Is there a shelf life for bands when they reach a certain age? As the acts and seminal albums of the early ‘90s start marking their quarter-life anniversaries, it’s a question that clouds over the steady pour of reunion tours, reissued albums and other celebratory ephemera of a scene that can sometimes seem like one more trick to ride out fame.
But it just feels different with Counting Crows. Perhaps because the milestone is nothing the musicians ever cared to be cognizant of and one they could have just as easily glossed over with a steady career since day one.
“I’ve been here while it was all happening, so I don’t know if it seems like 25 years; it almost seems very recent we were playing clubs. Besides having families we really are the same band. I’ve really been trying to get a grip on this [anniversary],” says frontman Adam Duritz during a recent phone call talking about the band’s 25 Years and Counting Tour, which comes to the Hollywood Casino Amphitheater on Sept. 8. Contemporaries in the band Live are providing support.
Counting Crows, Live
When: 6:30 p.m. Sept. 8
Where: Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre, 19100 Ridgeland, Tinley Park
The milestone hovers over their 1993 debut, “August And Everything After,” which launched the Bay Area septet with its hippie-inspired, roots-rock-infiltrating hits “Mr. Jones,” “Round Here” and “Rain King,” (ironically, at a time when grunge dominated the charts). Counting Crows eschewed the trend, happily wearing their time-stamped influences like Van Morrison and The Band on their patchwork sleeves, and found an audience who agreed with them. That first album went on to become a seven-times-platinum success in the U.S. alone, at the time the fastest-selling record since Nirvana’s “Nevermind.”
Though Counting Crows never had the same star wattage on any of its five releases since — save for their 2004 single, “Accidentally In Love” for the “Shrek 2” soundtrack — they refuse to ride the coattails of “August And Everything After” forever. This tour, Duritz says, is about celebrating 25 years of the band, not that album. In fact, if you ask him, the band’s last effort, 2014’s critical darling, “Somewhere Under Wonderland,” is a far superior effort.
“Our last record was my favorite one we’ve ever made. It was a beautiful record and we got a great response on it, but it didn’t make any impact on culture and it disappeared,” he says, a twinge of disappointment still in his voice.
It’s why the band has been reluctant to go back into the studio the past four years to log anything new. “I have pieces of songs, ideas, but I’m hesitant to put them together. Once I start doing that I get really desperate and want to make a record, but I’m trying to figure out how we are supposed to do so now. People are consuming music different than they used to and you can’t depend on old methods anymore,” Duritz explains.
In the interim, the singer has been keeping himself busy. He’s got a new weekly podcast, “Underwater Sunshine,” with frequent collaborator and music journalist James Campion, in which the two geek out over their favorite acts and exhaustive period pieces. “We did a four-week series on punk music, from 1967-1980. It’s almost 10 hours of music. I did hours and hours of research, and took pages of notes and stories about all these bands, and that was really satisfying for me,” says Duritz.
He’s also one of the co-curators and co-founders of the same-named Underwater Sunshine Festival, which heads to New York’s Bowery Electric club Oct. 12-13, that has Duritz scoping out fresh, new acts.
“The idea is to expose young bands and get great music out to a lot of people, “says Duritz. “Even if you don’t come to shows you can find out more about each band on our website, where we have extensive features. It’s also a free show to make it as easy as possible to see these acts.”
A recent discovery of an artist by the name of Alice Pisano, who won over Duritz with an acoustic cover of Counting Crows’ “American Girls,” further tempted the frontman to rethink arrangements of the band’s scores of material. The group is known to change and improvise songs mid-concert and never does the same set list twice.
“The songs just go where they are going to go,” Duritz says, fully championing the annals of Counting Crows bootlegs that capture the unique performances. “I have a wall full of bootlegs — Radiohead at the Avalon and Bob Dylan with The Band from the 1966 worldwide tour — and it would be hypocritical not to allow fans to make them of us, and also just dumb. Your fans already have all your records, that’s why they’re at the concert.
“And if you’re good live, they function as advertisements for concerts” — and for this band, keep them Counting on.