people will like, but at the end of the day, we have no idea what the future will hold," drummer Zach Lind remembers.
The future, luckily, held the short-lived DreamWorks Records, where they joined a stable of artists that included Elliott Smith and Rufus Wainwright. Fellow emo-leaning acts the All-American Rejects and Saves the Day would soon follow. DreamWorks was "probably the last great major label that ever existed," Lind says. "They really believed in us and put a lot of resources into promoting the album and the band. It really was a great situation for us."
It was also a label willing to work a single. It took months for the anthemic "The Middle" to climb the charts, but in June 2002 -- a year after the album's release -- the song reached No. 5 on the Billboard charts. Not bad for a band without a record deal or a manager 18 months before. "It didn't really sink in until a half a year after we stopped touring from it, and it was like, 'Whoa! People are actually going to be curious when we put out another record,' " Adkins says.
"Bleed American" was retitled "Jimmy Eat World" in the wake of Sept. 11, and DreamWorks soon folded into Interscope, but the group's second round with major labels has been less of a battle for recognition. "Sweetness" and "A Praise Chorus" were successful singles, and the band has released two more albums, 2004's "Futures" and last year's "Chase This Light."
The scene seems friendlier than ever to a band that, 15 years in, is older than many of the teenagers in its audiences.
"We can play to a younger crowd," Lind says. "It ends up being a really cool mix at the shows -- there's parents bringing their kids."
JIMMY EAT WORLD
WHERE: Avalon Hollywood, 1735 N. Vine St., Hollywood
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
INFO: (323) 462-8900; www.ticketmaster.com