|Out with the Old, In with the New:
How Art Alexakis Helped Me Say Goodbye to My Childhood
January 11, 2005
by Ashley Graham
While some may spend their lives in the habits and attitudes of childhood, for the unfortunate majority childhood becomes a distant memory, something to look back on, hopefully fondly, as something that once was great. And oftentimes there comes a moment in life when an occasion comes about that makes it abundantly clear that the past has indeed become the past.
For me November 26th marked just such an occasion. As I exited Spokane, Washington’s Big Easy concert house that night, I knew things had changed for me.
When I was fourteen all I could think of was Everclear. The band represented my first step toward real rock music by real rock musicians. I said goodbye to my ten year obsession with Michael Jackson and jumped on the Everclear bandwagon with great enthusiasm. And at their height, Everclear was quite great. “Everything to Everyone,” “Father of Mine,” and “I Will Buy You a New Life” were in constant play on VH1 and MTV and on the local alternative radio station in Spokane, 105.7 The Peak, now defunct. Their album So Much for the Afterglow was in the hands of thousands of teenagers and their name was rolling off of tongues all over the country. Everclear had a special connection to the Pacific Northwest too; lead singer Art Alexakis lived in Portland, Oregon, and bassist Craig Montoya was a Spokane native. In turn, Spokane loved Everclear, and so did I.
My cousin Emily, my sister Erin and I saw them live for the first time August 6th, 1999 at a festival put on by The Peak in downtown Spokane. Erin was unimpressed by Art’s shaky vocal performance, but Emily and I didn’t seem to mind; we were mesmerized. We saw them again the next year on September 29th and it was the same all over again. Shortly thereafter Everclear’s star began to fade. Songs from an American Movie Volume One, and then Volume Two, were released to mild excitement and garnered hits like “Wonderful” and “AM Radio,” but the fever pitch of popularity was gone. For whatever reason, though, Emily and I hung onto our love way past Everclear’s prime.
When they toured in support of their completely uneventful album Slowmotion Daydream in the spring of 2003, we talked ourselves into taking the bus to Seattle to see them play, thinking it would be that “one last time.” We weren’t ready to give up on them just yet and they were as good that night as they had ever been, thanking the crowd, telling us that they had always appreciated the support of those fans in the Pacific Northwest.
And then again, Everclear disappeared and we both took our respective musical paths; Emily opted for the independent route, I decided on bands like Incubus and Stone Temple Pilots for awhile, before following suit, and we all but forgot about those extensive Everclear sections in our CD collections.
There were rumors that surfaced occasionally; Art was getting divorced, Craig was leaving the band, then Greg. And then in the fall of 2004 the facts came in; Craig had formed a band in Portland, TriPolar. Greg was out too. Art was, in fact, getting divorced. And, there was to be a greatest hits album.
Suddenly re-interested for unknown reasons I looked into TriPolar and was only mildly intrigued. But then the greatest hits tour was announced. Were my heroes coming together for one last tour? Was it going to bring me back to the days of my adolescence? Would it reinvest my interests in all things Everclear?
I went to the band’s website to find out more and was immediately terrified. Over instant messenger with Emily, I recounted what I saw. Little pictures of Art Alexakis were all over. His head was cropped out of group promotional photographs from the last three albums. Group pictures with Craig and Greg’s faces blurred out were on the main page, no mention of their names anywhere on the website. Just Art, and only Art.
I was nauseous. There was no way I could go. I couldn’t support such an abomination. And then I found myself, and Emily I will add, with ticket in hand at the doors of the venue on November 26th. Deep down I suppose I was curious. How could this man think he could tour without Craig and Greg? Didn’t loyalty mean anything to him? What had my band become?
What took the stage was more of a disappointment than any of it.
Art Alexakis spoke of “his band” and “making changes.” Upon introducing the new bass player he laughingly said “He’s from Spokane. Guess all our bass players are from Spokane.”
All, Art? All? You mean both? I was horrified and grief stricken. What had happened? I wanted an explanation but there was nothing. Nothing to hold onto, just overdone songs that sounded tiresome and old. Art’s voice still wasn’t good live, but this time I realized it.
I had spent years defending Art and his art and now I felt betrayed.
I looked at the crowd of teenagers, twentysomethings, thirtysomethings and wondered if they felt the same, but Spokane concertgoers are too caught up in the amazement of even having live music to be critical of it. But not me.
Everclear wasn’t Everclear anymore. Even something so steady, so constant as music wasn’t there for me. How could Art dismiss years of history to reform the band and, horror of horrors, actually tour under the name? I felt that Art wasn’t even as committed to Everclear as I was after all these years. I felt he’d given up and was desperately trying to hold onto something that wasn’t there anymore.
Or maybe I was.
Maybe I was the one trying to make Everclear something it could never be again. Maybe I was the one selfishly trying to remember the good old days when this band was what I wanted it to be and played songs that felt so real and good to me.
But maybe that time was gone.
I’ve had the occasional day where the thought of being four again seems like the best idea in the world. No school, no responsibility really, talking but not always informed. And while obviously the idea of such a thing could never happen, it’s always been kept in my mind’s eye. On November 26th, the thought all but died. If something as simple as Everclear had abandoned me, then everything seemed wrong and out of place.
As I walked to the car that night I felt a sense of the unfamiliar. The memories remained, but adulthood had come on in full force. The responsibilities, the information, all of it. I left my childhood at the doors of the Big Easy, with all its hopes and wishes and naiveté’s, and stepped out with fear and hesitation, and Everclear-free, onto First Avenue, tonight the real world.