It's a well-established fact that the mark of a truly brilliant pop song is its ability to stand the test of time, captivating new generations or, at the very least, remaining meaningful to it's intended audience over a lifetime. As an admitted Gen X/Y cusper with a 90s obsession, I can't claim I'm an unbiased and wholly legitimate source when it comes to declaring the work of Portland-bred alt-rock icons Everclear to be on that level -- but it sure seemed like it was to me last night.
True, the occasion, The Big Pour, a Scottsdale beer festival on the banks of the canal, was incredibly fun, but vaguely pathetic for a band whose best work is about the horrors of addiction. It's also true that I'd had a lot to drink. But when the band -- now just lead singer Art Alexakis and four hired guns -- chugged out the opening riff to "Santa Monica," I was struck with the sense that this song, from Sparkle and Fade, an album I'd obsessed about as a high school sophomore, had made the leap to my adulthood.
The song, which, like the rest of that very, very dark album is about a deeply depressing episode (in this case the singer's girlfriend's suicide) struck teenage me for lyrics like:
I just wanna feel some sunshine
I just wanna find some place to be alone
Now, I'm more drawn to the blissfully nihilistic refrain:
We can live beside the ocean
Leave the fire behind
Swim out past the breakers
Watch the world die
That wasn't the only such moment of re-connection. On a day when I attended a good friend's daddy shower the second song, "Father of Mine," seemed especially important -- perhaps in part thanks to the two cups of 120 Minute IPA. Likewise, the evening's closer, "I Will Buy You A New Life," seemed appropriate with a cheap cigar in my mouth, surrounded by a helpfully unsavvy Scottsdale crowd that didn't appear to be familiar with the beer snob groupthink that causes long lines and early tap-outs at, say, Ska Brew or Lost Abby. Good times all around.
For their part, Art and his helpers played through some apparently restrictive sound limitations well, even delivering old favorites like "Heartspark Dollarsign," for the faithful. After seeing Cheers star George "Norm" Wendt mail it in on a 5-minute comedy set that preceded his book-hawking, and considering the drunk and only half interested audience I was pleasantly surprised to see how professional the band played their set. Here's hoping they can keep it up for another 10 or 20 years, in which case someone less unapologeticlly and obviously nostalgic can declare Everclear's oeuvre to be truly brilliant pop music.
Saturday Night: Everclear at The Big Pour in Scottsdale.
Better Than: A Cheers re-run or another 10 minutes of George Wendt.
Personal Bias: Outlined extensively above.
Random Fact: My impending 10th high school reunion made me notice this fact in my research: Everclear's single "Wonderful," was used as the graduation song for Columbine High School's class of 1999.
Further Listening: If you've never heard Everclear's first record, World of Noise, you should.
By the Way: I really wish "Fire Maple Song" would make it in to the band's setlist.