Something was odd, I thought. After congratulating tired runners at the Rock n' Roll Marathon in Pasadena last Sunday, I entered the Michelob Ultra Beer Garden not really expecting much. About half of the people there were busy procuring free beer, some others looked too tired to still be standing, and only about third seemed to be more than vaguely interested in the band onstage.
As I got closer, I noticed there was something familiar about them that I couldn't put my finger on. They were playing a cover of “Small Town Girl” by Journey, so I they could have been anyone. The evidence began to build: the tattoos, the sunglasses, the iced hair… then the unmistakable lyrics to “Someday.” It hit me about the same time as it did my friends, and we all said almost in unison, “Holy shit. Is that Sugar Ray?”
Here are 5 weird things about this OC-based band and the show in Pasadena, in a pleasingly climactic order.
5. An awkward ending. Towards the end, two audience members were brought up onstage for some karaoke. The first guy was inaudible, but the second did an unexpectedly good rendition of “Insane In The Brain” by Cypress Hill. The show wrapped up with “Fly,” arguably Sugar Ray's most popular song. The concert up until then was appropriately easy to ignore while chugging semi-decent beer, and McGrath looked a little surprised that more than a third of the crowd was paying attention. The cherry was when he looked genuinely grateful and said, “Thank you for listening, we really appreciate it… Bless you guys! Good night!” It was 11:30am.
4. Mark McGrath hasn't aged since the early 2000s. He has the same iced tips and figure-hugging shirts as always. Besides losing the chin beard, he's exactly the same.
3. Now, with more filler! In the hour-long show there were at about four covers, including “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” (a Joe Jackson song they had released on record before), “Small Town Girl” by Journey, and “Blitzkrieg Bop” by the Ramones. Then there were the jokes (with rimshots!), stories, and general time-wasting between the performances we really wanted: the four original songs of theirs that anyone has heard of.
2. They've got a fever. Mark stands onstage with his arms raised, cowbell in one hand, stick in the other, and says into the mic, “Ladies and Gentlemen, respect Christopher Walken.” For the next few minutes they played an instrumental of “Low Rider” by War; all the while Mark McGrath is seriously abusing this cowbell. It felt like forever as McGrath walked back and forth across the stage with the bell, played it in the air, behind his back, between his legs, and in the faces of other band members. You can't hate “Low Rider,” but by the time the comedy wore off most people agreed that the only prescription was earplugs.
1. It was Sugar Ray. Who has seen or heard of them in the last decade? If it weren't for Mark McGrath's appearance on Celebrity Apprentice and Extra or the occasional radio play of their hits, we would have forgotten them by now.