Summerland Tour Feat. Everclear, Live, Filter & Sponge Proof Bar + Patio July 14, 2013
So Sunday afternoon, a bunch of the better bands on this whole '90s nostalgia bandwagon -- Everclear, Live, Filter, and Sponge -- played a free(ish) show on a parking lot at Proof Bar. And in all honesty, as cheesy as it could have been, it was a solid afternoon full of Buzz Bin hits, even with the strange choice of venue.
When the show was originally announced, it was hard to picture just where the heck these musical festivities would be taking place. Proof Bar is the bro-tastic patio bar above the restaurant Reef, and although it's deceivingly large, there's certainly not enough space for a proper stage and sound equipment. I suppose that led me to believe that the show would be this intimate, close-up show due to the limited confines of the place, so I was stoked. How wrong I was.
When we arrived at Proof, it became apparent that this show was pushing the limits of the time-space continuum, starting almost two hours later than the publicized time of 1 p.m., and was certainly not at the Proof venue; well, not technically, anyway. It was at Proof, but it was in the parking lot. Proof's overlooked the show... in the parking lot. A very large parking lot, to boot.
The show was also only partially free now; if you'd RSVP'd early enough, you were good on that whole free-show business. Otherwise, it ran you a reasonable $10 cover charge (or $25 for "VIP" access to a shaded area).
Now, let me be clear here before I proceed to avoid looking like a total venue snob; I'm more than fine with the idea of a show in a parking lot, or wherever the hell else you can play live music, because I like live music and don't give much of a damn where it's at. But logistically, the show just didn't work where it was situated.
If you were on the roof of Proof, you couldn't hear or see much. If you were down on the parking lot, it was sweltering in the mid-afternoon heat with no cover of any sort. You had to pick your poison, and neither was ideal, but whatever. It's '90s nostalgia, and it's awesome, so we all sucked it up.
Sponge was the first band to take the stage, and we nearly missed them while stealing some time under Proof's rooftop misting fans. We had to keep running back and forth to check, but I'm glad we made it over in time to catch their set, because they were awesome.
Vinnie Dombrowski, Sponge's front man and only remaining original member, is this glam-grunge, leather-vested monster, and although the band has lived in relative obscurity since their '90s heyday, they still managed to bust out a short, but really solid, five-song set, pulling from both newer material and closing with "Plowed," their 1994 hit off of Rotting Pinata.
Dombrowski is not alone in his last-man-standing plight; most of these bands only have their front man to count as an original band member, and Live doesn't even have that. Lead singer Ed Kowalczyk has been replaced by newbie Chris Shinn, after Kowalczyk parted ways with the band amidst a boatload of legal issues. Despite that fact, the rest of the bands proved as solid as Sponge, with Filter taking the stage next.
Their set was likewise abbreviated, opening with "(Can't You) Trip Like I Do," immediately confirming that Richard Patrick's howling, wolf-like chops are still pretty killer. The six songs they were given still felt too short, though. Patrick is the quintessential front man, and even with the newer band backing him, he's still got everything necessary to push that band into more than a nostalgia act, breaking microphone stands and all.
The hits were there -- even in a six-song set they managed to play both "Take a Picture" and "Hey Man, Nice Shot," so I'll take what I can get, abbreviated or not.
Live followed Filter's badass performance, and this was the one group I had been hesitant about. Without Kowalczyk, it was hard to validate this band as still being the Live that I remember from my angsty, alt-rock-worshipping high-school days. Perhaps I should have cut Chris Shinn a bit of slack, because he's got the charisma and vocal abilities to step all over those Kowalczyk-led tracks with ease, and I'd forgotten just how many hits Live actually had back in their glory days.
They reminded us, though, running through a much longer set than I'd expected, and busting out those huge radio songs like "I Alone" and "All Over You," and of course the placenta-ridden "Lightning Crashes." It still wasn't quite Live, but Shinn is an excellent replacement if there must be one, and with time, it may gel even further. It's just not quite there yet.
This whole Summerland Tour is the brainchild of Everclear's Art Alexakis, whose band is easily the biggest name on this Summerland bill in terms of longevity and mainstream appeal. It was easy to see why they were headlining, once Alexakis took the stage alongside the cutest little girl ever (his), who introduced their set.
Even with just Alexakis as the last man standing in that band, they've still got the entire Everclear vibe down to a T. That surfy, peppy, alt-rock sound that has made them so distinguishable is still right where they left it, even if new folks picked up to back his vocals where the others left off.
And Alexakis is one of the most charismatic front men from the '90s scene, honestly. He's just freakin' likable; there's something really crystal-clear about his intentions after all these years. He doesn't feel like a nostalgia act, or at least he doesn't appear to feel that way. He's just up there, makin' music and playing those radio hits that folks have come to expect from them.
And play them they did; their entire set was a run-through of every hit they've had -- "Santa Monica," "Father of Mine," "Heroin Girl," they played 'em all. You'd hardly know that the band isn't sporting the original lineup, either. They're just a solid group, and they are what they are. Alexakis loves the stage, he loves the music, and he really seems to enjoy the fans out in the audience, all of whom were jamming along to those old songs right along with him.
By the end of Everclear's set, it didn't matter that the venue was a bit dodgy in terms of space, or that we were bouncing around on hot-as-shit asphalt; Summerland promised some of the bigger, better alt-rock acts of the '90s, and they delivered, even on the pavement in a parking lot.
Personal Bias: I saw Everclear a few years ago at House of Blues with my baby sis, and I didn't expect to like them nearly as much as I did, so I knew going into this that they still play one hell of a set.
The Crowd: Oh, what a strange mix. Bros and chicks, and everywhere in between.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Does this bartender really need sunglasses indoors? I mean, it's fuckin' overcast, for Christ's sake."
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Random Notebook Dump: It's July in Houston. Indoors next time?