I think I was too “in the moment” to make note of any particular quote from the band during Oingo Boingo Dance Party’s performance in Pano Hall at Thunder Valley Casino Resort on Friday night. Oingo Boingo Dance Party what? Yes, exactly. What the heck is Oingo Boingo Dance Party? In short, it is more or less Oingo Boingo minus original front man Danny Elfman, with a very impressive Brendan McKian (formerly Brendan McCreary) on vocals. It was really a spectacular show and experience for me personally (Oingo Boingo is one of my all-time favorite bands). I never thought I would get such a live experience with all of that brilliant music ever again. So I really can’t recommend enough turning out for one of these shows if Oingo Boingo Dance Party is ever in a town near you. Highest recommendation.
This show was a World One Presents promotion, with participation by 101.5 K-Hits.
With Summer over, concert events at Thunder Valley Casino Resort have moved inside, at their smaller Plano Hall space.
Bobby G was in the mix spinning 80s hits as part of the pre-show.
Overall, it was “an evening with” style concert format, featuring a headliner with no opening/supporting artist.
Following the concert was World One Presents’ annual Halloween costume contest. There was a huge turn out for this show, with a long line in advance of doors.
Oingo Boingo Dance Party
- Steve Bartek (lead guitar) [original Oingo Boingo band member]
- Johnny “Vatos” Hernandez (drums) [original Oingo Boingo band member]
- John Avila (bass) [original Oingo Boingo band member]
- Sam “Sluggo” Phipps (saxophone) [original Oingo Boingo band member]
- Carl Graves (keyboards) [original Oingo Boingo band member]
- Brendan McKian (vocals)
- Brian Swartz (trumpet)
- Mike “The Spike” Glendinning (rhythm guitar)
- Felice Hernandez (vocals)
Oingo Boingo wasn’t originally Oingo Boingo. Danny Elfman’s brother, Richard, founded The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo in 1972, and it was originally more of a performance art group.
It wasn’t until 1979 that they transformed into a ska-infused New Wave rock band. It was only a year later that the newly re-imagined group found some support from KROQ in playing “Only a Lad” off of their self-titled EP. They re-recorded that song and released their first album, Only a Lad, in 1981.
They were quite prolific, putting out an album every year and having songs featured on soundtracks in popular films through much of the 80s.
Of course, it all wrapped up in the mid-90s and Danny Elfman has since become one of the most notable film composers of the past several decades, building on many collaborations with Tim Burton.
Somehow I never paid enough attention up until this show what exactly “Oingo Boingo Dance Party” actually was… I think I just assumed it was more cover band than band, with one, maybe two original members. Now that I know what it really is all about, I sincerely lament not driving or flying to one of these shows before they turned up in my own region on Friday night at Thunder Valley.
Growing up in the 80s, I became a fan of Oingo Boingo once I started hearing their music on the radio. It was so different from much of what I was listening to at the time (very synthesizer oriented) and their music had such a different pace and vibe, and with such strange lyrics pushing it all along. It was infectious. And tracking down their many albums, it was all quite excellent. Like they weren’t capable or producing a dud or typical album filler.
No one else sounded anything like them, and they had such energy and a crazy pop happy sound which contrasted with dark themes, ideas, and imagery. And what other pop or rock band had a horn section like that? In my opinion, they never had the recognition that they really deserved, but I guess that makes sense, in that the music in many ways shared some of the same themes and ideas that later appeared in the Tim Burton films that Danny Elfman went on to score… a celebration of the strange, the misfit, the outcast, the loner – not the kind of music that is typically embraced by the mainstream.
As soon as I was old enough to drive, I would frequently catch any Oingo Boingo concert that I could, which usually involved a long drive to the San Francisco Bay Area. They were an amazing live act with such unique energy. For the longest time, they were the band I’d seen live in concert more than any other artist. If there was an Oingo Boingo show going on and I could get to it, I was there.
When I moved to Los Angeles in 1995 for graduate school/film school, it was only a few months later that Oingo Boingo wrapped up “Farewell Tour”, and I was lucky enough to catch their final show ever as a band, at (then) Universal Amphitheater on Halloween. That was the second of the two-night engagement that was turned into a live VHS and double CD live album. It was as amazing as it was sad, taking it in and knowing I would (likely) never see them again.
