Everclear are lucky. Front man Art Alexakis survived heroin addiction and a number of personal tragedies that helped form the perspective from which he now writes. His introspective songs strike chords with millions of kids who can feel his pain. And the fact that he came through those dark times relatively unscathed made it easier to adjust to success when it hit. They’re lucky they didn’t find that success earlier, or they may not have lived through it.

Everclear are staples on the rock festival circuit, and Alexakis is an outspoken supporter of a number of political and social agendas — exposure that hasn’t exactly hurt record sales. Hailing from the great Northwest (“where punk broke”), the band had two low-fi and loud indie records under their belts before signing to Capitol nearly five years ago and spawning a string of modern rock hits. Their latest record, Afterglow , still features an aggressive Les Paul/Marshall amp guitar attack, but also adds strings, more harmonies and a softer side. The mixture of their rough background and pop accessibility made them the perfect band to bridge the gap between the Marvelous 3 and Iggy.

Alexakis reminded the crowd at one point that “if it wasn’t for Iggy Pop, none of these bands would be here tonight,” and they hung out to watch him from the side of the stage, obviously in awe. Their show proved they haven’t forgotten what it’s like to be a fan — and that they haven’t lost the edge or excitement of their punk rock roots. The songs from their new record were stripped of their window dressing, but not their driving energy or pop appeal. Craig Montoya, with a cowboy hat and his bass slung low, Dee Dee Ramone-style, played like they were auditioning for that Capitol rep, and the whole band was at maximum output.

Everclear inspired the first topless music fan of the weekend, and during “Local God,” they pulled thirty or forty women from the audience to join them onstage. Later, they verbally castrated a bottle-thrower by announcing that the whole band was going to sleep with his girlfriend (though not in quite those words) and pointing out that the chicks dug them because they were in a band. Their full-on, nitro-fueled version of AC/DC’s “Sin City” felt like it was filtered through the grain alcohol the band is named for. Overall, it was a raucous and rocking show.

Art’s songs speak from the heart, but his heart has seen death and pain. Somehow, he wraps it up in a radio-friendly package, and people love it. And I had a great time watching them have a great time.

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