Recap: Everclear and Wheatus Dial it Back to the Late ’90s-Early 2000s with High-Energy Show in LA

Adrian GarroCategories:Latest News

Rock Cellar Magazine

When Everclear main man Art Alexakis addressed the crowd at the Teragram Ballroom in Los Angeles on Nov. 16 with the question, “Does anybody here remember the ’90s?”, he struggled to get the question out without laughing (and admitted as much).

Of course everybody in the room remembered the Nineties, when bands like Everclear became the can’t-miss sensations in contemporary music. That shared love of an era long since gone packed the venue with those eager to reminisce — and that’s exactly how the night went, with the added bonus of Wheatus as a support act.

That’s Wheatus, as in the New York-based group fronted by Brendan B. Brown that scored a major breakthrough hit in 2000 with “Teenage Dirtbag,” adding some no-nonsense nostalgia value to the night. This two-band pairing was an offshoot of the Summerland Tour this past summer, Everclear’s curated warm-weather run that this time featured Wheatus, Living Colour and Hoobastank. The West Coast run of shows was announced in late September, and represented Wheatus’s first shows on the coast in quite some time.

That context properly sets the tone for the vibe at the Teragram, which was one of warmth and, again, nostalgia. Of course, only having one significant hit meant Wheatus had to play a full set of songs before finishing with “the Dirtbag song,” as Brown referred to it, but to their credit the crowd was more than entertained until the big finale.

Wheatus at the Teragram Ballroom, Nov. 17, 2021

Wheatus at the Teragram Ballroom, Nov. 16, 2021

As with most acts that burst out of nowhere to land a major hit back in that era, Wheatus had some tough times after the monumental success of “Teenage Dirtbag.” The creation and release of 2003’s sophomore LP Hand Over Your Loved Ones was mired in band-versus-record-label rifts, ultimately being released to little fanfare or promotion.

Speaking to this at the show, Brown introduced “Lemonade” by saying, “This song is from our second record, which came out in four countries … EXCEPT this one,” adopting an amusingly self-deprecating tone that he used for much of the set.

The audience was mostly unfamiliar with the songs the band performed, but Wheatus — Brown, bassist Matthew Milligan, drummer Leo Freire, keyboardist Brandon Ticer and backup singers Gabrielle Aimée Sterbenz and Joey Slater — clearly won over the audience with a mix of songs from the band’s albums and beyond.

Brown’s onstage quips were a highlight, including referring to “Temporary Song” as “not quite an AC/DC song, but it yearns to be” before then going straight into AC/DC’s “Rock n’ Roll Damnation.”

Before “Mope,” Brown said, “this one is about my authentic high school experience. You may know the other one,” eliciting laughs from the crowd.

In all, it was a very engaging opening set from a band most may overlook as “one of those one-hit wonders from years ago.” While that’s true on a mainstream level, Wheatus probably deserved a better shake in the alt/rock scene of the early 2000s after its fast start, only to fall victim to the “major label machine” of the era.

Up next was Everclear, and it was apparent from the very start that Alexakis and his band mates — guitarist Davey French, bassist Freddy Herrera and drummer Brian Nolan — weren’t interested in just playing the hits and calling it a night.

This was a deep set featuring trips throughout Everclear’s catalog (but not past 2000!), which of course included some of those memorable ’90s hits like “Father of Mine,” “Santa Monica” and “I Will Buy You A New Life,” but also earlier material from 1995’s Sparkle & Fade and even its predecessor, 1993’s World of Noise.

That the band has played this sort of set thus far on this tour makes it a must-see for devoted fans, as quite a few of these deeper cuts (like “The Twistinside” and “Sunflowers”) definitely qualify as “fan favorites.” It was a pretty nice surprise for those interested in songs beyond the obvious, a testament to Alexakis and his band.

When he announced in 2019 that he had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Alexakis noted that he would continue to play live shows as long as he was able to do so. The COVID-19 pandemic then hit soon after, throwing a wrench into those plans, but now that he’s back on the road he commanded the stage with a presence and energy of a man committed to the task. It showed, with the strong selection of songs catering not only to those who watched MTV and VH1 in 1997, but those who actually sought out those early albums on CD or cassette (or vinyl).

Always a chatty showman on stage, Alexakis also addressed the crowd frequently. “I’m 59 years old and I’ve been sober for 32 years,” he said while expressing his appreciation both for the fans in attendance and that he’s been able to do this for a living.

With his family in the room for his hometown show, Alexakis noted that “it’s breaking my fucking heart” to look out in the crowd and see his daughter singing along with his pained, personal lyrics to “Father of Mine” — but he added that it was a reminder of what he’ll make sure she doesn’t experience in her own life.

Everclear at the Teragram Ballroom, Nov. 16, 2021

Everclear at the Teragram Ballroom, Nov. 16, 2021

Candid moments like that sum up the Everclear experience: Intensely personal stories and emotions expressed through undeniably iconic alt/rock classics, vulnerability breaking through the core of some of the most memorable tunes of the past few decades.

It made for a lively concert experience in the mid ’90s and helped the band explode on the music scene, and it still makes for a great time in 2021 — not just because of nostalgia, but because it means as much to Alexakis now as it did then.

The remaining Everclear/Wheatus tour dates:

11/18 Anaheim, CA – The Grove
11/19 Phoenix, AZ – Celebrity Theatre
11/20 Pioneertown, CA – Pappy & Harriet’s

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