The asphalt was on fire as the sweaty, slightly balding masses shuffled into the Ogden Theatre for the 2013 Summerland Tour. The event, hosted by Art Alexis and broadcast to 500,000 people via AXS TV, featured four bands from the 90’s ‘alternative rock’ scene. The influx of social media and radio contests leading up to the event might lead one to believe ticket sales were less than stellar, but by the time they opened the doors (a half hour late), there were a good couple hundred people in line, and by the time Live took the stage, the air conditioning was no match for the hot mass of bodies singing high school/college anthems at the top of their lungs.
Despite what some of the bands might have thought, this was a celebration of a time long gone — it was not an opportunity to resurrect careers via crappy new songs you wrote after putting the kids the bed. Thankfully, most of the bands followed the script and stuck to the hits — making it a memorable night because it brought to mind so many memorable nights from a decade that should be closer than it appears in the rear-view mirror of life. The last time I saw any of these bands (and yes, I had seen them all before, some of them touring together) was in 1995. It’s almost impossible to comprehend the fact that 18 years have passed since then. I was only 18 years old then! But enough about me and my struggle with my own mortality, let’s talk about what $35.00 plus service fees buys you in 2013…
First off, these are NOT the same bands that released hit records in the pre-Napster era. In fact, out of the eighteen musicians who graced the stage last night, only six of them were around in the 90’s. Exactly one-third. Those artists are Art Alexis (lead-singer of Everclear), Richard Patrick (lead-singer of Filter), Vinnie Dombroski (lead-singer of Sponge), and Patrick Dahlheimer, Chad Gracey and Chad Taylor of Live. So what we really had were three lead singers with new bands and one band with a new lead singer. Now, if we were talking about some seminal groups who changed (or created) their particular genre, this might be a deal killer, but when we’re talking about a bunch of bands who made some good sing-along songs to fill the gap between grunge and irony, it’s not the end of the world.
So how did each band fare? Compared to each other? And compared to the bands they used to be?
Sponge was first up. They took the stage at 8:00pm and the first impression was that each member was going for a separate style. You had the trucker cap guy. You had the punk. You had the dad. And then you had Vinnie Dombroski. The guy looked like Scott Weiland and Job from Arrested Development had a kid and that kid was a heroin addict. That being said, Dombroski still has the pipes! Rotting Piñata was a damn good album when it was released and it has held up pretty well over time. “Molly (16 Candles Down the Drain)” and “Plowed” sounded great! The only misstep (besides the fashion disaster) was premiering a new song instead of throwing in one more hit. The set was too short and I wanted to hear “Rotting Piñata”! But that’s just this old man’s complaint. Overall, it was a solid set.
Next up was Filter. I have to admit I’ve never been a big fan of this band. “Hey Man, Nice Shot” was catchy, but always seemed like a NIN throwaway. “Take a Picture” was an ok ballad. And Crystal Method’s “Trip Like I Do” was better without Patrick’s vocal. But overall, those songs sounded pretty good last night. Patrick can’t quite sing like he used to, but he can still yell in that pack-a-day style. Not a bad set by any means, but also not something I’d need to experience again.
It was earlier in the evening that I learned Live had replaced Ed Kowalczyk with Chris Shinn. This news was a real punch in the gut to the 15-year-old kid who lives inside me. Out of all these bands, Live is the only one that really means anything to me. Mental Jewelry was as important to me in 1991 as Nevermind and Ten were. I realize that it’s not on the same level, but that’s not important to my argument. I lived through some things with Mental Jewelry and I lived through some other things with Throwing Copper. I have every word of every song on those albums ingrained into my mind. Live is also the very first band I saw live in a club, by myself. I met Vic Chesnutt that night! So the thought of watching some unknown singer perform those songs was a little heartbreaking. Luckily for me and the inflated sense of importance I put on Live’s material, Shinn did more than just hold his own. Bringing a little hardcore (and dare I say emo) energy into the songs, he made them louder, and more legitimate than they ever were in the 90’s. The setlist was built around his strengths, and with the exception of “Lightning Strikes”, he nailed every song. This is a band I would see again. This is a band that could open for Queens of the Stone Age. Live were the loudest and best band of the night – by a long shot!
This was Alexis’ show, and Everclear do have more hits than all the other bands combined (that might not be true, but just stay with me here), so it was only right that he end the night with the headlining spot. And he proved he deserved it. I enjoyed Live the most because I have a history with the band, but I’d say the consensus would go with Everclear. No new songs. Just a hit after hit after hit. “Father of Mine”, “Heroin Girl”, “I Will Buy You a New Life”, “So Much For the Afterglow” — Alexis and his band could’ve gone on like that for quite awhile, but eventually the night had to end. So after a couple missteps (who really needs a guitar solo? and who really needs to revisit “AM Radio”?), he brought all his friends back on stage for “Santa Monica”. And as if I wasn’t already overwhelmed by images of my High School years in Southern California, singing these words made me realize how fast 18 years can disappear…
“We can live beside the ocean
Leave the fire behind
Swim out past the breakers
Watch the world die”
As I walked out onto Colfax those ghosts of the west coast started to fade — and by the time I got home they were nothing more than pictures in an album on a shelf. It’s just weird to think that in a blink of an eye I’ll be saying the same thing about today.
Wax Ecstatic (To Sell Angelina)
Molly (16 Candles Down the Drain)
Have You Seen Mary
Fade From View
(Can’t You) Trip Like I Do
What Do You Say
We Hate It When You Get What You Want
Happy Together (The Turtles cover)
Take a Picture
Hey Man, Nice Shot
All Over You
Operation Spirit (The Tyranny of Tradition)
So Much for the Afterglow
Everything to Everyone
Father of Mine
I Will Buy You a New Life
Whole Lotta Love (Led Zeppelin clip)