Despite all the weirdness that is 2020, we are hearing good news that some of our sonic heroes will help to lift our spirits. It’s a little unclear what the upcoming holidays will look like, but if this story is any indication, life may be getting back to “some” semblance of normalcy.
Halloween is the traditional holiday season kick-off, and there is no greater band that personifies Halloween than the one whose insatiable appetite for all things that go bump in the night. The band is Oingo Boingo Former Members, and they will be playing their epic Halloween show this year!
The question I always get about this event is, “Is this the same band that we all remember?” The short answer is YES, just less one dude. To truly answer this question though, I need to tell you the entire story, so here is my Boingo-laced True Hollywood Story.
It was 1980 and I was a sophomore at La Puente High School. I remember one September night I was doing what all teenage boys do, going out with their pals and hanging out talking about life in general and nothing in particular. One of the guys brought up a great show I sadly missed. It was the US Festival; he told us all about some of the bands. I remember my friend Joey Contreras mentioning a cool new radio station. We turned on his car stereo – keep in mind, back then, radio still had a strong AM following – and he positioned the dial to 106.7 on the FM band. The station was KROQ, and the first song I ever heard on it was “Only a Lad” by Oingo Boingo
I’m not sure what it was, but that Boingo song captured my soul. It sent me on a path that I never turned back from. It was a new type of music that spoke to me. I got to know every song, and every word to every song… and then I started going to their shows, including the epic Halloween shows. By my senior year, I was a Boingo expert.
Truth-be-told, that song did a lot for me that most…. it captured my soul, it was literally “Musical Food for My Soul”.
Their music sent me on a path that I never turned back from. It was a new type of music that spoke to me. I got to know every song, every word to every song… and I started going to their shows. Especially the epic Halloween shows. By my senior year, I was a Boingo expert.
“I’m so happy to be playing this show. We’ve all been inside for months and this show allows us to take in the fresh air, enjoy music and celebrate Halloween all at once.“
Fast forward to the late ‘80s, when I was working weekends at KROQ. Who knew that September night in 1980 would lead to this? Since I was working at the station, I got to go to a lot of shows, and I got to go backstage. It was so surreal to be back there, standing next to my boyhood heroes, Steve Bartek, John Avila, Johnny Vatos and of course, Danny Elfman. I was even happier when I got to meet them and talk to a few of them. They turned out to be polite and funny, which made me love them even more. I had a front row seat to see one of the most influential bands to come out of that era.
No joke, back then Boingo was notorious for their Halloween shows at Irvine Meadows and Universal Amp. As with anything in life, years of touring finally caught up to them. Halloween 1995 was their last hoorah, the curtain came down on this larger than life band. The memories the band left us, and those epic shows became stories of myth and legend.
Since then, we’ve heard calls for the band to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame. We’ll see what the Music Gods have in store for them in the end. For now, their catalog includes iconic songs like “Dead Man’s Party,” “Grey Matter,” “Who Do You Want To Be,” “Only a Lad,” “Stay,” “Weird Science,” “Just Another Day,” “Nasty Habits,” “Not My Slave,” “Wild Sex (In the Working Class),” “Ain’t This the Life,” “We Close Our Eyes,” the list of great songs just goes on and on
Fast forward to 2005, and we heard the best news in some time, Vatos put together a Boingo tribute show. It included former Boingo band mates Steve Bartek, John Avila, and Sam “Sluggo” Phipps. Boingo version 2.0 so-to-speak. This incarnation included front-man Brendan McKian.
With the success of the re-vamped Boingo, there were whispers surrounding Elfman and his potential reprise as the band’s lead. In early 2007, those whispers came to an end as Elfman announced there would be no Boingo reunion. Danny has developed irreversible hearing loss over the years and is worried that playing live shows night-after-night could adversely impact his hearing even further. Nobody can blame him for tapping out. Meanwhile, the band blew up again.
Due to legal issues, the band’s name has had a few iterations. After the realization he wouldn’t be coming back, Elfman gave Vatos permission to use the name Oingo Boingo Dance Party. No other band on the planet has that distinction.
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and there are so many good Oingo Boingo Tribute bands out there. Honestly, there is no substitute for the original. Sadly, due to the number of bands using a variation of the name, Vatos had to get together with Elfman again to develop a final name change. This one would stick, they now go by Oingo Boingo Former Memebers.
Oingo Boingo Former members is beyond what words can describe, but we’ll try. What we can do is call out the composition of the band. It features Brenden McKian (vox), Johnny Vatos (drums), Steve Bartek (guitar), John Avila (bass), Freddy Hernandez (bass), Brain Swartz (trumpet), Mike “the Spike” Glendinning (rhythm guitar), Sam “Sluggo” Phipps (sax), and Carl Graves (keys).
Today’s band is just as dynamic as ever. They sound is just as electric, their composition is just as volcanic, and their energy is unmatched. McKian does the band’s legacy and Elfman justice by NOT trying to be Elfman. He is Brendan McKian and he brings a new sound and performance art to the stage. Ask any of their fans, and it’s just like classic Boingo with a new twist. Bottom line, this is a must see band band and a must see show.
October 24th, relive your youth and create new memories with Oingo Boingo Former Members.