Little did I know that wouldn’t be my first and last “Danny Elfman Halloween”… Fast forward to 2013, and I was lucky enough to score front row center tickets to “Danny Elfman’s Music from the Films of Tim Burton, Conducted by John Mauceri” with The Hollywood Symphony Orchestra and The Page LA Choir at Nokia Theatre at L.A. Live. You can check out my review of that and photos HERE.
As most fans know, Oingo Boingo understandably stopped being Oingo Boingo due to Danny Elfman suffering some hearing loss due to performing live as a band. So for me, it’s always been one of those tragic endings to a band where you are left to wonder what might have been, as well as missing that live concert experience.
Well, just as Oingo Boingo had that transformation many decades ago, it came back to life again about a dozen years ago when Johnny “Vatos” Hernandez created an Oingo Boingo tribute show with some of the original band members and with Brendan McCreary on vocals. Then in 2012 Johnny Vatos created what he called the “Johnny Vatos Boingo Dance Party” show.
So over the past several years, there have been several of these shows put on, and obviously the one at Thunder Valley on Friday night was the first one that I attended. It was absolutely amazing.
It was, for me, kind of like stepping back in time 25 or 30 years to those concert experiences I had in my teenage years. And the band sounded as good as they are did.
The original members performing were Steve Bartek on lead guitar, Johnny Vatos on drums, John Avila on bass, Sam “Sluggo” Phipps on sax, and Carl Graves on keyboards.
Also part of this new incarnation of Oingo Boingo were Brendan McKian on vocals, Brian Swartz on trumpet, Mike “The Spike” Glendinning on rhythm guitar, and Felice Hernandez on backing vocals.
Everyone was amazing!
Of course, the whole affair and whether it “works” on not came down to Brendan on vocals. That is always a tricky thing in these sorts of situations… does someone really try to exactly mimic the original vocalist? In sound as well as style? It’s a complicated thing. I went in with an open mind, and I really could not have been more impressed with Brendan – he was fantastic! His vocals were a perfect fit. Elfman-like, but unique. And he really has his own on stage personality that is different but it works. Also helpful is that there are a lot of backing vocals in Oingo Boingo’s music, so that created a full sounding experience of the familiar and something a bit unique and fresh as well.
So what about the music? What did they play?
Here is a photo of the set list from the night:
- Nothing To Fear
- Grey Matter
- Private Life
- Just Another Day
- Only Makes Me Laugh
- When The Lights Go Out
- Cinderella Undercover
- We Close Our Eyes
- New Generation
- Monster Mash (Bobby “Boris” Pickett cover)
- Minnie the Moocher (Cab Calloway cover)
- Weird Science
- Good for Your Soul
- Same Man I Was Before
- Wild Sex (In the Working Class)
- Only a Lad
- No One Lives Forever
- Dead Man’s Party
- Who Do You Want To Be?
With such a long set, the encore was cut down ultimately to just one song, “Who Do You Want To Be?” They played for well over two hours – from a few minutes after 9:00 to 11:15!
Oingo Boingo have soooo many amazing songs, so obviously they could only scratch the surface, but I really liked their choices and was pleased to hear songs that came later in their catalog, like “Insanity” and “When The Lights Go Out”. And it was cool they did “Weird Science” (I don’t remember them playing that much if at all back in the day).
In any event, this was hands down one of my favorite shows of the year. I loved every minute of it. I can’t wait to see them again.
As an aside, this was a very different experience for me in terms of photography. It is a long story (which I will cover in a separate article soon), but I actually decided to take my professional photography completely mirrorless. So I just sold all of my Canon gear, and bought all Fuji gear to replace it (and will also be shooting Sony too). I just received all the new cameras and lenses just a few days before this show, and had no time to test any of it in advance. So my first time using this new Fuji gear was literally at this concert. But I was very pleased with the results. The black and white style images I shot in camera (the effect is not post production) using Fuji Acros vintage film simulation. I’ve actually never shot black and white at a concert before, so it was fun for me, and I think captures a different element of the performance.
Also, my apologies but I just couldn’t get a good angle to take photos of Carl Graves. People were packed in pretty tight stage left, and I don’t like to intrude on fans enjoyment of the show, so moving around throughout the night with the angles and stage blocking I just couldn’t get a good angle. I’ll make up for it at the next Oingo Boingo Dance Party show I attend.
Below are some photos of Oingo Boingo performing on stage (scroll downward and photos will begin to appear – click any image to open a virtual lightroom with higher resolution versions of each photo):