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Summerland Tour, taking you back to high school

What do you do get when you take five one-hit-wonder bands from the 90s and put them on a tour together? You get the Summerland Tour and the almost-sad part is that I was excited to go!

Despite my love classic and hard rock, I grew up on pop rock music and as such I’m not below enjoying it. Yes, I remember the 80s but the 90s was my youthful prime so if I associate my childhood with any decade most, it’s the 1990s. Sure, that meant all of the popular grunge music like Nirvana and Pearl Jam but it also meant the post-grunge era which included all the bands that were trying to be Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but it also meant a slight rebirth in the pop rock genre. Music that wasn’t exactly fluffy enough to be true Top 40 but wasn’t hard enough to make it on the heavy metal stations. The bands I lump into this class include ones like Bush, Weezer and Everclear…the latter of which is the headline of the new Summerland Tour currently making its way across the country.

Lit on Summerland Tour
Lit rocked through their hits sounding better than I expected

The bands my memories are made of

I was a big Everclear fan when they hit in the mid-90s. Their first hit Santa Monica came out in 1995 and spent some time at the top of the charts but it had all the signs of being a simple one-hit-wonder for the band. Nonetheless, these were the days when if you wanted a song you had to purchase the entire album and that’s just what I did. Sparkle and Fade included Santa Monica but also had 13 other songs on it, many of which were pretty good even if they weren’t chart toppers. As such Everclear became one of “my bands” because I feel like I discovered them on my own. Yeah, their single on the radio led me to them but buying the Sparkle and Fade album turned me into a fan and to be honest, I still play that album a lot.

Much to my surprise (and I’m sure a lot of people’s), Everclear released their second album two years later and it was great. It actually had more top hits than their first record and the entire album was a textbook evolution of a band. The songs were better written, better produced and includes the songs most people now associate with Everclear. So Much for the Afterglow was the last Everclear record I owned and after that I kind of tuned out from Everclear, at least in the “I love every song” sense. I heard their songs on the radio and downloaded their singles from Napster but was otherwise giving them a break…but I never stopped being a fan.

Lets now scoot ahead 15 years and Jen noticed the Summerland Tour that was coming to included Everclear. Tickets were only $15 so it was a no-brainer to go see the concert, however, this was more than just an Everclear concert. The lineup for the concert included five bands from the 90s that all had their small collection of hits but will all go down in history and simple one-hit-wonders. Marcy Playground, Lit, Gin Blossoms, Sugar Ray and Everclear were all on the bill and I didn’t have a problem with any of them. In fact, I was almost more interested in hearing Lit play than Everclear.

Lit came out in the late-90s and was where I went for pop rock after Everclear. Lit was a little poppier than Everclear in singing about serious topics like Zip-lock bags and being happy but it was catchy, fast and didn’t require a lot of thought…which is just what I like. Everyone likes to turn their nose up at song writing that isn’t deep or meaningful but everything doesn’t need to be Bob Dylan and Led Zep. Sometimes you just need music that sounds good, regardless what they’re actually singing about…and Lit fit that bill perfectly. They only had one hit of note, My Own Worst Enemy, that was fun for a couple of months and then everyone forgot about them, but I still listen to Lit a lot these days (just ask Jen). It’s still fun, simple rock music and it still fits my mood most of the time. So while Everclear was enough to get me to buy into the Summerland Tour, Lit made it that much more worth it. When it comes to Marcy Playground, Gin Blossoms and Sugar Ray, I was less interested but I’m not (too) ashamed to say that I can actually stomach Sugar Ray’s four hits that made them famous. However, go listen to Sugar Ray’s first record and you’ll quickly discover that the acoustic, adult-contemporary trudge that Sugar Ray is known for is not really their first love, but it did make them plenty of money.

