Say what you will about the summer of 2014: "Fancy," Ariana Grande's intergalactic adventures and new fave Australian import 5 Seconds of Summer may have dominated your earbuds, but it's been a stellar season for pop-punk fans, too. Warped Tour celebrated its twentieth anniversary this year, and that beloved circus fueled by power chords and mosh pits brought forth one of its most varied lineups yet, featuring up-and-coming talent and familiar faces alike.
But running parallel to Warped and somewhat under the radar were two tours that capitalized on pop-punk's bottomless enthusiasm and energy: Summerland and the Summer Nationals, two cross-country jaunts that brought Everclear, The Offspring, Bad Religion and a handful of other '90s notables back to the top of your playlist.
If you caught the Summer Nationals (The Offspring, Bad Religion, Pennywise and The Vandals) or Summerland (Everclear's annual tradition, which featured the alt gods as headliners, plus Soul Asylum, Eve 6 and Spacehog) or both, you were met with a hefty dose of predictable nostalgia and sing-alongs galore. (Try to make it through Eve 6 performing "Inside Out" live and in-the-flesh without mouthing the words at the very least. We dare you.) That said, the best part of catching this long-since graduated class from Alt Rock/Pop-Punk High? They're still making music, and it's great. These bands have found a way to tour relentlessly on the strength of the old hits while continuing to craft new songs and keep your favorite riffs from the '90s alive.
Here, you'll find our favorite songs courtesy of the Summer Nationals and Summerland, but with a time-warping twist full of context and factoids from this genre-defining period in American rock. They prove the staying power of pop-punk, from Americana to Spacehog and every scream in between.
1994: year of Green Day's Dookie, Nirvana's now-iconic MTV Unplugged session and Smash, the record that would catapult The Offspring into the mainstream ethos. It's not like The Offspring were rookies at this point: The Huntington Beach punk band had scored a record deal with Epitaph and released two albums before Smash. But their third effort is what caught the attention of radio jockeys across the country as evidenced by the uptick in plays "Self Esteem" and "Come Out and Play" received. Smash would go on to set records as a best-selling album from an indie label, clearing 10 million units sold since its release and securing its place as a serious '90s staple in the punk index.
Now, "Come Out and Play," with its surfy tones and driving rhythm, is just as rousing of a hit to experience live at the Summer Nationals tour as it was when it was first played before an audience. He may have lost the dreads and he probably doesn't crowdsurf anymore, but Dexter's voice hit the stratosphere on this one and resonated just as strongly as Noodles' goofy "Gotta keep 'em separated!" quip.
Everclear's sophomore album and big label debut, Sparkle and Fade, would go on to be one of the most beloved in the band's discography: It topped the rock charts, scored considerable radio airplay and even got the Chipmunk treatment in 2007. Yup, the Chipmunks. As in Alvin, Simon and Theodore. They covered this Sparkle and Fade single for their 2007 video game. (Technology is weird.)
"Santa Monica" served as both the opener and closer to Everclear's Summerland set, with the Everclear dudes all circling around an acoustic guitar for a stripped-down version of the track before launching into "So Much For The Afterglow." On the final night of the tour in Yonkers, New York, members from each band of the Summerland lineup joined the guys for a jaw drop-inducing finale. It was basically a shred fest between the biggest alt rock dreamboats of the '90s, all lined up, slinging guitars and belting the chorus of the quintessential Everclear single.
Five seconds into "In The Meantime," and you're kicking your falsetto into high gear to belt along with that iconic chorus. If "In The Meantime" were a piece of clothing, it'd be a flannel shirt. If it were meant to be blasted over the speakers of only one location, it'd probably be in the hallway of Angela Chase's high school before Jordan Catalano shows up at her locker in My So-Called Life. If it were a WB series character, it'd be Pacey from Dawson's Creek, because Pacey totally had this on cassette. If it were a game, it'd be Pogs. It's that '90s.
