When Portland-based rock group Everclear formed in 1991, grunge had just exploded.
Three years later it would be Gary Gersh, the same guy who inked Nirvana, Sonic Youth and Counting Crows to a major label deal with DGC, who would do the same for the Oregon-based Everclear when they signed with Capitol Records.
More than two decades plus later, a 1990s nostalgia cottage industry has arisen at a time when pop music is fragmented by streaming, social media and a music business that’s a shadow of its former self — cannibalizing its talent pool in the process. It’s an environment that veteran creative types have had to learn how to navigate.
Everclear founding member Art Alexakis is one such person. Since 2012, Alexakis has been riding this thirst for ’90s nostalgia each summer. That’s when he and Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath created the Summerland Tour, a multi-act outing feature groups that had radio hits in the ’90s.
For that initial 2012 tour, Everclear and Sugar Ray headed up a bill rounded out by Gin Blossoms, Lit and Marcy Playground. The idea came out of encounters with fans who gave Alexakis a Mark Twain moment along the lines of his band’s demise being greatly exaggerated.
“I had someone come up to me and say they thought I was dead. I asked why he thought that and if he’d heard that I was dead,” Alexakis said in a recent phone interview. “His response was that he just hadn’t heard me on the radio. So I asked if his assumption was that every band he didn’t hear on the radio was dead.
“It’s kind of ridiculous, but there are so many bands from that era that are still out there making music and touring,” he said. “We didn’t get the memo that we’re not relevant any more. To the people that like our music and to ourselves, we think what we do is relevant. So I wanted to have a place where those bands could come and play the hits, some fan favorites and some new songs. Then these groups would get out of the way for the next band and give the concertgoer as much value for their dollar as possible.”
McGrath and Sugar Ray dropped off the Summerland Tour after the inaugural out, but Alexakis has kept it going, and has seen it become a perennial hit. Other 1990s acts that have hopped on board include Soul Asylum, Eve 6, Spacehog, Live, Filter, Sponge, Fuel, American Hi-Fi and Toadies.
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The tour came to the McGrath Amphitheatre in Cedar Rapids in 2014, featuring Everclear, Eve 6, Soul Asylum and Spacehog.
The one year the tour didn’t happen was 2017, when Alexakis chose to mark his band’s milestone 1997 album, “So Much for the Afterglow,” by playing that album in its entirety that summer. He initially had reservations about the idea, but that soon changed.
“People started doing the whole thing where they do an anniversary tour (for a release.) I was kind of skeptical at first, but I got so many people asking us to do it on ‘Sparkle & Fade’ (Everclear’s 1995 album) that we did it. It was such a success. People just really enjoyed it and it was a lot of fun to play songs that we didn’t play a lot — a lot of the deeper songs on the record,” he said. “One of the things I heard constantly was whether or not we were going to do that for ‘So Much For the Afterglow’ and that we had to do it for that release. Considering that it was our biggest-selling record, it kind of made sense to do that.
“When we announced that we were going to do it and tickets went on sale, people just went nuts,” Alexakis said. “We were selling shows out that we didn’t think we were going to sell out.”
And while the positive response is gratifying, the odd thing Alexakis had noticed was the wide range of fans coming out to see his band. It’s a phenomenon he’s theorized has to do with younger fans thirsting for music that’s not currently being represented in a commercial sense.
“There are a lot of people who grew up with the (‘Afterglow’) record. I hear that a lot,” he said. “They heard it in maybe junior high school, high school and college. You expect those people to be (at the shows.) And I’m not exaggerating, but when you come to these shows, there are maybe 25 to 30 percent of millennials and younger people coming out that grew up with the record through their parents, siblings, aunts or uncles. A lot of kids are people that heard about us and listened to us on Spotify and just love rock ’n’ roll, and locked on to us and other 1990s bands in a fierce way because they’re getting something from us that they’re not getting from contemporary music.”
Alexakis and company are doing a few headlining shows this January, including a stop Friday night (1/25) at the Riverside Casino Event Center in Riverside. It’s a good bet that the hits from “So Much for the Afterglow” will be included in the set.
The band might also touch on the latest Everclear studio album, the 2015 release “Black is the New Black.” That album hearkened back to the hard-hitting, but tuneful rock of “Sparkle & Fade” and “So Much for the Afterglow,” which is what Alexakis intended.
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“I’ve always been in love with guitars and just hard-rock songs and punk songs and writing in that format,” he said. “I mean, it just seemed like the right thing to do. It wasn’t like a conscious thing. And it sure wasn’t a calculated business move, because that music isn’t really selling right now.
There’s a time when you’ve just got to go, you know (expletive) all the (synthetic pop music) that’s going on, this is what I do. This is what I want to do.”
WHERE: Riverside Casino Event Center, 3184 Highway 22, Riverside
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday (1/25)