Jul 15, 2022

I Am Still Living With Your Ghost

30th Anniversary TourEverclear, Fastball and The Nixons
Penn's Peak - Jim Thorpe, PA
This tour is the soundtrack of my high school years.  I spent my teenage years watching 120 Minutes on MTV and listening to Z-Rock and other alternative rock radio stations, and three of the bands that I became a fan of during this time in my life were The Nixons, Fastball and Everclear.

Each of these bands have a distinct sound from one another, and they collectively mark a time in my life when music played an especially big part of my life.  Seeing the three of them on the same stage is an awesome experience.  It was enhanced by the fact that it was held at a venue where a general admission ticket means that you get to stand front row against the stage if you get there early enough.

The Nixons performed an 8 song opening set.  Four of the songs were from their second album, Foma, which I bought when I was back in high school: Head, Wire, Sister and Happy Song.  They also played an incredible hard rock cover of Rocket Man, which is one of my favorite songs.  Even the songs that I wasn't familiar with were damn good.  They've released a couple of albums in recent years that I haven't listened to yet, including an EP in 2020 called Sonic Boom.  I'm going to have to set aside some time this weekend to give them a listen.

Fastball took the stage next and they were absolutely fantastic!  This is a band that I discovered in the summer that I turned 18.  They had just released their second album, All The Pain Money Can Buy, and the first single from that album was getting a ton of radio play.  It's called The Way, and whether you were around or not during the late 90's, I'm sure that you have heard it.  I cannot overstate how much I freakin loved that song when I first heard it.  If I was alone and it came on the radio, I sang it at the top of my lungs every damn time, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to sing it again, along with practically the entire crowd at Penn's Peak last night.

They opened up with Fire Escape off of their second album, which I think was underappreciated in its time.  It has a very chill 80's rock vibe to it - the kind of song you could play and sing while laying back in a beanbag chair.  Next up was All I Was Looking For Was You off of their 2009 album Little White Lies, followed by You're An Ocean, which was their hit single off of the 2000 album The Harsh Light Of Day.

The next song was one I hadn't heard before, but it ended up being one of my favorite songs of the night.  It's called Andrea.  Miles Zuniga gave a brief introduction to it and prompted the crowd to sing "Andrea" at certain points in the song.  We got a kick out of this because my wife's name is Andrea, so I naturally looked at her every time I sang it out.  The song is about a guy who had a crush on a girl named Andrea back in high school.  He always wanted to kiss her, but he never did.  So, years go by and he goes to his class reunion and is looking forward to seeing her, but Andrea is Andy now, and so the singer said what the hell and kissed him anyway.

Next came Soundtrack, which is the opening song off of the new album, and Love Comes In Waves from their 2017 album Step Into Light.  After that was Out Of My Head which is another song I used to sing like crazy when I was 18 (and now again at 42).  Then they went old school with Make Your Mama Proud off of their debut album of the same name.  Next up came one of my favorite songs of all time, The Way, which I swear every man, woman and child in the building knew every word of and sang along with the band.  They played another song from their second album, Sooner Or Later, before closing out the set with a cover of ZZ Top's Thunderbird.

My memory is pretty fuzzy from lack of sleep and from having a wonky brain in general, but I could swear that Fastball covered The Joker last night too.  It's not on the setlist that one of the crewmembers gave to me, and I don't remember where in the show it was performed, so I didn't include it when I updated the show page on Setlist.fm.  Hell, maybe I just dreamed it, but I'm almost positive that I remember singing along to it with them on stage.  Hopefully someone will upload a video or someone with a better memory than me will correct my setlist and put the Steve Miller Band cover in the correct spot.  This is why I don't write concert reviews for a living.

Everclear is one of those rare bands that can make me bop my head and bring a tear to my eye at the same time.  Singer Art Alexakis has had a hell of a life, and although the struggles I faced aren't the same as the one he's faced, I can relate to a lot of what he has sung about.  I don't know the man personally, but from what I know about him, I'm willing to bet that our perspectives on life and this world of ours have more than a few similarities.

Mr. Alexakis also strikes me as the kind of person who truly appreciates everything good that this life has to offer, and the fact that he gets to play rock music all over the world to folks who are happy to see him is something that he truly seems to treasure.  Hearing what he had to say between songs and finally getting to experience the way he interacts with a live audience was a pretty awesome experience.  He's a good and genuine dude, and I'm glad he's still on stage and living life his way.

