A good song goes straight to a listener’s heart, mind and soul. Because that’s where it came from.
Good songs will be delivered Sunday, Dec. 15, in Cargo Concert Hall, when Art Alexakis – the bandleader of Everclear – performs solo. The concert opens with sets by two of Reno’s finest songwriters, Spike McGuire and Chris Fox.
“Everclear was one of my first favorite bands growing up,” McGuire said. “I was 9 when “Sparkle and Fade” came out and 11 when “So Much For the Afterglow” was released. I wore holes in them because I played them so much.”
Of all the hit songs written by Alexakis, “Santa Monica” was the one most played on radio. It was released on this date, Dec. 5, 1995.
“I was in a weird space when I wrote that song,” Art Alexakis said. “But, really, if you look at all my songs, I’m always in a weird space.”
Artists constantly search for the creative space. Alexakis found it after a breakup when he penned “Santa Monica.”
“We’ve all been there,” he said. “We all get our hearts’ broken in life. There comes to a point where you go, ‘Yeah, that sucks, but enough is enough. I’m moving on.’ That’s picking yourself up and that’s a thing of the human experience that’s so important because everyone gets knocked down. The people who win in their own lives are the people who pick themselves up and they stand taller when they do.”
Battling grief with resolve in verse sung to a guitar’s driving melody inspired critics to call “Santa Monica” an anthem, which is how a lot of Everclear’s songs were described. Alexakis resisted the categorization before he embraced it.
“I don’t see them as anthems, but I guess they are,” he said. “Life is full of anthems every day. You just have to see them.
“A good three- or four-minute rock and roll song is its own universe and you get lost in that universe — and it leaves you wanting more.”
And music lovers got just that in the grungy 1990s from plenty of great bands, including Everclear, which delivered with “I Will Buy You A New Life,” “Father of Mine,” “Everything to Everyone” and “Heartspark Dollarsign.”
Alexakis said he grew up in a housing project and dreamed of living in the middle class. He loved The Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
“All I ever wanted to do was play guitar in a rock and roll band,” he said “I didn’t want to be a huge rock star. That seems like it would be a nuisance to me.”
Nevertheless, Alexakis and Everclear had a huge, hot run. For a while.
“A lot of times with artists or writers or anything like that, if you are at that peak, who knows how long that lasts,” Alexakis said. “It’s got to be the perfect storm of what you’re doing, when you’re doing it, where you’re doing it, how people perceive it. In my case, how the media, i.e. radio, look at it.
“I think we did some great stuff after our last vinyl record, but no one heard about it because it wasn’t’ being played on the radio and the big papers aren’t writing about it. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. It is what it is. We were very fortunate to have had as many hits as we did and, more importantly, the albums that went along with them. I am extremely proud of them.”
Speaking of albums, McGuire recently released “Salute to America.” He will probably play some songs from that record during the Cargo show, but you never know what the impresario will do. His library of songs is voluminous.
“A set list is almost a distraction,” he said. “I feed off the audience. I try to gauge where they want to go and I do my best to take them there.”
In 2011, he started Reno’s Loud As Folk, which is an unplugged showcase for original music.
“Songwriting is an elusive muse,” McGuire said. “It’s mysterious and I don’t pretend to understand it.”
Loud As Folk is held the first Thursday of the month at the Pignic Pub & Patio, and there is an annual four-day festival. Proceeds from each show go to a nonprofit group. McGuire plays songs of the Loud As Folk artists on KWNK 97.7 FM at 7:30 p.m. the first Thursday of the month and at 5 p.m. the following Sunday.
McGuire also has a five-piece punk rock band, Six Mile Station, which played an album release show at Cargo.
“This will be my first time back at Cargo since (stage manager) Michael Young took over,” McGuire said.
“Michael Young and Todd Rold are two of the best sound guys — not just in Reno, but the whole world,” he said.
McGuire also praised Chris Fox. The two have toured together on many occasions. Fox also has a punk rock band, Boss’s Daughter, which recently had a national monthlong tour, Autumnmobile Ride 2019.
At the close of their respective sets, McGuire and Fox are expected to play some songs together.
“Chris is the hardest working musician in Reno,” McGuire said. “He toured the world and he goes to Europe every year. His songs come from his very adventurous life. He has a new one where he says ‘I haven’t been drinking as much as I’ve been singing about drinking.’ ”
— Tim Parsons
Openers: Chris Fox and Spike McGuire
When: 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 15
Where: Cargo Concert Hall, Whitney Peak Hotel, 255 N. Virginia St., Reno
Tickets: General admission $20; VIP Meet and Greet $99