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All words/camera phone pics: Eamon Redmond — All non-camera phone photos: Joy Asico

I grew up in Northern Virginia and some of the first concerts that I went to were the legendary HFStivals. It was an annual event (and rite of passage) back in the heady days of the late ‘90s and good excuse to get away from your parents and school, to drink beers in the RFK parking lot, and see the bands that constantly blasted from your radio. The Summerland 2012 tour rolled into Wolf Trap on Wednesday night and it felt like a high school reunion of the HFStivals of old as Local H blasted on the speakers before the show. [See Picture of Dude in HFS tee]. All of the bands had played the concert at one point between ’95-’98, and, actually, Everclear, Lit, and Marcy Playground played at the 2010 HFS reincarnation at Merriweather.

It turns out that this is exactly what Art Alexakis of Everclear and Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray had in mind. The two served as emcees for the night and explained that they wanted to organize a tour celebrating ‘90s alt-rock hits, which was exactly what the sell-out crowd (apparently the first sell-out of the tour) wanted and got.

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Marcy Playground opened the show with a 30 minute set while the crowd filled in and closed with their hit “Sex and Candy,” which McGrath awkwardly described as “baby- making music.” Next up was bro-approved Lit – the only band officially sponsored by Jagermeister (righteous!!). Lead singer A. Jay Popoff did his best to get the crowd fired up and demanded that everyone get on their feet. Popoff complimented Wolf Trap’s setting and atmosphere, but added “We feel guilty for rocking it out!” Uh, alright bro. Lit played a decent set of their brand of pop punk, hitting their radio singles “Miserable” and “Zip Lock.” I was actually surprised at how many of their songs I recognized and when Popoff said, “If you have any rock and roll in your hand, put it up!” I realized that, “Yes, I do have some rock and roll in my hand,” and (somewhat non-ironically) fist pumped along for closer “My Own Worst Enemy.”

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Lit was followed by Gin Blossoms, which may have been the highlight of the show. This was truly a set that was full of number one hits. Gin Blossoms opened with “Follow You Down,” and went on to play all of their singles, including “Until I Fall Away,” “Found Out About You,” “Allison Road,” and “Til I Hear it From You.” For a band that has been around since 1989, the Gin Blossoms sounded great. Singer Robin Wilson’s voice sounds the same as it did when closer “Hey Jealousy” was originally released in 1993.

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Sugar Ray and Mark McGrath took the stage next for a set that could have had a little more music and little less talking. I know that part of McGrath’s shtick is playing the heartthrob, but it felt overdone, especially when he talked about meeting a girl earlier in the day at Tysons (Note to groupies: apparently rock stars hang out at local malls before  shows). Still, Sugar Ray put on a pretty good set of their hits and a Ramones cover, but also played a regrettable cover of The Black Eyed Peas’ “I Got a Feeling” (there should seriously be a permanent ban on any band, including the Black Eyed Peas, from ever playing this song). Nonetheless, it was clear that McGrath was passionate about the Summerland tour and his and Alexakis’ plan for its future.

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Finally, Everclear closed out the show. I have always been a fan of Everclear starting with their major label debut Sparkle and Fade (1995), which happens to be one of the first CDs I “bought” from BMG Music Club. The band opened with “Father of Mine,” and, as promised, rolled through their catalog of singles, including “Everything to Everyone” and “Wonderful.” But they also played “Heroin Girl” and “Summerland” from Sparkle and Fade, the latter of which Alexakis introduced with a shout-out to D.C.’s hardcore scene. The band was also joined by Gin Blossoms’ Wilson for a promising sounding new song, “Be Careful What You Wish For.” Unfortunately, the grand finale of “Santa Monica,” which included the other bands, was somewhat rushed due to Wolf Trap’s curfew. But it didn’t stop the crowd from loving every second of it while belting out the chorus.

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All in all, the concert was exactly what it was billed as – a fun summer night of 90s alt-rock. The sound crew and roadies also deserve credit for seamlessly changing stages for the bands, which resulted in minimum down time between sets. Alexakis and McGrath promised that Summerland would return to Wolf Trap next summer. Let’s hope they round up Local H next time. Keep it copasetic, bros.

  • Everclear

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  • Sugar Ray:

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  • Marcy’s Playground

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  • LiT

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  • Gin Blossoms

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