Friday, May 24

Let's See a Show! Watching the Awesome Songs and Stories Tour

It's my scientific opinion that one of the hardest things to do in the world is to write a song that's actually good. I'm talking lyrically, of course, but also structurally. Anyone can pick up Logic or Pro Tools or whatever other digital audio workstation and tap out a danceable rhythm then throw some generic "hands in the air" spoken word over it and call it a day. Say, that sounds like a good idea... *note to self: write mega hit called "Hands In The Air."

The art of songwriting may be dwindling away, but we've still got four great ones, and THEY'RE ALL TOURING TOGETHER. Art Alexakis, the frontman of multi-platinum rock band Everclear, has put together a really fantastic tour with three other platinum artists: Chris Collingwood (Fountains of Wayne), Max Collins (Eve 6), and John Wozniak (Marcy Playground). The Songs and Stories tour is a combo of your favorite tunes and deep cuts (which are sometimes one and the same) from these fellas, all stripped down and acoustic.

In addition to the solo acts, each artist picks a cover for the quartet to cover together. It's super cool to see four artists I grew up listening to harmonizing to The Band's "The Weight" (you know, "take a load off Fanny/take a load for free"). Although I think my favorite group performance came during Chris's set, when he played the incredibly underrated jam "Radiation Vibe" and everyone came out for some sweet, sweet crooning. Check out a taste below.

The banter is terrific, too. Before playing "Here's to the Night," Max told us that we had to bellow the chorus, "like we're in a pub in Dublin," and he admitted he sped up during "Promise," though it was "worth it not to have to play with a drummer." Drummers every are revolting, I'm sure. If you're lucky enough, you'll also get the lovely treat of John dancing and leading the crowd in the call-and-response parts of "Stacy's Mom" during Chris's set. You'll also get some rogue fan moments, too – when Art prefaced a song from his upcoming solo album by saying he's been married for 32 four wives, a guy in the crowd proudly yelled, "I don't know my dad!" That's a very sad thing to read, now that I've typed it out, but the beaming exuberance with how he said it was pretty enjoyable.

After you already get oh, an hour and a half of music, the foursome comes back out onstage, and there's a microphone set up in the crowd. You can come up and request a song or ask whatever the heck you want (within reason – I suppose if you requested to light the building on fire you'd be politely turned down). Because I'm a musician myself and love hearing fellow horror stories, I asked what their worst show was. I will not do the retellings justice (remember how they're great songwriters? These guys are terrific storytellers, too, which go hand in hand), but here's a quick little recap of each:

Max: Was playing in front of a very punk crowd and one guy kept flipping him off, so he called him up to the front of the stage, poured a beer all over his head, then tried to do a power pose and slipped on the beer and fell on his butt.

Art: Tripped over a cord on the stage and landed straight on his face. The music ground to a halt. BUT because he is all about keeping the good times going, he got up and yelled "YEAAHHHHHH" and everyone cheered. It's all about how you fight through.

John: Played a festival when AOL 3.0 had just come out, so he had to watch people tossing 60,000 free CDs at the stage and each other. THE WOOOOOOOORST!

Chris: Spent the better part of a day drinking in Germany before the final show of a German leg (but not the final show of the European tour). On the last chord of the last song, he tried to kick the bass drum and ended up breaking his leg and three ribs.

And here I was thinking someone spilling my water was terrible...

I don't know about you, but I really can't remember another show quite like this. I've seen all acoustic and more stripped down sets, but those artists did not come back out for another 45 minutes or so of Q&A. Even if you're not a huge fan of their music, the stories alone made this quite the entertaining evening.

On top of everything else, $1 per ticket sold at each show goes to the Sweet Relief Musician Funds, an organization that provides financial assistance to career musicians, venue workers, production staff, crew members, and their families suffering from injury, illness, or disability. Funds raised from the tour pay for medical procedures, doctor visits, prescriptions, and vital living expenses.

The full tour dates are below. If you have even the slightest smile thinking about a song by Everclear, Fountains of Wayne, Eve 6, or Marcy Playground, I'd highly recommend checking this show out.