Everclear Rule In Chicago

ATN's 1995 "Band of the Year" are becoming stars.

ATN Chicago correspondent Gil Kaufman

reports: Everclear

leader Art Alexakis wandered quietly onto the stage at the Chicago club, the

Metro, on Wednesday (Feb. 7) and gave a few bows before launching into a solo

version of "Strawberry," one of several anti-dope anthems on Everclear's

Sparkle and Fade. As his voice crackled and his guitar gained momentum,

bass player Craig Montoya crept in under the shade of darkness and began a slow

pluck, while drummer Greg Eklund bent to his knees under Montoya's microphone

and slowly rattled a silver, box-shaped maraca. The audience knew the words,

almost all of them anyway, and it would be that kind of night, sorta strange.

To watch the mostly under 21, all-ages crowd, sweat and shout along to

"Strawberry," and, later, "Heroin Girl," songs about Alexakis' well-recorded

bouts with the needle, was not only odd, it was a bit frightening. If only

because it signaled a definite loss of innocence, something Everclear's lyrics

are expert at portraying.

Before any sort of pall could develop, however,

the band tore into "Electra Made Me Blind," with a ferocity and joy they would

maintain for the remainder of the one-hour set. Eklund, his tongue wagging

side-to-side, an impish grin on his face and the stick-figure-like Montoya,

punching at this bass as if it were a guitar, propelled the song along as

Alexakis did his best to get out the lyrics while dodging a hail of water

bottles tossed from the already sweaty audience. While an unseen smoke machine

(or was it the largely teenage audience puffing away?) filled the room with

white clouds, almost obscuring the band, a strange trend developed. Songs like

"Chemical Smile," "Heartspark Dollarsign," and a few tunes from their first

album, World of Noise, rocked along on a speedy clip, mercifully devoid

of guitar solos or other "rock" histrionics, but no matter how fast and hard

they re-worked the songs (especially "Nehalem"), Alexakis couldn't escape the

Tom Jones monkey on his back. No, he wasn't wearing a truss or a slipping hair

piece, rather, he was being bombarded with undergarments, specifically bras.

Okay, maybe not bombarded, but he did get hit in the face with a white bra

during "Heartspark," and after draping it on his shoulders for the next song,

he lamented that bass player Montoya was feeling a little left out. Not to

worry, just a few songs later the requested black bra flew onto the stage and

my companion, reading my mind, turned to me and said, "Who does he think he is,

Tom Jones?"

Once the hail of unmentionables ceased and after a raucous

surf instrumental "Pacific Wonderland," from their EP Fire Maple Song,

the band kept the energy level amped. "Surf City," during which Montoya took

the vocals and the band did its best approximation of an arena grunge

supergroup, complete with the only solo of the night, in which Alexakis

(mockingly?) paraded half a dozen cheesy guitar rock poses, including: guitar

as phallic symbol between thighs, down on your knees noodling and jumping off

the riser windmill, was fast and sloppy. The set ended with "Evergleam," the

concluding song on World of Noise during which Alexakis and Montoya

wrestled back and forth across the stage, bumping heads, backs and elbows,

until Alexakis got too rough and nearly tossed Montoya off the stage along with

a pile of speakers. As they band said their good-byes and Alexakis picked

Montoya up off the floor, he gently rubbed the runty bass player's head in a

paternal fashion, once again proving that if, not in age alone, in experience,

he has learned a hard life's worth of lessons on how fragile bodies

are.

Encores were the expected, but much grungier "Heroin Girl," and "Santa

Monica," and finally, a surprise punked-up version of Tom Petty's "American

Girl." Like openers, No Doubt, their California brethren (and sistern), who put

on an energetic show (also with a fine capper in Pat Benatar's "Heartbreaker"),

Everclear proved that, at the very least, they are an entertaining, full-on

rock band that isn't afraid to have a little fun with their sometimes

sober(ing) tunes.

(For more on Everclear, check out the cover story in the

August issue of Addicted To Noise, found in our "Back Issues"

section.)