The setlist in the photo above is accurate, except they didn't play Molly's Lips at the end.  It's a good song by The Vaselines that I know best from Nirvana's cover which appeared on Incesticide.  Don't get me wrong with what I'm about to say, because I would have loved to hear Everclear cover it too, but Santa Monica was such a perfect end to their show that I couldn't imagine the night ending any differently.

The set was pure magic from start to finish.  They opened with the first two tracks off of the album So Much For The Afterglow, followed by Heroin Girl, which is a song that reminds me of more than one person from my past who is no longer with us.  Next up was Father Of Mine, which I honestly feel guilty singing along to because my dad is awesome, but you could very easily substitute "mother" for the parent in this song and I can totally relate to it.

The next song was the first Everclear song that I ever heard.  It's called Heartspark Dollarsign, and it's one of the many songs that I have Matt Pinfield to thank for because I discovered it for the first time on 120 Minutes.  I remember that Art said that one of the songs was a special request from someone in the audience, and I'm pretty sure it was the next song, which was White Men In Black Suits.  Next was Loser Makes Good off of their first record, which I didn't realize until just a minute ago is about a man who shot and killed Art's friend, Phillip Bury of Buck Naked & The Barebottom Boys.  I'll never be able to hear this song the same way after learning that.

The show took an uplifting turn after that with I Will Buy You A New Life, which Art stressed is about love, not money.  This was followed by Songs From An American Movie, which is the opening track from the 2000 album of the same name.  Then it went to a different kind of uplifting with Strawberry, off of the Sparkle And Fade album.  This was one of those songs I'd sing when I was alone in my bedroom when I was a teenager as a way to motivate myself when I was feeling down: "don't fall down now, you will never get up".  Next came another song off the same album that motivates me in a different way.  It's called Summerland, and it's about two people picking up, leaving town and reinventing themselves so that they can "be just how we want to be... no one here really cares about us anyway".  I always kind of took this song as a personal anthem to shout out in response to self doubt.  Just be who you want to be, because "no one really gives a fuck about us anyway".  It's a humbling and powerful realization at the same time.

Next up was a song called Blondes, which I don't remember ever hearing before last night.  I looked it up as I was writing this and saw that it was recorded back in 1994.  It's a damn good song that I wish I had known about back in the day.

The next song made a woman who was standing next to us very happy.  This woman shouted out "Wonderful" in between each song for at least the previous five or six songs.  This is the kind of thing that would usually get on my nerves, but this time it didn't.  I was having way too good of a time and was in too good of a mood for anything to bother me.  Honestly, I kind of found it charming because I was looking forward to it as much as she was.  About 30 seconds before they played Wonderful, I smiled at her and said "don't worry, it's on the setlist".  I didn't actually know this to be true, but I was pretty sure that they would include one of their biggest hits on their 30th anniversary tour.  Sure enough, my timing was impeccable because the very next song after I said this was Wonderful, and this woman lost her mind cheering and singing along.  The song is pretty amazing and it never fails to get me choked up when he sings "I want the things I had before like a Star Wars poster on my bedroom door".  I think anybody whose parents divorced when they were very young would strongly be able to relate to this song.  Naturally, I was singing along at the top of my lungs too, and trying to blink back the tears the whole way through.  At the end of the show, a crewmember gave one of the setlists from the stage to that woman.  She let me take a picture of it, which is the one you see in the photo above.

Next, they went back to Songs From An American Movie with AM Radio, which is a boppy, nostalgic track that samples the music from Mr. Big Stuff, which was released at the time of his childhood that Art was signing about.  It's a really fun song, and I'm glad it was part of the show.  

Finally, they invited Zac Maloy from The Nixons on stage to join their cover of The Boys Are Back In Town before closing out the night with what is probably the band's most well-known hit, Santa Monica.  Miles Zuniga from Fastball joined Everclear on stage for the final song of the set.


It was an incredible night and I can't begin to express how thankful I am for the fact that I have my health and enough money in my pocket to be able to come out and see a show, and to have my wonderful wife by my side to enjoy them with.  I'm a lucky dude, and I don't take that fact for granted for even a second.

Below is the setlist for The Nixons, Fastball and Everclear from last night's show to the best of my recollection:

Fastball played a cover of The Joker by Steve Miller Band too, but I don't remember where it fits in the setlist.