Summer Nostalgia: Everclear revives ’90s alternative heyday with Summerland Tour

Despite hosting a weekly satellite radio show on Sirius XM’s alternative-formatted Lithium station, and founding the top-selling package tour Summerland, Everclear frontman Art Alexakis doesn’t necessarily think of himself as the de facto steward for all things ’90s rock.

“I think there’s a sense of a responsibility, that, as a guy back in the day, it was exciting to be there,” Alexakis said about sharing his experiences from nearly 20 years ago with longtime fans and new listeners.

Back in the mid-to-late-’90s, Alexakis led one of the biggest rock bands of the era. With three consecutive multi-platinum LPs, a steady string of radio hits, sold-out arena tours, and even an unexpected Grammy nomination, Everclear became ubiquitous with the latter part of the decade. Alexakis’s open and honest lyrics — often chronicling his rough childhood, struggles with addiction, and other deeply personal issues — struck a chord with many who felt jaded growing up during that time, earning his band a solid and loyal fan base.

After several lineup and record label changes during the 2000s, Alexakis started the Summerland Tour in 2012 with fellow ’90s rock favorites Sugar Ray, Gin Blossoms, Lit and Marcy Playground joining on for that first run. The tour returned each summer for the next five years, taking last summer off before returning with a three-band bill this year, featuring Everclear, Marcy Playground and Local H. The show will hit The Intersection June 14 as part of its outdoor Rock The Lot series.

“Without sounding goofy man, it’s kind of a blessing. People love the ’90s,” Alexakis said, talking about the passion fans still have for music of that decade. “(Summerland) just celebrates a really great era of music that I was really lucky to be a part of. And it was kind of the last gasp of rock ‘n’ roll. There hasn’t been pure rock ‘n’ roll since then. I think we’re just kind of carrying the torch. And it’s funny, because it’s not just people from back in the day that like the Summerland Tour or my radio show, there’s a lot of young people. A lot of millennials who are hungry for rock ‘n’ roll I think.”

With only three bands on this year’s Summerland Tour, Alexakis promised that each band would have longer sets, with Everclear digging deeper into its own catalog. The band plans to bring out songs from throughout its discography, including cuts of its most recent LP, 2015’s Black Is The New Black, and its underappreciated 1993 debut World of Noise, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

“The three bands that are on the tour this year, one of the things we have in common – we all sound different, we come from the same era, but we’re all based on guitar in different configurations, and we all are old school,” he said. “We don’t play with backing drums tracks or vocal tracks or keyboard tracks. We play live 100 percent. No Autotune, no ProTools. And that’s becoming more of a rarity than it used to be. It’s becoming more of the exception than the rule now.”

Stripping things down even further, Alexakis has been hard at work writing and recording his first-ever solo record, after more than two decades in the music industry. Mostly acoustic, the record will feature him performing nearly all of the instruments and vocals himself, while exploring even more of his confessional songwriting style. The as-yet-untitled set is tentatively due out sometime later this year.

“(Songwriting is) a constant companion. It’s a part of myself, yet at the same time it takes on a life of its own,” Alexakis said. “It’s kind of like having kids. I am very grateful that somewhere along the way, I decided I was just going to write my own songs, and learn the craft of it. I put whatever creativity I had into it, and make it my own thing. In rock ‘n’ roll, it’s hard to be 100-percent unique, but I had a thing in my head I was trying to find, and I think I’ve come pretty close to it a lot. And I think that with anything you do, with any kind of work, that’s what you strive for.”

Summerland Tour
feat. Everclear, Marcy Playground, Local H
The Intersection – Rock The Lot Outdoor Concert
133 Grandville Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
June 14, 6 p.m., $25-$269, (616) 451-8232