Last October marked the third year in a row I’ve been involved with the Johnny “Vatos” Tribute to Halloween and Oingo Boingo. I serve as music director, keyboardist and backing vocalist for the 18-piece band that includes former Boingo members John Avila, Steve Bartek, Johnny “Vatos” Hernandez and Sam “Sluggo” Phipps. My brother, Brendan “Bt4” McCreary, fronts the group, which also boasts a 5-piece string ensemble, horn trio and two backing singers. Together we smash through the hits of Oingo Boingo, playing selections from the band’s entire 17-year career and inflict Halloween chaos and mayhem on an unsuspecting world.
Here I am singing “Jack’s Lament” from “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
For me, playing with these guys is not only a dream come true, but a welcome opportunity to get out of the studio and on stage in front of an audience. Scoring three tv series is a blast, but very little compares to being in front of thousands of screaming fans. One girl in the audience even kissed me, practically leaping on stage to do so! Rock stars might be used to this, but to composers, believe me… this is out of the ordinary! 🙂
Brendan went completely nuts on “Not My Slave.” It was early in the first set, but he still sang it like it was his last night on Earth.
The concert started off with Overture, an original piece I composed that is a theme-and-variations of the first four notes of the Oingo Boingo album Only a Lad. (Random trivia: those first four notes were overdubbed on trombone by “Galactica”-miniseries composer Richard Gibbs!) My Overture was a Kurt Weill-inspired vaudeville arrangement that builds intensity as it constantly repeats variations of the four note theme. And of course, during all this, Brendan emerges from the shadows wearing a 1olb pumpkin on his head!
[From Left: Steve Bartek, Johnny “Vatos Hernandez, Brendan “Bt4” McCreary and John Avila] The instant the Overture ended, we kicked into “Little Girls.”
Last year we performed the entirety of Oingo Boingo’s groundbreaking first album Only a Lad, complete and in order. This year, we shook the order up and added several new songs. We rounded out many tracks from the album Boi-Ngo, by including New Generation and Outrageous. Both of these songs had previously been performed by the band on extremely rare occasions, so for many fans, it was the first chance to hear them live. However, my personal favorites of the new songs was Skin. This track is haunting and beautiful, and every time I began its signature solo marimba line, the audience exploded. I also was able to fill out the orchestration with lush horn and string parts, adding even more layers of sound to the already-rich arrangement.
I’m hoping we can release some audio at some point in the future. But, in the meantime, here are just a few visual highlights from the 2007 Johnny “Vatos” Tribute to Halloween and Oingo Boingo performances. (If you haven’t seen them, I also have highlights of the 2006 Shows and the 2005 Show.)
John Avila plays bass on You Really Got Me.
[Back Row: Tom “Dirty Brahms” Lea, Paul Cartwright, Robbie Anderson, Front Row: Carlos De La Paz and Steve Bartek.] The Angelic Strings…
…And the Devilish Horns [Cory Wright, Brian Swartz and Garrett Smith].
Brendan and Steve get freaky during Pain.
Aaaarrrhh, maties! Doug Lacy plays accordion on We Close Our Eyes.
Brendan dropped his pick before We Close Our Eyes, but called out to “Boingo Jesus” (Brian Teague) to save him.
- Set List 2007
- Little Girls
- On the Outside
- Not My Slave
- You Really Got Me
- What You See
- Elevator Man
- We Close Our Eyes
- Can’t See (Useless)
- Jack’s Lament
- Sally’s Song
- Oogie Boogie’s Song
- Nature Zone
- American Car
- Monster Mash
- No One Lives Forever
- New Generation
- Perfect System
- Take Your Medicine
- Nuclear Babies
- Out of Control
- Nasty Habits
- Forbidden Zone
- Only a Lad
- Dead Man’s Party
Steve Bartek’s crazy solo on Take Your Medicine.
Johnny “Vatos” Hernandez’s bright pink mohawk, shaved eyebrows and naked boob t-shirt easily won the costume contest for scariest creature. But what he was supposed to be is anyone’s guess. 🙂
Raya Yarbrough performs Sally’s Song from “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” After singing in Armenian on Battlestar Season 3 and Sinhalese on Season 2, she finally gets to sing in English!
Doug Lacy (Oogie Boogie) and Dennis Michael (Santa) perform Oogie Boogie’s Song from “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
Rocking the keyboard solo on Dead Man’s Party!
The pumpkin returns to haunt Sam “Sluggo” Phipps during No One Lives Forever. I was sure that thing was going to end up splattered all over the audience… but thankfully, I was wrong.
Forbiddden Zone was one of our closing numbers, and I extended the brief breakdown from the film’s end credit version into an epic “Boingo-Fugue,” that starts with the strings, adds horns, then the band and singers, and finally builds intensity for two minutes before the lead vocals come back in. Of course, Brendan used this opportunity to leap out into the crowd, vocal mic in hand, with Boingo Jesus. This picture was snapped from a cell phone in the audience and is simply amazing! What’s even more incredible is that he didn’t fall and die, but was carried back to the stage in time to finish the song.
2007’s shows were possibly our last, but you never know what’s in store. With any luck, we might be back at it next Halloween.
During the show, I heard some fans out there chanting “All Along the Watchtower!” Hopefully they’ll also be at the upcoming Battlestar Galactica: Season 3 concert this spring (details will be posted in early January). Many members of the Halloween band will be there as well… but I doubt we’ll be doing Dead Man’s Party that time. 🙂
Hope to see you there…