Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz was tired of touring like he always did. “Everyone’s been doing it the same way for, like, ever,” he says. “They’re stupid and boring.”
So to shake things up, he came up with an idea last summer to headline a tour with other bands and collaborate altogether on a single stage. The result is The Saturday Night Rebel Rockers Traveling Circus and Medicine Show, where all three bands on the bill—Counting Crows, Augustana, Spearhead—rock out to each others’ songs, improvise, and perform new renditions of their own material.
“Nobody has an ego,” Duritz says. “It’s just about the music.”
Want to know more? Read the Q&A with Adam after the jump…
EW: How are you? What are you up to?
AD: Nothing really, we did a gig last night in my hometown, Berkeley. Just sitting around at my parent’s house.
EW: Tell me more about the concert you’re doing.
AD: I came up with the idea last summer at the end of the tour, two of our guys’ wives were having babies and they had to leave early. So a friend of ours came to help out, and the guys of Augustana, who were opening, were helping us out in a lot of songs. And I didn’t want it to be like the audience was getting less of a concert or something, because there were missing members of our band. so I was just like, Let’s turn this sort of thing into a strength, let’s make the show about playing with each other. Instead of having people fill in, let’s have it be about all these songs and reinvent it together and let’s just make it fun.
Playing is always incredibly powerful to begin with, but it’s also like emptying my gut sometimes. These shows I did were like, I’m tired of these tours, everyone’s been doing it the same way for like ever — they’re stupid and boring. There’s an opening act that’s brilliant, but nobody sees. The middle act that maybe has semi-popularity that people tolerate and sit through … and then you come along and pla,y and they don’t really get enough time with you. On top of my own not enjoying the experience other than the hours I’m onstage, it seemed like it was all wrong. There was nothing about it that a concert should be.
EW: How did this collaboration come along together?
AD: I knew Augustana from touring with them, and I knew Michael [Franti, of Spearhead] from growing up — we used to play basketball as kids. I wanted to find someone different, someone who would add to the equation. The music was like a circus, it had differences in it. I wanted all of us together playing some song, then playing each other’s songs, then I wanted to split off and play sets on our own. But I wanted the first set to be Counting Crows, so everyone would be there for the beginning. I wanted us to kind of play together, but play separately. I wanted songs where we mixed members of the bands together with different combos with little groups of us. I wanted all seventeen or eighteen of us to be onstage to do stuff.
EW: So do you practice with the other bands or is it simply a spur of the moment kind of thing?
AD: Well, we holed up in Illinois and rehearsed for three days, then we went away our separate ways and went on tours for a little bit and we came back and holed up again in upstate Washington, outside of Seattle, for another three days. Nobody believed we could get people to come on time at the beginning of the show, but we packed the house at 7. When we played at the Greek Theater in L.A., we packed the entire house in 5 minutes. It’s the coolest thing I’ve ever done
EW: You were telling me that a lot of people didn’t believe in it. How do you feel about it now that it’s off and running?
AD: Best thing I’ve ever done. And everyone in the band thinks that too. It’s amazing because 17 people are all having the time of their lives. Nobody has an ego.
EW: So I’m sure there’s a lot of improvisation you guys do also…
AD: Yeah, it happens. We’re all making up what we’re singing sometimes… We’re playing “Rain King” and I’m sitting down at the piano and start playing it, then I start playing the Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends” and it just kicks into a million harmonies. With 17 people it can be a disaster. Sometimes you just have to point at people to control how it goes. But it’s not difficult when we’re there. It’s utter joy. You just have to see it. You can see it on everybody’s face. Every night when we come offstage everybody, they thank me for doing it. I’m just like, will you guys stop? This is our tour, this isn’t a favor we’re doing to anybody. They’re like, “no man, this is the best, you don’t understand.” I want to do it every night. It’s joy.
EW: Can we expect any official collaborations on any records with all three bands?
AD: I have no idea…one thing about this tour is that it’s not particularly thought out ahead. But overall, we’re independent, and they’re on labels. I’d like to put every show up. But I don’t know if their labels are up for it.
EW: Any last words?
AD: Come out early, because you’re going to miss out if you come out late! Come see the Circus this summer, it’s coming. There’s nothing like it. Also, we really miss Michael [The Spearhead frontman recently canceled a string of dates due to abdominal pain]… We want him to be better. It sucks doing the Circus and only having two-thirds of it right now.
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