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Everclear returns for annual benefit concert
BY ELIZABETH KIESZKOWSKI / email@example.com
Rockers are banding together for a good cause this weekend, as Everclear and former Honolulu band I Digress return to headline a “Rock Against Cancer” benefit.
Put your hands together for I Digress for helping make that happen, though the allure of the islands surely had something to do with it.
RZO PRESENTS THE SECOND ANNUAL ‘ROCK AGAINST CANCER’ BENEFIT CONCERT: EVERCLEAR
With I Digress, Kings of Spade, Ignite the Red, Color and Contrast and A Shot at Sundown, supporting The Campaign for Hawaii’s Children
Where: Hawaiian Brian’s, 1680 Kapiolani Blvd.
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Cost: $30, $60 VIP
Info: flavorus.com or 855-235-2867
JOURNEY FANS AFTER-PARTY
With Big Dawg, I Digress and DJ Eclipse
Where: Hawaiian Brian’s
When: 9 p.m. Friday
Cost: $20; $10 with Journey ticket stub
Info: flavorus.com or 855-235-2867
Everclear hooked up with I Digress in Portland, Ore., and agreed to play a “Rock Against Leukemia” benefit show in Hawaii last year. The show sold out, the crowd went wild and Everclear frontman Art Alexakis said he enjoyed Honolulu enough to consider making Everclear concerts an annual event.
“They had such a good time playing here that they were immediately on board” for this year, said Jack Jackman, I Digress bass player and erstwhile manager.
By seeking out sponsors for the show, organizers have arranged to donate all money raised via ticket sales to the Kapiolani Foundation’s Campaign for Hawaii’s Children. Kava-drink maker and Honolulu company RZO is the primary sponsor and producer of the show.
RZO marketing manager Dustin Schoedel said the concert, which includes a silent auction of rock paraphernalia, could generate $25,000 or more for the hospital — if fans turn out.
EVERCLEAR hit a sweet spot in the ’90s with melodic rock music that paid homage to punk and was forged in the fire of grunge. But Alexakis never fit squarely in any niche — grunge, rock or pop. His songs were always a bit too heartbreaking to be pop songs, and too literate (or literal) to be confined to the underground.
In fact, Alexakis is a talented storyteller who’s working on a book and ideas for a screenplay, though his forte remains the rock song.
He called from New Zealand while the band was on tour in October, shortly before tickets went on sale for the Honolulu concert, recalling that the band played for kids at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children last year.
“It touched all of us,” he said. “I don’t think there was a dry eye in the band.”
This year, Everclear released a new album, “Invisible Stars,” that showed the band is still energized and still plumbing the emotional territory of illusion and abandonment, and its fallout.
“Be Careful What You Ask For,” a track from the most recent album, 2012′s “Invisible Stars,” is a prime example. “Life looks better when you look away,” Alexakis sings, while the rest of the song makes it clear you’re going to get hurt doing that.
It’s tempting to imagine that his current bemused, hard-won wisdom is the result of age and experience, but Alexakis has been crafting empathetic, cautionary story-songs all along. Those ’90s monster hits, including “Santa Monica” and “Heartspark Dollarsign” are proof of that.
“I consider myself a writer,” Alexakis said. “When it comes to writing songs and making music, I really feel it starts from a very expressive, personal place. … The best writers, that’s what they do.
“My favorite songwriters are storytellers … and a lot of times that’s in the first person.
“I don’t write songs because it’s what people expect me to write. … It’s just wherever I’m at at the time.
Alexakis, who points out he has been incorporating beats and samples in his music since the ’90s, says he’s using contemporary techniques — snare drums and vocals are louder, bass mixed differently — but mainly just writing music he likes.
“It’s rock ‘n’ roll man,” he said, jokingly. “I like rock a little loose around the edges.
“No one in rock ‘n’ roll is reinventing the wheel — it’s not going to happen. But you can make your own thing.”
I DIGRESS, here to support Everclear on Saturday and on the bill for a post-Journey concert on Friday, is pushing to rise above the noise and make its own name on the national music scene.
Inspired by pop-punk bands such as Taking Back Sunday and acts as diverse as Marvin Gaye and Metallica, the band combines melody and muscle enough to have a shot at it.
Singer Ben Strobel, who left Hawaii along with bass player Jackman in 2011 to see where they could take the group on the mainland, describes the band’s sound as “rock ‘n’ roll with a dire need for melody.” He and guitarist Cody Males take the songs into a roughened high range that gives them a pretty, ragged edge, held down by a backbeat in overdrive provided by Jackman and drummer Danny Johnson, the band’s newest addition.
Inspired by Johnson’s presence, crowd appreciation on a tour through the West and these upcoming shows, Jackman and Strobel say they’ve reworked and re-envisioned almost all of their songs. The band is writing new songs, too, with a plan to record when I Digress returns to Portland.
“There’s so much soul in the music,” Strobel says. “My goal is to write a song like the songs that changed my life — that’s our goal as a band. So we’re not just playing to an audience; we’re playing for potential new friends.”
At last year’s benefit show with Everclear, Alexakis and his band gave I Digress a positive reaction, Jackman said — a “pivotal point” motivating him and Strobel to make a move to Oregon and keep on working for a breakthrough.
“The first fear that we had, that I think we never said out loud, was, ‘When we leave Hawaii, we’re going to find out who we really are,’” Jackman said.
When they set out on tour, they concluded they were doing something right.
And while he admits I Digress is still working out exactly how to take its talents and strengths to the peak of its potental, Jackman has a sense of optimism about the possibilities.
“This is the type of music that I’ve been dreaming about making,” Jackman said.
Others out there like what they’re hearing, too. After discovering the band on ReverbNation, organizers of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” invited I Digress to audition in Portland on a “fast pass” basis. The tryout was a solo song by Strobel. Band members will learn in February if they made it to the next round.
“Everything’s blown up” in the past few months, Strobel said. “There’s great energy and bigger crowds. … I’m not great at self-promotion, but I care so much about this band.”
Jackman added, “Sometimes the good guys don’t win. But sometimes they do.”