This week, as if by some strange cosmic alignment, two large-looming ghosts from Oregon music history return to Portland for encore performances. And it turns out, Everclear and the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies have more in common than their disparate music would suggest: Both flew impossibly high, both bands’ frontmen are mythicized and reviled and, as they plummeted back down to earth, both acts were unceremoniously butchered (or outright ignored) by ex-fans and critics. Here’s a bittersweet look back on two groups that ruled Oregon (and the world) in the late ’90s.
Formed: 1992 in Portland.
Genre: Alternative rock or “melodic grunge.”
Fans would say: Portland would never be the mecca of indie rock if not for Everclear, which wasn’t just the biggest band in town for a six-year stretch from 1995 to 2001—it was one of the biggest alt-rock bands in the country. Singer Art Alexakis helped put Portland on the map at a time when our neighbors up north dominated the rock charts.
Haters would say: Alexakis is a smarmy prick, a guy who knew how to play three chords and was lucky enough to jump on the bandwagon when major labels were looking high and low for the next Nirvana. If he still lived in that “big house in the West Hills,” we would egg the shit out of that place.
Highest-selling record: 1997’s So Much For the Afterglow, with over 2 million copies sold.
Career high: Though the trio’s best-selling single is the maudlin 2000 ballad “Wonderful,” nothing comes close to 1995’s Sparkle and Fade. Drugs, sex and teenage catharsis.
Career low: “Volvo-Driving Soccer Mom” in 2003. Or the October-released In a Different Light, a covers record featuring Alexakis’ new hired-guns version of Everclear covering...Everclear.
Crowning artistic achievement: Those simple opening chords to “Santa Monica” are what every teenage boy in Oregon first learned to play on guitar in the ’90s.
Jumped the shark when… With the terrible Everclear cover of “Brown Eyed Girl”? Or maybe when former Godsmack and Fuel drummer Tommy Stewart joined the band’s third-generation lineup in 2008?
Best comeback attempt: At least 2008’s one-off single “Jesus Was a Democrat” had some backbone behind it. (MM)
Formed: 1988 in Eugene.
Genre: Funk, ska, swing, rock…everything but the kitchen sink.
Fans would say: The Daddies are a Northwest institution that broke the boundaries of genre and built a faithful fan base through relentless regional touring. Frontman Steve Perry is a dynamic performer and underrated songwriter. And most of Perry’s innuendo-driven wordplay is subtle enough that you can bring your kids to the show!
Haters would say: The Daddies began as an annoying white-boy funk-rock band and, upon seeing the opportunity, milked the swing revival for all it was worth. Now that the ska and swing fads have run their courses, the Daddies have returned to their rightful obscurity. And Steve Perry takes himself far too seriously.
Highest selling record: Zoot Suit Riot (1997), which went platinum in 1998 and double platinum in 2000.
Career high: Playing Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve party (alongside the Backstreet Boys and Chicago) to ring in 1999.
Career low: “Swingin’ With Tiger Woods (The Big Swing),” a halfhearted, failed cash grab from the Daddies’ 2000 release, Soul Caddy. When you go topical with the lyrics (see Everclear’s career low at left), things almost inevitably take a turn for the worse.
Crowning artistic achievement: The victorious and emotionally resonant “Hi and Lo,” a longtime Daddies live favorite finally committed to tape for last year’s Susquehanna and also featured on new collection Skaboy JFK.
Jumped the shark when… The first time they played the Playboy Mansion.
Failed comeback attempt: Last year’s Susquehanna, a balanced, moody release that incorporates Latin flourishes into the Daddies’ already eclectic sound. (CJ)
SEE IT: Everclear plays a benefit at the Crystal Ballroom to support St. Francis Dining Hall on Thursday, Nov. 19. 8 pm. $20 advance, $25 day of show. All ages. The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies play Wonder Ballroom on Friday, Nov. 20. 8 pm. $16.50 advance, $20 day of show. All ages.