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CESAREO GARASA: Not 'Just Another Day' for this Oingo Boingo fan


Oingo Boingo Former Members — from left, Mike "The Spike" Glendinning, rhythm guitar/ vocals; Johnny "Vatos" Hernandez, drums; Sam "Sluggo" Phipps, saxophone; Brendan McKian, vocals; Steve Bartek, guitar; John Avila, bass guitar; Freddie Hernandez, bass guitar; Brian Swartz, trumpet; and Carl Graves, keyboards/vocals — will play the Fox Theater on Friday.

If there was one band that resonated the most with this awkward, pudgy kid from Lancaster, it was Oingo Boingo.

They were weird, quirky, mischievous, menacing and fun. They expertly played music that sounded like it would be played at a haunted house ska pool party. They sang about insects, ghosts, reptiles and samurai; the latter two in the same song. I mean, the lead singer's last name was Elfman! He was sprightly! It was in his name!

And while the aforementioned singer/bandleader/songwriter Danny Elfman has enjoyed a fruitful and rightly celebrated career as a solo artist and movie composer, as well as performing two world-shaking sets at this year's Coachella music festival, the odds of an Oingo Boingo reunion are close to nil. Elfman has said as much himself.

So what can an Oingo Boingo-starved world do in that absence? Drummer Johnny "Vatos" Hernandez figured out the answer: a tribute band that would play the Boingo hits helmed by the very musicians that performed them. That includes guitarist Steve Bartek, bassist John Avila (Hernadez's son Freddy also handles bass duties), saxophonist Sam "Sluggo" Phipps and keyboardist Carl Graves.

They, rounded out by a cast of other non-former Boingo musicians, perform under the inspired and accurately descriptive name Oingo Boingo Former Members. They'll be performing at the Fox Theater this Friday — finally! — in a bit of a return since they performed at the Fox back in Boingo's 1980s heyday.

I have to admit, watching videos of them performing such Boingo classics like "Just Another Day" is chill-inducing. I mean, it's the band! Elfman might not be there with them — he has given the band his blessing — but the sound and soul of the group remains intact. It's obvious that these musicians relish playing these songs again. They are having a ball.

Expect the hits ("Dead Man's Party," "Only a Lad," "Who Do You Want To Be Today," "Stay") as well as some deep cuts (like the 1984 track "Something Isn't Right" from the "Bachelor Party" soundtrack. Whoa!) that will satisfy every level of fan and make anyone who listened to KROQ in the 1980s want to pogo uncontrollably.

They even play "Weird Science"! I don't even think the original Boingo played that one too often live.

Hernandez also has some local ties as well, being related to multi-instrumentalist Paul Cartwright, who has been cultivating a successful music career of his own, including performing with Danny Elfman (and Bartek) at Elfman's recent Coachella appearances.

In many ways, this show — twice delayed due to the COVID pandemic — is a sort of homecoming, especially for me and flitting memories of living in the Antelope Valley and bouncing like a fool dancing to "Grey Matter" in my living room.

Also on the bill will be Missing Persons, fresh off their recent Cruel World performance, and Dramarama, whose song "Anything, Anything" is the quintessential Southern California anthem of the 1980s.

Oingo Boingo Former Members, with Missing Persons and Dramarama, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Fox Theater, 2001 H St.; $40 to $95;

Cesareo’s pick

Greg Fitzsimmons is the type of comic that could easily be put in the "observational comedy” camp, but he's too good and has been at this too long to be defined as merely such. He can definitely observe, spot the funny and report back from the trenches with ease, but his main strength is in his ability to tell stories. He has a bold ease in his delivery and is in no rush to get in the way of the storytelling itself. He will perform two shows at The Well on June 11.

Whether it's as a guest on other podcasts, like Joey Diaz's "The Church of What's Happening Now," "The Adam Carolla Podcast," "The Joe Rogan Experience" or with his own "Fitzdog Radio" podcast, the 56-year-old Fitzsimmons has an easygoing, flowing conversational style. It takes a lot of experience, not to mention years of performing in Boston-area comedy meat grinders, to develop the confidence and chops to make being this good look that easy.

Fitzsimmons has written for shows as varied as the Emmy Awards to writing and producing on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" (for which he won four Daytime Emmys). He wrote a 2010 autobiography "Dear Mrs. Fitzsimmons: Tales of Redemption From an Irish Mailbox," with such memorable chapter titles as "When Irish Eyes are Bloodshot," "The Perfect Woman and the Man Who Will One Day Destroy Her" and "My Loin Fruit."

He also did some voice work on Cartoon Network's "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," which makes me wonder about what a wacky, random fan base he must have. Fitzsimmons is the living center of a Venn diagram that includes Joe Rogan, Ellen DeGeneres and a cartoon co-starring a talking meatball. Yes, it doesn't even get top billing.

The 21-and-over shows are at 6:30 and 9:30 p.m., and I would recommend getting there early for either (doors open one hour before showtime) as the seating is first come, first served. Don't wait until the last minute for some "fashionably late" shenanigans or you'll find yourself sitting at the far end of the bar, waiting to grab a table once someone leaves, only to have it swooped up by a couple that was flanking it closer than you. Avoid the hassle. Get there early and post up. Try the wings and enjoy the L.A.-meets-Bakersfield comedy club atmosphere at The Well.

"I have spent many great days on the Kern River with my family and can't wait to spend some more time up there, staying for a day or two to pitch a tent and hang out," Fitzsimmons said via email. "Tons of comics have told me The Well is a great comedy room, so I'm looking forward to that as well."

Greg Fitzsimmons, with Daniel Betts and special guests, 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday, June 11 at The Well, 7401 White Lane, Suite 7; $25, tickets sold at until 4 p.m. on day of show; tickets will not be available at the door; email for more information

Contributing columnist Cesareo Garasa brings you The Lowdown on local music and entertainment every other Thursday.