It all started with a drunken rendition of Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman” one late night in a Toronto karaoke bar.
For Dan Finnerty, leader of The Dan Band, it’s a journey that has taken him from being one of the only guys in the rural town of Bath, NY brave enough to admit a fondness for girl songs all the way to Hollywood, with a burgeoning career in this business we call show.
Finnerty has been seen belting (and cursing) his way through Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” in the hit movie Old School and crooning Roberta Flack’s “Feel Like Making Love” to a 13 year old girl at her bat mitzvah in Starsky and Hutch, complete with bad-ass red Afro. “I guess I’m the inappropriate song boy now,” he says.
From its unlikely beginnings, the legend of The Dan Band has spread from Tinseltown to New York City, with the grand frontier of television being next. In Spring 2005, Finnerty’s spectacular live performance will be captured in a Bravo special executive-produced by none other than Steven Spielberg and directed by Charlie’s Angels director McG.
And now, The Dan Band makes its Side One Dummy Records debut with an album that captures its raucous, no-holds-barred stage extravaganza in all its glory, recorded live at the Hollywood Avalon and including many of the group’s all-time classics. Thrill to the soaring medley of Laura Brannigan’s “Gloria” and Toni Basil’s “Mickey.” Exult to the speeded-up punk-rock of their Abba medley. Buckle up for the a profanity-laced Irene Cara tribute, featuring “Flashdance” and “Fame.” There are also the show-stoppers, like their “Genie in a Bottle/Slave 4 U” medley, the high octane “Shoop/No Scrubs” combo, and Tyler’s “Eclipse,” naturally.
If you haven’t noticed, The Dan Band covers songs primarily by ’80s & ‘90s divas, with Finnerty sporting Jiffy Lube utilitarian garb and backwards baseball cap and his back-up singers clothed like nerdy accountants. Finnerty and the Dan Band put on a show that is equal parts high-energy singing, dancing and blowing the audience’s collective mind.
Entertainment Weekly calls it “one of the hottest tickets in town” and it’s described by LA Weekly as “Smashmouth meets Wilson Phillips.” The success of the band is still amusing to Finnerty, who says “I only started this to promote my lame acting career.”
Indeed, Finnerty was a working actor long before he was the frontman for The Dan Band, but mainly as a stage actor in NY. As a youngster growing up in upstate NY, he grew up on a steady diet of ’80s pop and MTV.
“It was the kind of town, if you walked 10 minutes, you’d hit a cow,” he says. “I blame my musical taste on my sister, who’s four years older than me. All of my friends had older brothers who were turning them on to classic rock like Zeppelin and Rush. My sister had me rocking out to Laura Branigan. The most hardcore we got was Heart.” After attending Emerson College in Boston, Finnerty moved to New York, where he joined the cast of the popular Stomp. The national tour led him to Los Angeles, where he met his future wife, actress Kathy Najimy. Together they have a 7 year old daughter.
The Dan Band began to take shape in Los Angeles five years ago, when Finnerty got serious about the idea of performing music. From being accompanied by just an acoustic guitarist and a guy on bongos, he eventually put together a full 4-piece band and added 2 guy back up singers. Sold out gigs from the famed Club Largo to the Hollywood Avalon followed, with word-of-mouth spreading among his actor friends to the general public.
In addition to The Dan Band shows attracting such a large celebrity following, the behind the scenes names are just as impressive. Steven Spielberg cast Finnerty in The Terminal after seeing a show and decided to get involved with getting the act filmed. McG helped him put together a pilot for Warner Bros. TV, The Dan Show. Legendary talent manager Bernie Brillstein now handles his acting career, and veteran artist manager Michael Lippman is his musical rep.
It was Dan’s performance in Old School that drew the attention of Spielberg, whose DreamWorks produced the hit Will Ferrell comedy. Finnerty also gives credit to director Todd Phillips, who was the first to step up and use him in his films. After Old School and Starsky & Hutch, Finnerty is starting to see The Dan Band’s audience expand beyond the initial cult following.
“I always had a nice little hip LA crowd who got the humor and kept growing by word-of-mouth,” explains Dan. “But the demographic has completely changed. Now the audience is peppered with all these frat guys who normally would’ve wanted to kick my ass for singing these songs. Now they sit in the front row, rockin’ out to ‘Whatta Man’ and ‘You Oughta Know’. It’s pretty funny. ”
With the release of the Side One Dummy live CD and the Bravo special, both due in the first part of 2005, The Dan Band is making Dan Finnerty’s dreams come true.
“I still can’t believe this all started with me being drunk at a karoke bar,” he laughs. “At least something good came out of it.”