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Nostalgia of Mine: On Revisiting Everclear in 2015

Can a band you loved as a teenager really ever stand up to the memories when performing 20 years later? We went to an Everclear concert: This is between two nerds.
June 24, 2015, 6:36pm

Everclear's Art Alexakis shot by Catharina Christiana, C3 Photography.

Last night regular Noisey columnist Kat George and Noisey Editor Kim Taylor Bennett went to see Everclear, who were headlining the 2016 Summerland Tour alongside Fuel, Toadies, and American Hi-Fi. Buoyed by thought of shouting “Father of Mine” at the top of their lungs, in unison, they headed to Irving Plaza to assess the situation and this is what they saw.

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Kim: In the mid-90s I was such a huge Everclear fan I painted a t-shirt with their logo on it, (it looked awful, it was freehand), and, when I proudly announced, via Facebook, that I’d be attending their show last night, a friend reminded me that I’d once spelt out E-V-E-R-C-L-E-A-R on my fingernails. Cool. I also had the tab book for Sparkle and Fade—remember when there was no internet and people used books to learn instruments? Anyone? No? In any case, Everclear’s bluntly, distorted power chords were perfect for an aspirant guitarist with a Big Muff. But I honestly haven’t listened to these guys in 15 years, probably since they came to my college in Oregon to play a free show in an attempt to encourage kids to vote Democrat. (They failed.)

Anyway, I was surprised to note that when I looked over their discography they’ve actually released six albums since 1996’s So Much for the Afterglow, including this year’s Black Is the New Black—which they played just two songs from last night. I guess they know where the money is. Or at least where it used to be. Everclear’s Art Alexakis founded the Summerland Tour—essentially a 90s nostalgia cash-in—back in 2012 with Mark McGrath from Sugar Ray. One can only assume that this kind of nostalgia’s offering diminishing returns: Apparently tickets for this show were being touted from outlets with a buy-one-get-one-free deal.

Kat: I was in a similar boat, in a position I can best describe as “on the verge of peeing myself with excitement.” When I was 12 I used to listen So Much for the Afterglow on repeat. I probably did this for about a year. No really, my CD player had a “repeat” button and if you pressed it the CD would just play on loop for infinity. I can sing the whole album word for word from start to end. I was also really obsessed with “Local God” from the Romeo + Juliet soundtrack, and I followed them until “Volvo Driving Soccer Mom,” but after a while I started ignoring their new songs and re-listening to …Afterglow. My boyfriend and I played it a lot around our apartment leading up to the show. I was vaguely aware that they had a new album but I most certainly had no interest in listening to that.

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Kim: OMG I forgot about “Local God.” That song is the best. Why didn’t they play that!?

Kat: Why didn’t they play “Amphetamine” is my biggest question. The weirdest thing in the world was walking into Irving Plaza. The mood was very Mid-Life Crisis. It was a sea of dads in cargo shirts and band t-shirts alternating with dads in business attire. To give you an idea: in the bathroom, my boyfriend was unwittingly roped into conversation by a man lamenting how hard it was to get a married woman to give him her number. The man went on to admit that he too was married, with a child, and unhappy. That’s the show we were at. It wasn’t like a Hold Steady or an R.E.M. show where all the cool dads in well-tailored black shirts and cool facial hair go. This was definitely a show for sad dads.

Kim: Can we all just agree that goatees and soul patches should never be allowed to sprout, let alone be willfully maintained. But we digress. Straight of the gate my face curled up like a rat in with a tummy ache. “Heroin Girl” should have sounded vital, aggressive, and enticingly self-destructive. Instead it sounded off. Like Art couldn’t hit the notes, like the whole shebang was a half octave lower. He followed it with “You Make Me Feel Like a Whore,” which still sounded wrong. His voice is shot.

Kat: I don’t know if Art was ever able to sing, this being my first live Everclear experience, but he wasn’t even doing something that closely resembled singing. It was kind of like a weird cross between talking and shouting with strange intermissions of mumbling when his mouth wasn’t close enough to the mic. He seemed pretty hell-bent on getting the audience to do most of the legwork for him on the hits, and he looked pretty pissy when they didn’t know the words. It wasn’t until everyone shouted the words to “Santa Monica” (nearly the entire first verse!) for him that he actually looked chuffed. That was during the encore BTW. He was just kind of up there gagging to feel like some kind of rock star. It was desperate and awful to watch, like a Real Housewife freezing her face into plastic oblivion with botox in an attempt to be young again.

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Kim: Did we mention this is being streamed live online via Yahoo? The comments are not kind.

Kat: That live stream chat is great. I spent half my morning reading through it. I highly recommend it. Lots of “there,” “their,” and “they’re” confusion.

Continues below.

Kim: Halfway through the set and I found myself really, really wishing they’d just play Sparkle and Fade and So Much for the Afterglow all the way through. That’s 28 songs of peerless, angsty power-pop. I was desperate to hear the plinkety guitars of “White Men In Black Suits” and to shout “All I want want to do is lose myself in your room / All you want is just a slow fuck in the afternoon.” I wanted to feel the minor chord tug of “Summerland” and swoon along singing “Let’s get some cheap red wine and just go flying.”

Kat: Yeah I really could have used more nostalgia.The cache with shows like this is definitely not the new music, or that the band is good. It’s that they play songs that sound like your memories. And then you find yourself singing lyrics you didn’t even know you remembered so loud your throat starts hurting, and you don’t even care that the band is shit any more because you’re 14 and the world is this big, vast, melodramatic thing and this band has perfectly articulated all the white people problems and daddy issues you wish you had. The problem when they do new tracks is that you’re reminded you’re at a shitty show, watching a shitty band. But the second the band kicks up “Father of Mine” you forget about that for a second. I imagine that’s how I’d feel seeing U2 doing The Joshua Tree end to end.

