The Bar Band That Pivoted And Sold 10 Million Albums

Allow me to be very self-indulgent and colloquial for a moment.  I want to tell you about a band that doesn’t exist anymore, or at least not in the form in which I originally found them. Somewhere along the line they did a “pivot” and went from a local OC bar band to a nationally known band that sold 10 million records worldwide.

Let me take you back to the heady days of the early 90’s……..I remember it like it was yesterday….blulah, blulah, blulah….(cue wavy fade out).

It’s a typical Saturday night and I am with my buddies at a local bar called “The Warehouse” in Newport Beach. We are drinking pitchers of beer, playing pool, trying to catch a hot girl’s eye.  The night is starting off slow, and then the band starts to play.

WHAM…..!!!!  It’s like somebody hit me in the back of my head with a ball peen hammer.

I’d never seen anything like it.  A mass of frenetic energy was coming off the stage, and in the middle of it all was a lead singer who was jumping all over the place, alternately checking himself out in the bar’s mirror and then insulting the audience in the most slyly funny way I had ever seen.  This band had “it”!

I had only seen about five bands in my life that stopped me cold in my tracks, and the “Shrinky Dinx” was one of them.

I was mesmerized by this band.  I loved the eclectic mix of songs they covered and the way in which they did it.  They played War’s “Lowrider,” “Gonzo” by Ted Nugent, and “Whatcha’ Want” by the Beastie Boys.  They also had great original songs with names like “Wife Beater”, “Big Black Women”, and “Iron Mic (ode to Mike Tyson).”

My friends and I became big fans of the Dinx, going to all their shows and getting to know them. Great guys, great band.

The best gig I ever saw them play, and maybe the best gig I ever saw in my life, happened around 1992.  The band 311 was headlining at a small club in Huntington Beach, and the Dinx were opening for them.

Once they got on stage all hell broke loose.  The lead singer was a tatted Irish pretty boy who drank like a fish and that night he was lit,  jumping around stage, and in and out of the crowd like a maniac.

At one point he climbed up into the rigging above the audience, broke a beer bottle in half, and with the jagged end of the bottle began to carve his initials into his mid-section.  Blood was pouring everywhere, the band was pumping, the audience was screaming…….the wildest thing I have ever seen.

So here is the punchline.  Do you know this band is today?

Sugar Ray……..!!!

That’s right, the pabulum pumping, radio friendly boy band.  And their lead singer?  Mark McGrath, former co-host of Extra and Don’t Forget the Lyrics!  Ugh…!!!

They polished things up, stripped down their sound, added a beat box, and overproduced the hell out of their music.  They even changed the title of “Wife Beater” to “Rhyme Stealer”…..pathetic.

I get it, their sound wasn’t commercial enough and they had to evolve to stay alive and survive.  But sometimes, on those warm summer nights in the OC, I often wish that someone like the Dinx was still out there.

Check out this video of Sugar Ray when they were still the Shrinky Dinx.  It will give you a tiny little sense of what I what I first saw in them almost twenty years ago.

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  • thewife

    My favorite club to fame band is Red Hot Chili Peppers. I remember seeing them in clubs in the early 80s. They were SO good!

    • Brian Lund

      That must have been epic. I used to hear tales of their gigs back then.

  • “At one point he climbed up into the rigging above the audience, broke a beer bottle in half, and with the jagged end of the bottle began to carve his initials into his mid-section.”

    I heard that Justin Bieber stole this move and did it last night at a show in L.A.

    I’ll let you know if I find the video…