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Counting Crows at Shoreline Amphitheatre

In Music
QUARTER CENTURY: 25 years in, Adam Duritz is counting his blessings, as well as his crows.

QUARTER CENTURY: 25 years in, Adam Duritz is counting his blessings, as well as his crows.

Some rock stars hate interviews and only reluctantly chat to the largest outlets after some serious badgering from their publicist. Others, like Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz, seem to genuinely enjoy chopping it up with strangers.

Duritz, who comes to Shoreline Amphitheatre this week, is celebrating the 25th anniversary of his band’s debut full-length August and Everything After. After just a few moments on the phone, it’s clear he likes to shoot the breeze. He’s interesting—and he knows a lot about music.

It makes sense, then, that Duritz would have his own podcast, Underwater Sunshine, which he records with a friend—author and music journalist James Campion. In the time they’ve been taping they’ve done a four-week series on punk rock, beginning with the proto punk of the late ’60s and moving up to the latest in the genre. They’ve discussed road trip music and background vocals. And they’ve been working on a new podcast dedicated to the work of Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, the production duo known as The Neptunes.

“We just try to surprise each other with the stuff we come up with,” Duritz says on the phone in Oakland. He grew up in the East Bay and at the time of this interview was in town to catch the first game of the NBA finals between the Warriors and Cavs.

In 1974, when Duritz was 10 years old, he moved to Oakland from Texas with his family. After playing in a number of local bands in the ’80s, he founded the Counting Crows with producer and guitarist David Bryson in 1991.

These were the early days of the “alternative rock” radio format—a platform that found success giving airplay to bands that fused punk, new wave and indie rock with a heaping helping of pop sensibility. But as it always goes with genres, the bands that end up lumped together never really feel like any one category can define what they are trying to do.

“When we started out, we were a ‘college radio’ band,” Duritz observes, noting that his “alternative” predecessors, like R.E.M., were first played by deadpan DJs on the low end of the FM dial. It just so happened that when August and Everything After blew up, the alternative format was new, and so this young band from San Francisco ended up sharing airspace with grunge, pop-punk and third-wave ska bands. “Suddenly we’re an alternative band.”

But that only lasted a year or so. Once August sold 10 million copies, Counting Crows found themselves all over the radio dial—bounding from Live 105 to KFOG and even making appearances on the Top 40 stations.

“For the rest of our career we never really fit into anything,” Duritz shrugs, explaining that it didn’t matter how critics categorized his band’s music. “It always made sense to us to do whatever we felt like doing. I think that accidentally made our music kind of timeless in a way.”

This music critic agrees.

From the moment I first started caring about music, Counting Crows have always loomed large. Their first three records—August, Recovering the Satellites and This Desert Life—have remained standbys. There’s almost always one or two songs from each of those collections that I can call up to match my mood.

There’s a bright and carefree quality to “Mr. Jones” and “Hangin’ Around”—perfect bookends for a night on the town and the subsequent hangover (one spent laughing at half-recalled, debauched antics); there’s the punky kiss-off of “Angels of the Silences;” the self-absorbed gloom of “Perfect Blue Buildings;” and the darkly optimistic “Long December.”

All of these songs expertly walk a tightrope between despair or desperation and the comfort of remembering that tomorrow is another day.

Perhaps this philosophy—this glass-half-full outlook—has helped Counting Crows make it to the 25-year mark.

“It’s crazy,” says the 53-year-old Duritz, reflecting on the fact that he’s been in the band for nearly half his life.

“I’m really proud of it,” he says of helming Counting Crows for a quarter-century, noting that very few musicians he knew back in the ’90s are still making music. “I’m really proud of the fact that we’ve kept it together.”

Counting Crows
Jul 6, 6:30pm, $22+
Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View

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