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Kim: You know how everyone has produced a movie and launched a new app and become a meme by the time they’re 20 these days? Well Art was 33 when he hit it big in 1995. He was never the ingenue. He was never a heartthrob. So actually, now, at 53 he looks pretty much the same, but more ripped, which is a plus, I guess.

Kat: As I was saying last night, when you’re twelve everyone over the age of 18 just kind of seems like they’re 40. So Art will always be 40 to me. Although he was kind of desperately trying to be this 20-something rebellious rock icon on stage. He kept saying pretentious shit like “Aren’t you sick of bands that don’t play instruments”, constantly calling the audience “mother fuckers” and then doing a “fuck you” call and response thing like he was a one man Rage Against The Machine.

Kim: I spent some time transfixed by a couple holding each other and singing the words of “Wonderful.” It was kinda cute but I felt a creepy.

Kat: That couple looked like they were going to dance to Everclear at their wedding. Which makes me really sad for them.

Kim: I should’ve known this was not going to go well when I looked at their Greatest Hits collection, released in 2005, and saw they’d re-recorded their biggest tunes for the LP. Remastering for a greatest hits, I get, but rerecording the whole damn thing? Who does that?!

Kat: It must be a really weird thing to be so defined by something you did 20 years ago. I can’t even imagine it. You must have such a complex relationship to that work. Meanwhile, I have to bring up some of the vaguely racist lyrics in some of the songs. I guess it wasn’t such a big thing in the 90s, because the internet wasn’t constantly dissecting everything everyone ever said, but can you imagine what would happen now if an album by a bunch of white guys said things like “It wasn’t easy for me to be a scared white boy in a black neighborhood” and “I ran through the projects at night, hide in the dark from my friends in the light”? The internet would rip them a new one.

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Kim: I think I need to stay away from Wikipedia. Art made not one, but two quasi-concept records about his second divorce. Tonight he dedicated their set to his kids and his wife standing proud in the balcony. God pray it’s third time lucky in love. An ex of mine used to refuse to go and see bands he’d seen more than once, reasoning that if he’d attended a show and the experience was amazing then he’d rather cherish that rather than take the chance and replace that memory with something that sucked. I’m the total opposite—a glutton, a hedonist—I always want seconds. Mac and cheese, roast chicken, pad see ew, whatever! I wanted that rush again and again. When I went on the road for a story with Interpol and Bloc Party in 2004, it wasn’t groundhog day for me; with every show I became more enamored. As a natural progression from this, I’m nostalgic by nature. The thrill of the new is great and all, but I adore that intimacy of songs I’ve loved forever—the way my scalp contracts when a melody or chord hits just so. The familiarity makes me feel a little high; it makes me think of bad decisions fondly. Last night I realized the error of my ways. I definitely won’t go see Smashing Pumpkins in any iteration ever again because crushed up against the barrier in the front row at the Birmingham NEC back in 1996 was the best way to watch them—bruised ribs and all. I’ve grown from this Everclear in 2015 experience: I have my albums, I can press play and feel happy, or bummed out, or mellow, or consoled by them whenever I want. I should be content with that. Memories sparkle and fade (sorry!) and that's OK. Records remain eternal. Kat: I feel like watching Everclear last night was like when I watched my favorite childhood movie, Drop Dead Fred, again as an adult. When I was a kid it was this fantastic movie about this crazy, fun imaginary friend doing all these zany antics. As an adult, I saw it for what it was, a strange and twisted movie about a suicidal, would-be rapist. That’s kind of how I feel about Everclear. Maybe some things should be left as they are. Happy memories. It’s kind of like Schrodinger's Cat. If you remember something as perfect, you’ll only know that it’s not if you open the box and peek inside. So you might as well live in that blissful ignorance rather than accidentally ruining something that glows so fondly in your memories. So much for the afterglow, indeed.

Summerland Tour Dates

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June 24 - Boston, MA @ House of Blues

June 25 - Bethlehem, PA @ Sands Bethlehem Event Center

June 26 - Utica, NY @ Saranac Brewery

July 9 - Arlington Heights, IL @ HOME Bar

July 10 - Woodhaven, MI @ Uncle Sam Jam - Civic Center Park

July 11 - Ft Wayne, IN @ Three Rivers Festival - Headwaters Park

July 12 - Cleveland, OH @ Agora Theatre

July 15 - Lubbock, TX @ Lonestar Amphitheatre

July 16 - Cedar Park, TX @ Cedar Park Center

July 17 - Houston, TX @ Bayou Music Center

July 18 - Corpus Christi, TX @ Concrete Street Amphitheater

July 19 - San Antonio, TX @ The Aztec Theater

July 21 - Springfield, MO @ Gillioz Theatre

July 24 - Kansas City, MO @ KC Live!/Power & Light District

July 25 - Pocola, OK @ Choctaw Casino Resort

July 29 - Bemidji, MN @ Sanford Center

July 30 - Minneapolis, MN @ Mill City Nights

August 1 - Denver, CO @ Denver Country Fair

August 4 - Garden City, ID @ Revolution Center

August 7 - Reno, NV @ Cargo at Whitney Peak Hotel

August 8 - Las Vegas, NV @ Brooklyn Bowl

August 9 - Tempe, AZ @ The Marquee

August 13 - Los Angeles, CA @ Club Nokia Live

August 15 - Fresno, CA @ Blackbeard's Family Entertainment

August 16 - Riverside, CA @ Riverside Municipal Auditorium

Kim Taylor Bennett just got a new guitar. She'll be relearning Sparkle and Fade later this week. She's on Twitter.

Kat George's dad took her to the movies, the beach, but never to a place inside that was so hard to reach. She's on Twitter.