Words by Brett Ensbey
If you were a fan of alternative rock music in the mid-to-late 90’s, chances are you owned a copy of 1995’s ‘Sparkle and Fade’, and 1997’s ‘So Much for the Afterglow’ by Everclear. Furthermore, if you were a fan of these albums, and were one of the many people who decided to spend your Valentine’s Day at the Racehorse Hotel in Ipswich to catch the Portland natives on stage, you definitely would not have been disappointed in the set list. The Australian tour kicked off in Newcastle on the 30th of January and sees the band playing all over the country, including headlining sets at Hotter than Hell Festival, until the end of February.
After making our way into the closed off sports bar at the Racehorse, it was time to catch the first band of the night, Brisbane/Byron Bay based experimental rock trio, Stoker. If you’re a fan of long hair, loud drums, and psychedelic shredding, then these guys are definitely worth checking out. Playing the first set of the night can sometimes leave a band performing to a half empty room. Fortunately, Stoker didn’t have to worry about that, with an already decent sized crowd gathered at the stage, eager to get the night started. The band wasted no time tearing into their fast paced, upbeat set. With an obvious Led Zeppelin inspired sound, Stoker delivered their songs with all the energy of 70’s era Black Sabbath, mixed with a blues style reminiscent of the likes of Jimi Hendrix. Definitely a good choice for an opening band, these guys know how to warm up a crowd. Check out Stoker doing what they do here:
If Patti Smith and The White Stripes had a baby, that child would sound something like the evenings next band, Jollee, a blues rock band that may have been more at home playing Woodstock than the Racehorse Hotel. It would be easy to do the cliché thing and compare Jollee frontwoman Brooke Mowett to other powerful women in music like Stevie Nicks and Janis Joplin, but it would also be a little unfair, as Mowett has carved out her own style and deserves to be recognised for that. The bands fun set was met positively by the crowd, and I dare say Jollee left the gig with more fans than they arrived with. They possibly also left with a blow-up unicorn pool toy that somebody threw on stage during their set. You can check out Jollee’s latest single, White Woman Wasted below:
After two solid support sets, the crowd was well and truly warmed up and ready for the main event. If you’ve ever found yourself wondering how to clear out a smoking area in a matter of seconds, it’s simple; just have Everclear hit the stage and start playing the title track from their certified platinum 1997 hit ‘So Much for the Afterglow’. Unfortunately, sound problems were apparent right from the opening of the song. Of course, this is not necessarily the fault of the band, or even the sound guy, sometimes these things just happen. Maybe I was just standing in the wrong part of the room. Either way, both the band and their fans pushed through and didn’t let it affect their night. Next, it was time for the band to jump straight into an obvious fan favourite Everything to Everyone, which saw the crowd jumping and singing along to the easily recognisable chorus. After taking a moment to thank Stoker and Jollee, the band announced that it was time to go old school and play something from ‘Sparkle and Fade’. My inner 14-year-old was more than happy to hear the opening chords of Heroin Girl being played. However, my adolescent excitement was short lived as the sound completely dropped out not quite halfway into the classic. To Everclear’s credit, they handled the situation like professionals, and singer Art Alexakis did his best to keep the crowd entertained while everybody worked quickly to correct the problem. Once it was fixed, thankfully, the band picked up where they left off and finished the song.
Art and the others did their best to power through more classics like You Make me Feel Like a Whore and Father of Mine, as sound problems continued to plague the gig, causing Alexakis to jokingly ask the venue if they had forgotten to pay their power bill. As everyone involved once again worked hard to fix the problems, the band took the time to thank the crowd for being there, and sound issues aside, their fans all seemed to appreciate the effort put into playing through the problems.
As the night moved on, the band continued belting out crowd favourites, including the 2000 hit Wonderful, before introducing an acoustic version of Song From an American Movie, telling the audience that this year is the 20th anniversary of the album of the same name, and reminding anyone who remembers it being released that they are getting old. Before bringing everyone else back on stage, Art performed an acoustic version of Strawberry, which in my opinion, not to take away from the rest of the band, this was the highlight of the night.
Once the acoustic part of the evening was over, fans got to witness the talent of guitarist Davey French as he led the band into AM Radio. The hits kept coming, with the band eventually “finishing” the set with I Will Buy You a New Life. After only a few minutes of waiting, drummer Brian Nolan made his way back out, wasting no time pounding out the intro to my all-time favourite Everclear song, Summerland. After checking they had enough time, the band delivered a cover of The Vaseline’s Molly’s Lips (although it was more true to Nirvana’s version, which I am in no way upset about), before closing the show the way you’d expect them to, by belting out their biggest hit Santa Monica, (which you can watch below), with the crowd singing along louder than they had all night.
Although sound issues may have stopped us from witnessing the best Everclear show last night, what we did witness was a band that worked through every obstacle in their way to deliver the best show they could for their fans. The onstage banter and harmonies between Alexakis and bassist Freddy Herrera kept things moving as smooth as possible, and the set list really showcased Art’s songwriting abilities. All in all the diverse crowd, ranging from younger fans, to parents who were teenagers in the 90’s, putting new holes in their jeans for a quick stroll down memory lane, seemed to enjoy a successful nostalgia hit, as all three bands took us back to different eras in music.
Get tickets to the remaining dates on Everclear’s tour here: