By Andrew Wroblewski
If you ask George Pendergast – drummer for alternative rock band Dishwalla – what’s keeping ’90s music prospering today, oddly enough he’ll tell you that it’s the generation too young to even remember the decade.
“Today, there are a lot of bands out there that sound like they came out of the ’90s,” said Pendergast, who’s set to play The Paramount – with the rest of Dishwalla – on Saturday, Sept. 20 at 8 p.m. for a ’90s rock tour also featuring bands Nine Days and Stroke 9. “Kids are then going out and researching ’90s music, listening to it and coming out to shows.”
This has been made even easier, Pendergast said, by the popularity of music services like Spotify and Pandora, which give users the ability to play music from any decade and all genres at just the push of a button.
“I think a lot of the interest in ’90s music is coming from people using these services… There are a lot more reminders now,” Pendergast, an original member of the band, said. “People can just put on a ’90s alternate rock channel [and listen].”
On these channels, users might hear some of some of the hits that made Dishwalla a platinum-selling and award-winning band through the ’90s – such as the ’96 chart-topper, “Counting Blue Cars.”
That particular song – an iconic rock anthem with hard-hitting guitar chords and an addicting chorus – has been both a blessing and a curse, Pendergast said.
“For us, we wanted to remain relevant and have something acknowledged beyond [‘Counting Blue Cars’],” he said. “[It’s] one of the things that shot us in the foot.”
While the song, featured on the band’s first studio album, “Pet Your Friend,” went on to dominate charts in the ’90s, win awards and give Dishwalla mainstream success for the first time, it also cast a shadow out of which the band could never quite step.
Along with this, Pendergast said, the music video for “Counting Blue Cars” was shot in a “blown-out” style with quick cuts, which made it hard to tell exactly who Dishwalla was.
“And right after the video we all changed our looks,” Pendergast said, while also lamenting that he believes the song should have been called “Tell Me All Your Thoughts on God,” a reflection of its chorus. “It was totally a [public relations] nightmare… [But] now, in hindsight, people don’t know [our lineup has changed].”
After a short hiatus in 2006, Dishwalla returned with all of its original members – Pendergast, Scott Alexander (bass), Rodney (lead guitar) and latecomer Jim Wood (keyboards) – except for its lead singer and front man, John Robert "J. R." Richards. In Richards’ place stepped Justin Fox.
Thanks to the music video that masked the band’s identity, Pendergast said, not many have been able to tell that the lineup has changed at all – allowing the band to tour with not many questions to answer.
Now, working with a clean slate in a way, the band has seen success touring with the likes of bands Collective Soul, Vertical Horizon and Tonic. To top it all off, Dishwalla will also enter the recording studio to put together its first studio album since the band’s 2005 self-titled effort, which Pendergast said will release sometime in 2015 in celebration of 20th anniversary of “Pet Your Friends.”
“It’s really fun to get writing again,” Pendergast said of the album that will eventually mark Fox’s studio debut as Dishwalla’s lead singer. “[Richards] has one of the most incredible voices in rock, so for [Fox] to even attempt to step into his shoes is really gutsy…. But he brings his own to it, his own vibe… And that’s what I really like about him.”
Coming back to Huntington for the first time since the ’90s, local fans will be able to enjoy the new style Fox brings to the band later this month, and they just might be able to catch a glimpse of the band on the streets.
“The funny thing about being on the road is that when you get to the place where you’re performing you sit in the van or bus [for a bit] and then start walking around,” Pendergast said. “If fans of bands only knew that if they hung around the club at about noon they’re going to see someone from the band.”
To be able to see Dishwalla, Nine Days and Stroke 9 perform some of the biggest hits of the ’90s on Sept. 20, head to www.paramountny.com or to the box office at 370 New York Ave. in Huntington where tickets are available from $35-$75.