City Paper is not for tourists
Dewey Beach is a great place for a washed-up ’90s band to put on a show. They’re guaranteed a sympathetic audience—-thanks, beer—-which is a great confidence boost for whatever comeback they’re attempting to mount. Lifehouse staged one such earnest-but-flat show at the Baycenter in 2005, managing to inspire singalong for “Hanging by a Moment.”
Better Than Ezra comfortably fits the bill of an over-the-hill ’90s rock outfit.
Their three biggest tracks are off their 1995 debut, Deluxe; everything since has flopped on the charts and at the register. By all means, they could have sandwiched their sets with “Good,” their signature hit, stuffed the interim with an apathetic play through their new album and called it a night.
Instead, Ezra took the stage at the Bottle & Cork and rocked the irrelevance right out of their music.
A little context is necessary. Late last summer I bought tickets to see Everclear, hoping to jog a bit of nostalgia out of my gin-soaked brain. What I got was a depressing exercise in cynicism: frontman Art Alexakis, looking fresh out of rehab, filled his set with bile and passive-aggression, going so far as to boot unattractive girls off the stage during his last number. After hitting the gin when I got home, I decided my childhood was a sham. So much for the afterglow.
You can understand my trepidation, then, in going to see Ezra, a band that actually meant something to me. Their still-dire “In the Blood” gets regular play on my workout mix, as does “Desperately Wanting.” I like their music without a smidgen of qualifying nostalgia. Ducking into the Cork on June 10, I vowed to kill them all if they fucked this up.
They didn’t. They spun up the crowd with “Good,” which shocked me with its freshness. Michael Jerome, Ezra’s new drummer, slammed out the beats, leaning into the snare strikes with the vigor of a new recruit. Watching frontman Kevin Griffin bend before the microphone, I was surprised by how much he seemed to be enjoying himself. His stage banter was cocky and happy, proudly introducing songs from the band’s new album as if it were still 1995.
“You know, it’s funny,” he said. “Most bands put their best albums out first. With Better Than Ezra, it’s different,” he said. I hoped for irony, which is perhaps unfair. Griffin has absolute faith in his product, which is why Better Than Ezra still exists – which is why they delivered such a fantastic show to the Dewey crowds, who shouted along to “Desperately Wanting” (yes, that was me).
If the Dewey music scene banks on nostalgia, Better Than Ezra proved it didn’t need to. When they cranked out “In The Blood” with power and glory, they took the crowd with them, making even casual fans believe all over again.