Words by Ariana Igneri | Photos by John Wiley
Most people in the crowd at Saturday night’s Summerland Tour, featuring Sponge, Lit, Everclear and Sugar Ray, were younger than the bands’ oldest hits. Teenagers in crop tops and high-waisted denim shorts bobbed to ’90s rock classics like “Every Morning,” “Fly” and “Santa Monica” as the sun set behind the Stone Pony’s Summer Stage — nostalgic for something they never really knew, but missed just the same.
The evening’s irony wasn’t lost on Sugar Ray’s lead singer, Mark McGrath. Instead, he played in to it.
“The ’90s were pretty rad, weren’t they?” shouted McGrath, whose hair was gelled and spiked in such a way, that from below the stage, you couldn’t tell whether the tips were frosted or if it was starting to gray.
Sugar Ray shared the bill with fellow alt-rockers Sponge, Lit and Everclear. The show was part of the fifth annual Summerland Tour, which Everclear’s front-man Art Alexakis founded back in 2012. Each band played just enough throwback jams to keep the audience excited and energetic throughout the night. Every few minutes someone would exclaim, “Wow, I didn’t know they sang this! I love this song!”
A highlight of the evening was when Everclear banged out its power ballad, “I Will Buy You A New Life.” The moment Alexakis broke into the song’s chorus, one woman began bouncing up and down, screaming, as she held a toddler in her arms; another kid in a snapback launched himself above a group of his friends and started crowd surfing.
McGrath cycled through Sugar Ray’s most popular singles, opening with the song “Someday” from the band’s 1999 album, 14:59. “When we wrote this song, there was no Twitter, Snapchat or Myspace,” McGrath said to the people in the crowd, who were taking photos and videos of the concert on their phones, while nodding along to “Someday’s” iconic, airy guitar rift.
McGrath punctuated Sugar Ray’s set with both jokes and expressions of gratitude, drawn from his band’s three-decade-long career. At times, it was hard to tell if he was laughing or crying, as he gazed wistfully into the crowd and sipped Jameson from a red plastic cup.
“If you’re ever in a band,” McGrath said wryly near the end of the show, “Don’t call your last hit song, ‘When It’s Over.’”
The audience chuckled, and after a short pause and a zing on the snare drum, McGrath did, too.
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