The Summerland Tour 2012

All the bands on the Summerland Tour had their hits but none of them are in their prime. They’re all a little older, a little fatter and a little more out of tune but no one can turn their back on a nostalgia trip for $15. The concert started at 7p and from that point on was a well oiled machine. Marcy Playground kicked things off with about four songs, Sex and Candy being the only one people only knew. Once they were done there was a quick 15-minute break while the roadies swapped out equipment and then Lit hit the stage. Much like the others, Lit came out and sprinted through their five-song set list. Much like Marcy Playground, the crowd only knew the one Lit song but I was happy to be able to sing along to almost all of their songs. Lit actually played some new music which surprised me since I didn’t even know they were really still a band…go figure. Lit was high energy, especially compared to Marcy Playground, and they didn’t sound bad either…I was expecting them to sound worse so they surprised me. As a fan I was happy with what I got out of Lit and appreciated that each band on this tour was coming out, playing their hits and then leaving. Lets face it, when you have a room full of one-hit-wonders the only thing people want to hear is that one hit so there’s no need to make people suffer.

Gin Blossoms
The Gin Blossoms, looking old but sounding great

After Lit ran through their set the Gin Blossoms showed up and was easily the best band out of the five. Of all the bands, the Gin Blossoms probably have more hits than any other band on the bill (and more than some of them combined). The Gin Blossoms “love” grunge really isn’t my bag but as they played through their songs the memories all came back to me. Gin Blossoms is one of those bands I didn’t really get into so I lump them in with a bunch of others, which means I tend to forget which songs are theirs. Nonetheless, they sounded good and played a solid set that crowd loved…but I guess that’s easier when you can still hear all of the songs on the radio.

Sugar Ray followed the Gin Blossoms and put on a decent performance that covered their four hits along with a little filler thrown in. Mark McGrath and Everclear’s lead singer seem to be the two brains behind the Summarland Tour, so naturally their bands get the most stage time. The trouble was Sugar Ray didn’t have a long list of hits so they had to fill their hour with a few covers and a little crowd participation…but all in all they sounded good and McGrath certainly knows how to talk and entertain. I also came to the conclusion that Sugar Ray could spend the rest of their career playing their four hits on a cruise ship. Take that for what you will. Next, now three hours after the first band took the stage, it was time for Everclear.

Given the rest of the bands all sounded pretty good despite being way past their prime, I was stoked to hear Everclear run through their set of hits that I could happily sing along with…too bad that never happened. That never happened because Everclear sounded horrible, making their songs all but intolerable to sit through. The singer, Art Alexakis, not only sounded awful but seemingly forgot how to sing into a microphone as he head banged and jammed all around the stage to what the crowd could only assume was one of their popular songs. It also didn’t help that he seemingly forgot the words to the songs he wrote! It was an incredibly disappointing moment for the entire crowd. By the second song people were starting to leave because they sounded so bad.

However, I don’t think all the blame can be given to Everclear because while they sounded bad as a band, the mix coming out of the speakers was equally as a bad. I’m not sure if the sound guy was high off all of the weed that was floating around or maybe he was fighting off the swarm of bees we almost sat next to earlier in the night, but he certainly wasn’t helping the band any. It was such a let down, not to mention you feel kind of jipped when the headline band is the worst of the bunch. In all honestly, most people probably paid $15 to see Everclear and none of us got a return on that investment.

Everclear on the Summerland Tour
Let down of the night: Everclear

Over the past 12 years Jen and I have been to our fair share of concerts for over-the-hill bands. We saw Motley Crue several years ago at which time they were easily 20+ years past their prime and they sounded awful. Of course, they were all like 50 years old so you couldn’t really expect to hear the Crue of 1989. But here’s Everclear, a band barely 15 years out of their hay day, and they sound worse than a band double their age. Bummer.

Even though the band I really paid to see stunk up the joint, the whole concert overall was far from a bust, especially given the ticket price. For $15 I got a whole night of music that took me back high school. I heard all the songs I wanted to hear and little filler. Four out of five bands sounded better than I expected and were all entertaining. The weather was even perfect especially since the venue was packed wall-to-wall with other 90s-loving fans. So when the Summerland Tour stops near your town, after you laugh about it with your friends, go buy some tickets and enjoy a fun night of nostalgia.