Since Spacehog dropped Resident Alien in 1995, "In The Meantime" has received the Girl Talk mash-up treatment (with "Lean Back," of all tracks!), Rock Band and Guitar Hero cameos and served as the crown jewel of the band's live set. They returned to the studio after a decade-long hiatus in 2012, and their Summerland set was a perfect combination of tracks ripped from the '90s (a la "In The Meantime") and the refreshing new stuff off of 2013's As It Is On Earth, which they're still technically touring behind!
In a world post-Empire Records, straightforward, power pop chords with an undeniably alt edge made 1997's So Much For The Afterglow Everclear's highest charting and best selling album, a record worthy of instant replay from its very first downbeat. Afterglow would eventually net Everclear their only GRAMMY nod, and its singles—"Father Of Mine," "I Will Buy You A New Life" and "Everything to Everyone"—are three of the first songs people list when they're asked to name a favorite from the band.
Though Everclear kicked off their Summerland set with Afterglow's excellent (and underrated) title track, "Everything to Everyone" was the rallying cry for folks to get up out of their seats, and it totally worked: Art and Co. destroyed those chords, gave the speakers a run for their money and offered up some sick guitar work that showed how these guys still got it in spades.
Not only was "Here's To The Night" on pretty much every high school/graduation playlist ever when it came out in 2000, it was also a breath of alt air on the pop music landscape. Britney, Christina, Destiny's Child and boy bands galore reigned the charts in 2000, so "Here's To The Night"—which peaked at No. 30 on the Billboard Hot 100—was a welcome addition to TRL's regular rotation and an approachable single that brought rockier undertones to the saccharine sounds flooding the radio.
"Here's To The Night" also bounced Eve 6 out of one-hit wonder territory, as the track and "Inside Out" were two of the more recognizable pop-punk hits of the decade. It definitely worked its magic on the Summerland crowd, and, if anything, the song's only gotten better with age. Now Eve 6 can approach its own lyrics with true appreciation for nostalgia more so than they could 14 years ago.
After premiering on Los Angeles' KROQ in 2001, the single from Bad Religion's twelfth (twelfth!) record, The Process of Belief, would lend a hand in the album's warm reception. Process debuted at No. 49 on the Billboard 200, and it held its own in a year where Nickelback, Avril Lavigne and Nelly launched their careers.
This was the song that wound up getting the most fists and flailing limbs going in the room at the Summer Nationals tour, too. Mosh pits exploded, crowd surfers were hitting the deck left and right and every shout of the chorus seemed to spike the room's adrenaline level past the point of no return.
Despite the super productive late-'90s and serious chart-topping success seen by nearly ever record since Smash, The Offspring eased up on their output around 2000's Conspiracy of One and left more and more room in between records. 2012 brought forth Days Go By, which probably would've been released sooner had they not been touring like maniacs in the years preceding it.
Twenty years after their mainstream debut, little about their live show has changed: The steady build of an unhinged drum line, Dex's sky-high vocals and the perfect blend of punk grit and harmonies a pop star would praise were all present and accounted for, with a particular burst of energy reserved for the new stuff. (The joint video for Days Go By tracks "Dividing By Zero" and "Slim Pickens Does The Right Thing and Rides the Bomb to Hell" is pretty rad, too.)
Okay, so here's an extra Summerland/Summer Nationals playlist pick, even though Weezer wasn't on either lineup. Basically, the '90s were so instilled in both the Summerland and Summer National tours that even the interim music was par for the course. In between sets, the mosh pits and sing-alongs continued as tracks played over the PA, and both Summerland and Summer Nationals crowds in their entireties were scream-singing the chorus to either "Undone - The Sweater Song" or "Say It Ain't So."
The Blue Album is a necessary listen for pop-punk/alt rock fans, and we're glad that two tours that celebrated the best both genres had to offer this summer were able to work the integral album into their programming somehow!