Art Alexakis has his own definition of the words "we" and "us."
Kicking off a tour marking the 20th anniversary of So Much for the Afterglow at the Crystal Ballroom on May 11, the Everclear frontman was effusively thankful to the supporters who've stuck by the band. Sadly, Alexakis has torched every last bridge with the guys who helped him record the best-selling album in Portland history. The version that showed up at the Crystal had only Alexakis in common with the cast of collaborators which, in 1997, debuted songs like "Amphetamine" and "Everything to Everyone" during an unbilled opening set at the farewell show for local legends Sweaty Nipples.
Since his original bandmates left him, Alexakis has changed bassists like most people switch shoes—the Afterglow anniversary tour drummer is so new he doesn't yet appear in the band photos on the Everclear website. If the techs aren't new hires, they should be by the time the band hits Saskatoon and Casino Regina later this week. This show was plagued with some of the worst sound I've ever encountered at any large venue. It was bad enough that even people who bought tickets to see opening act, Fastball, tweeted disapproval.
Unable to ignore the obvious after verbal cues failed during the titular opener and "Everything to Everyone," Alexakis began hosting extended band meetings between songs. The only result of the confabs was a loss of momentum, as the roadies were unable to salvage the sound. The only songs it worked well for were "Nervous and Weird," from the band's indie debut, World of Noise, and "Local God," a lo-fi, strummed-out Afterglow prototype recorded by the album's fired first co-producer, Jim Rondinelli, for the Claire Danes version of Romeo + Juliet. "Heroin Girl," on the other hand, was downtuned and slowed into Sabbath territory.
"My guitar is kinda pissing me off," Alexakis finally announced toward the end of the show. At that point, there wasn't much to do. The band chugged through "California King," Afterglow's angry but triumphant closer. After a rough show beset by terrible sound and frequent stoppages, the song's boasts were offered at the pace of a funeral dirge and without much more enthusiasm.