The 90s ended nearly a decade and a half ago. Think about that mindboggling truth for a moment or two. Now that everyone feels nice and elderly, alternative 90s rock is in the midst of various summer nostalgia tours. Sugar Ray frontman Mark McGrath and Everclear's Art Alexakis founded the Summerland tour last year, in 2012, after the realization that the core of their fan bases are between the ages of 25-40 and in need of a pick-me-up before hitting mid-life crisis.
This year, the Summerland tour returned, albeit with various modifications. McGrath and Alexakis decided to go their separate ways; McGrath wanting more of a pop-oriented line-up, and Alexakis wanting more guitar rock. Now, get ready for some band-names you haven't heard since you packed away your childhood set of Sock'em Boppers. McGrath formed the 2013 Under The Sun Tour after recruiting Smash Mouth, Gin Blossoms, Vertical Horizon, and Fastball to help rekindle the dying flame of their iconic 90s hits. Alexakis, maintaining the Summerland title, reeled in heavier acts Sponge, Filter, and Live.
Last night, at The Capitol Theater in Port Chester, NY, I [voluntarily] got the chance to breathe in the nostalgia for myself. Right from the get-go, the demographic of 30-something-year-olds looking to hear "the hits" one last time was apparent. Sponge played several largely unrecognizable songs to kick off the show, and concluded their set with their big smash "Plowed". Throughout the night, themes of indifference and sudden excitement alternated back and forth as the four bands tossed deeper cuts into the short set lists littered with what are now being referred to as "classics." What I was pleased to hear and see amidst the crowd of plastered 40-year-old moms and old frat bros reliving the glory days was that these bands still sounded decent, and they clearly love doing what they do. This is really all you can ask for out of a quartet of bands who know that they're days as rock stars are dangerously numbered.
And if there actually are any hardcore fans that aren't willing to accept the defeat of their heroes, both Sponge and Filter played songs from new albums released this year (and by my recollection they sounded alright). Vinnie Dombroski (Sponge) can still electrify a crowd, Richard Patrick (Filter) hasn't lost his "Hey Man, Nice Shot" scream, and the diminished Live can still do the damn thing despite the loss of the Ed Kowalczyk and his notorious rat-tail. Regardless, it was definitely a "shut up and play the hits" kind of show.
By the last song of the night, Everclear's "Santa Monica", it became even more apparent why these bands still do what they do, even with the words "washed up" lingering over their heads. Members of all four bands came out to sing the hit song, each in front of various mic stands, some of whom playing instruments they aren't too familiar with (Filter bassist Phil Buckman played the triangle). The dozen or so aging musicians played the song like no one was watching, soaking in every remaining moment of stardom they could muster. These guys truly love the stage, and while their hourglass is emptying, the songs you've heard a few too many times in your local supermarket will always leave a lasting impression. And perhaps that's all that Art Alexakis and co. ultimately wish for.
On a side note, I'll be having lasting nightmares of attending nostalgia tours featuring Incubus, The Killers, Blink-182, and Weezer when I'm in my mid 30s. Time to soak in the youth. Yikes.