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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Art Alexakis is still rocking hard with Everclear in spite of MS

When Art Alexakis learned that he had multiple sclerosis in March 2019, the leader and lone constant of Everclear wasn’t angry or depressed.

“I was grateful when I learned I had MS,” Alexakis said while calling from Chandler, Arizona. “I’m grateful for every day I have. MS has taught me gratitude. No matter how bad things are, they could be worse. Don’t ever challenge the universe and complain about things. I’ll never forget walking into my appointment and there were six doctors all staring at me and I thought, ‘Man, this isn’t good.’ But I’m doing my best.”

Alexakis, 60, was relatively fine until he contracted COVID in January 2021. That put the veteran singer-songwriter in the hospital for a couple of weeks. “My MS progressed,” Alexakis said. “The doctors found more lesions on my brain and I have more muscle atrophy. It makes it harder but I’m grateful I’m still alive doing what I love.”

Adversity has been a constant for Alexakis since he was a child and it’s all over his Everclear material. Alexakis has overcome parental abandonment (“Father of Mine”), and life as a misfit (“Summerland”). Alexakis has added a new song to the Everclear set, “Year of the Dragon,” but he has yet to pen a song inspired by MS.

The Los Angeles native will sprinkle in some fresh material to go along with the hits with Everclear on Thursday at the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox. “I have no problem playing the familiar,” Alexakis said.

“Santa Monica,” “Everything to Everyone” and “Wonderful” are among the tunes that charted that are normally part of the set. The gritty “Heroin Girl” and the amusing “Loser Makes Good” are among the deep cuts typically delivered. “I’m fortunate I have so many songs people want to hear,” Alexakis said.

Quite a few of the Everclear albums, such as 1995’s “Sparkle and Fade” and 1997’s “So Much for the Afterglow,” have aged well. Part of the reason is that the tracks on most Everclear albums contain a shard of reality.

“I’ve always been about writing songs that are real,” Alexakis said. “They come from a personal place or something that is hopefully realistic from my imagination. I look at the great writers like Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen and they do the same thing.”

Alexakis grew up during the late ’70s in Los Angeles embracing punk and hard rock. “I was obsessed with it,” Alexakis said. “I would call up the local radio station and ask them to play a 20-minute Rush song and that obviously never happened.”

While making a request to a Los Angeles DJ, Alexakis was surprised that he was a contest winner. “He (the DJ) said, ‘You’re the 19th caller and you won the Bruce Springsteen contest,’ ” Alexakis recalled. “I was told that I won tickets to the show at the Roxy and dinner with the band.”

However, Alexakis passed on the tickets. “I didn’t go since Springsteen was so funky and East Coast that I didn’t get it then,” Alexakis said. “However, after ‘The River’ and particularly after ‘Nebraska’ came out, I became a huge fan.”

When Alexakis inducted Del Shannon into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999, he told the Boss his tale. “Bruce laughed,” Alexakis said. “I wasn’t ready for Springsteen then. But he raised the bar for songwriters everywhere. And then there are the shows he and the E Street Band put on. I aspire to that every night.”

Alexakis has been delivering energetic shows since he led Colorfinger during the early ’90s. The Portland-based band made its Spokane debut at the Big Dipper in 1991. “It’s a show I remember very well,” Alexakis said. “We got canceled at another venue at the last minute and I was talking about it on the college radio station at Gonzaga. Someone from the Big Dipper was listening and they told us that they had an open mic show that night and they would pass the hat around for us, feed us and give us a place to stay. I can’t say enough about the Big Dipper. Anyway, during load in, there was a kid sitting around the entrance. I said ‘What’s up?’ He said, ‘They won’t let me in.’ That kid was Craig Montoya, who was still going to Mead High School at the time.”

Montoya traveled to Portland in 1992 to audition for Alexakis’ then-new band, Everclear, and was tabbed as bassist. “I didn’t realize that was the same kid from the Big Dipper until he told me about it years later when we were talking about Spokane,” Alexakis said. “He said, ‘Yeah, you had long hair then,’ which I did.”

After 11 years Montoya left Everclear. Alexakis and Montoya lost touch but recently became reacquainted.

“We caught up with each other on Facebook,” Alexakis said. “Prior to that I can’t recall the last time I saw or spoke with him. The cool thing is that he asked to come to our Portland show, which is right after our Spokane show and he’ll be coming out. I’m excited about that and I’m excited about the fact that I’m still standing playing these songs before people that still want to experience them.”