When you strip away everything -- all the effects pedals, all the lighting and
stage techs, even the drummers and drum machines--you're left with two things:
the singer, and the song.
This became clear in Chicago Wednesday night
(April 2). Art Alexakis, Everclear's frontman, opened up the skeleton that
makes Everclear the great, straight-up rock 'n' roll band that they are.
Alexakis is out taking a break from working on the new Everclear disc, now
under the working title of So Much for the Afterglow. Taking a break and
taking several steps down the rock 'n' roll ladder. He's playing in some tiny
venues on a few select dates. In Chicago this meant setting up at the famed
bowling alley/local punk venue, The Fireside Bowl. While bands like Veruca Salt
have cut their teeth here, most of the shows are five bands for five bucks with
more people crossing the stage in the night than out in front of it.
Alexakis seems to be loving his solo fling.
The hour-long performance
opened with a Neil Young cover and featured a mix of songs from Everclear's
breakout, Sparkle and Fade, as well as "I'll Buy You A New Life," from
the new album. He seemed relaxed in his blurry plaid shirt, under the
water-stained, crumbly ceiling in front of an audience that was a bit younger
and more suburban than the Fireside usually draws. He joked with the crowd
(even the hecklers) and told stories as he worked through renditions of his
songs that were about as true to the originals as possible without the normal
It was quite an experience to hear Alexakis' lyrics laid
out so plainly. Everclear is known for their great rock 'n' roll sound, and
sometimes Alexakis' straight-forward, honest words get overlooked.
tonight. Tonight was just Alexakis for himself and his fans. He dug back into
his repertoire for "Culver Palms" from his previous band, Colorfinger, and
explained that his "practice wife" had done the art for that CD and that it was
she who had decided to call it that as opposed to "Why I don't believe
in God," which was his title. He pulled out "Fire Maple Song," from Everclear's
first album. He covered Tom Petty's "Apartment Song," and ended with John
Denver's "Rocky Mountain High."
After the show Alexakis hung out and signed
photos, CDs and even organ donor cards for fans. He handed out his personal
email address and took demo tapes with interest. Alexakis is looking for bands
to produce. He mentioned that he'd like to do the next album of his opener,
Gus. Gus played a strong and tight set on acoustic guitar, pulling selections
from his self-titled debut as well as material he's working on for his next
Everclear will be touring again as a whole in fall with a new
guitarist in their concert line-up -- though Alexakis said he is too much of a
"control freak" to give up playing guitars on the album. And if the album is
going well, Alexakis says that they would consider doing Lollapalooza the
following summer, especially if he could have some say in the main stage
The new songs he played this night were strong and can only gain
from having the rest of Everclear behind them. But in this setting, they still
shone, under one poorly aimed yellow spot, in the bowling alley.