‘Band is on fire’: Counting Crows ready to rock MGM National Harbor

Hear the full conversation on today’s “Beyond the Fame” podcast.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Counting Crows at MGM National Harbor (Part 1)

You can’t write the history of ’90s alternative rock without Counting Crows.

The band brings its signature sound to MGM National Harbor this Friday.

“The band is on fire,” guitarist David Immerglück told WTOP. “Traveling and touring during the pandemic … and all the other things that surround touring kind of suck, because we’ve had to keep ourselves in a bubble. So the best part of the day is soundcheck and playing the show … We’re just really appreciating playing. … It’s kind of a love fest.”

In fact, the band recently hung out in D.C. during a recent COVID-19 scare, involving a member of the crew.

“We had to shut down for about a week and cancel a couple of shows. … We actually holed up in D.C.,” he said. “It was a nice play to stay while we were waiting to start up again. It’s one of our homes away from home. Thank God we haven’t had an incident since. … When we actually make it to the stage it is a miracle.”

Immerglück helped introduce lead singer Adam Duritz and guitarist David Bryson in the Bay Area.

“He and I met in 1984 and have been best friends ever since,” Immerglück said. “I had a recording studio and David Bryson also had a recording studio, and sometimes I’d go use his studio. … One session at his studio, I hired my housemate, Adam Duritz, to come sing background vocals and introduced him to David Bryson. They hit it off and suddenly had this duo, Counting Crows.”

The band officially formed in Berkeley, California in 1991 with producer T Bone Burnett.

“Once T Bone Burnett got involved, the whole patina of the band changed,” Immerglück said. “It was [initially] like a rocksy music, Peter Gabriel-esque sound, Talk Talk, if you know those bands. But T Bone identified that there was this whole kind of earthier, rootsier sound to these songs like Van Morrison, The Band, and that influence was brought in and served the band very well.”

Their first album, “August and Everything After” (1993), included the hit single “Mr. Jones.”

“I very well remember the creation of it,” Immerglück said. “I made this recording with Monks of Doom [and] brought home the mix like, ‘Adam, check this out.’ … He goes, ‘That’s cool. Check this out.’ And it was the demo for ‘Mr. Jones,’ which was this like weird beatbox budget drum machine, nothing like what you hear now, but it was basically the chord progression and Adam’s lyrics.”

The album was a smash success, including another hit song with “Round Here.”

“‘Round Here’ was from a band called The Himalayans that Adam was in before Counting Crows,” Immerglück said. “It sounded totally different with The Himalayans. It was super weird, emo, indie rock, darker sort of The Cure type of song. He and David Bryson were doing it as an acoustic duo for a really long time, really cool, and they brought that song in.”

While Immerglück helped make the first album behind the scenes, he didn’t officially join the band, instead going off to play with John Hiatt. Still, he remembers watching Counting Crows record their second album, “Recovering the Satellites” (1996), including the melancholic “A Long December.”

“I did happen to be in the room when ‘A Long December’ was being recorded,” Immerglück said. “There were some incidents in Los Angeles at the time that the song talks about, but it’s sort of a universal thing, and then the hope that maybe this year will be better than the last. It takes on a whole new meaning now [after the pandemic]. When we sing that line now, the place erupts.”

Immerglück became a full-time band member on the third album, “This Desert Life” (1999), which included the catchy hit “Hanginaround” that stuck in our heads for “way, way, way too long.”

“That’s when I got back involved with the band pretty heavily,” Immerglück said. “Next thing you know I’m on tour with Counting Crows and I’m a full-time band member. … That’s a band favorite album. We touch that album a lot every night. ‘Hanginaround’ gets played every night. We play ‘High Life’ a lot, we play ‘Wish I Was a Girl’ a lot, we play ‘St. Robinson in His Cadillac Dreams.'”

You’ll also hear stuff from their fourth album “Hard Candy” (2002).

“We play ‘Miami’ a lot,” Immerglück said. “We try and touch every album every show. … For my money, [Duritz] is one of the best singers of his generation, honestly. He’s an improviser. Most people from the ’90s aren’t. They don’t know how to. He changes it up all the time. It keeps it fresh. It keeps me fresh. … He’s got a great ear, a great sense of melody and an innate sense of timing.”

Younger folks know the band from “Accidentally In Love” on the “Shrek 2” soundtrack.

“We take it where we can get it,” Immerglück said. “We booked some studio time in London, flew over there for two days, recorded this song, then were gone to South Africa and forgot about it. … Six months after the movie comes out, they’re like, ‘You’re nominated for an Oscar for that song!’ … We actually got to play the song on TV … which was even more important than being nominated.”

Oscar night was an evening he’ll never forget.

“Absolutely surreal,” Immerglück said. “My apartment in L.A. is a block away from the theater … so I was able to walk a block and a half to the red carpet. Prince was there to give out the award … and my name is hard to pronounce. … He mispronounced my name on live TV! … It hit me, this is the best thing that ever happened: Prince mispronounced my name on national television!”

Today, he’s still grateful for the ride.

“The fact that we’re still standing and enjoy each other’s company is a miracle,” Immerglück said. “Accolades don’t mean much to me, but when Neil Young is giving a thumbs-up on the side of the stage, that means a whole lot to me. When Robert Plant says he loves us, you could shoot me at that point. We’ve had that happen! … The fact that we’re still standing is testament to itself.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Counting Crows at MGM National Harbor (Part 2)

Hear the full conversation on today’s “Beyond the Fame” podcast.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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