When the Summerland Tour hits SpiritBank Event Center this Sunday night, July 8, you can be sure of one thing: you'll be hearing more radio hits than you can probably keep track of in one night. After all, that's the way it was designed, if only by default. What else would you expect when five big acts that were all staples of '90s alt-rock radio come together for one big tour?
The tour itself was spearheaded by Art Alexakis of Everclear and Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray, in an effort to put on big, fun show for the fans. When I caught up with Alexakis a couple of weeks ago, he shared the thoughts behind putting the tour together.
"People have been talking about a '90s tour for years," he said, "but the timing was never right. People tried, but just couldn't make it work."
After getting tired of waiting for someone else to put the right tour together, however, Alexakis characteristically took matters into his own hands. After moving back to Los Angeles nearly a year-and-a-half ago, he called his old friend Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray with the notion and they began putting the Summerland Tour together almost 9 months ago.
"We're doing 34 shows and we picked all the bands ourselves," Alexakis said. "I knew we'd (Everclear) have a new record and it just so happens that it worked out to come out just as the tour starts."
The rest of the hand-picked lineup includes Sugar Ray, which Alexakis said was "a no-brainer -- we've known each other since '92, so it just made sense. That's why I called Mark to begin with."
The addition of Lit adds some weight to the bill and Alexakis shared that "They live close to me, only 20 miles away. We really needed some rock on this tour and they provide that."
Likewise, opening act Marcy's Playground also fills a certain niche as Alexakis said, "We start out with a band that played one of the biggest songs of the '90s ("Sex and Candy"). It's still huge and you can still hear it on the radio almost every day."
The final piece comes via Gin Blossoms, which is the one band that Alexakis didn't already know personally. The group is essential to the tour, though, as Alexakis explained that "Gin Blossoms is the band that all the other groups grew up behind. They kind of defined alternative rock in the '90s, so we just reached out to them and they agreed to join us."
As luck would have it, Alexakis was able to finish the new Everclear album in time for its release to coincide with the tour. "It's been six years since our last all original album," Alexakis said. "Two years ago the label wanted something and I just thought it would be cool for fans to hear some of the songs in a different light, so we did Return to Santa Monica and re-recorded some songs with different arrangements. That helped pay for this record, though, because you have to be thrifty and frugal if you want to keep doing this."
"It's funny," he continued, "It used to be you put out a record and then toured to support the record.
Now, you put out a record to support a tour."
Another band on the Summerland bill that has a new album out is Lit, returning from an eight year hiatus since the group's self titled disc (released in 2004) with The View from the Bottom.
Once again, the album picks up right where the band left off, even giving a tongue-in-cheek nod to its history and big hit "My Own Worst Enemy" with "Same Shit, Different Drink" without recycling old hooks. Although Lit may have fallen to the back of many people's minds with the extended absence from recording, the new disc hits like a phone call from an old friend -- warm and inviting and a breath of fresh air when so many bands have fallen into the now standardized Nickelback mold.
When mentioning this to guitarist Jeremy Popoff, he laughed as he said "Well, It's kind of hard to not sound like Lit, because that's all we've ever done. We would have to make a specific effort to sound different and even then, I'm not sure it would work when we all come together."
"What a lot people don't realize," he shared, "is that I write a lot of other styles of music, and I've even worked on a lot of country stuff in house in Nashville. I've never taken a break from writing music, so if anything about the process has changed, it's that ... the process is maybe just a little more structured.
"The other thing that's changed is that 13 or 14 years ago, we had a warehouse in Anaheim that was all decked out as the ultimate man-cave clubhouse. We'd show up with a case of beer and party and jam out some new songs," he said. "Now, fast forward and people have kids and families and businesses. A trip to the warehouse with 12 packs of beer isn't impossible, but it's harder to coordinate, so we have to be wiser and more efficient."
When discussing the Summerland Tour, Popoff shared that "We've been friends with Mark and Art and known each other for years. Art called me up and we were in -- we're all about going out in the summer, so it was an easy call for us."
"We barely made the cut on the '90s thing, though," he continued with a chuckle, "because we didn't really have a hit until '99. I don't really particularly like to consider us a '90s band, but these days people want a value and bang for their buck. I can understand and appreciate that."
"First and foremost, we're just happy to have new music out," Popoff shared. "I think the most fun part -- for me anyway -- is hearing people's reactions and what their favorite songs are on first listen."
Of the tour itself, Popoff said, "We're stoked and excited to get out again. We've done shows off and on and we did a three week tour of the Southeast earlier this year, but it's been a while since we've been out and it will be good to see everyone again."
"This tour should be a lot of fun," he added. "We're bringing the beach cruisers out with us and we'll be riding around the parking lot before the shows, looking for the tailgate parties and having a good time."
If anything, Popoff and his band mates have a good grasp on the spirit of the Summerland Tour and what summer is supposed to be all about. The tour stops in Tulsa this Sunday, July 8 at SpiritBank Event Center with a five-band bill that provides a snapshot of what alt-rock radio in the '90s was all about. As a result, the night will provide a little bit of nostalgia and a whole lot of hits, making it a great night to get out and get your money's worth.
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