In a small backyard in North Hollywood on a recent night, it's 1985.
In between sips of Coors Light, the Flux Capacitors, the band, are turning on the flux capacitor inside the DeLorean that accompanies them at their live shows. (It's a real flux capacitor. Or at least, it’s as real as the one that launched Doc and Marty into the continuum in Back to the Future, which is to say, not very.)
Smoke flies out of the DeLorean’s backside as the group poses for photos, in costume, around the retro ride. Marty McFly adjusts his wig, as his mom pulls down her skirt. As the camera flashes, someone — maybe the band’s own Doc Brown— shouts, “Great Scott!” Everyone laughs.
It’s this attention to detail that separates the Back to the Future-themed cover band from its peers on southern California’s surprisingly-expansive ‘80s circuit. Every band’s got a niche, but this one’s got a DeLorean.
After their last band fizzled about a year ago, bassist Brian Farr (who dresses as Biff Tannen) and drummer Lynn Greer (Lorraine McFly) wondered how to set themselves apart the next time around.
They decided to cover their favorite '80s songs, but still needed a way to distinguish themselves from acts like Flashback Heart Attack and the Spazmatics, who claim a similar turf and cover many of the same songs.
The idea to name the band after the flux capacitor, the part that makes time travel possible for Doc’s DeLorean, hit Greer during a chance viewing of Back to the Future. By that time, the group’s lineup had rounded out to include guitarist Brian Lanzarotto (Doc Brown) and keyboardist Ryan Silverberg (George McFly), who immediately embraced the theme.
After a friend of the group spotted singer Tyler McDonald belting out “Come On Eileen” at a karaoke bar, the band convinced him to audition. (This isn't his first '80s act: In college, McDonald sang in a Queen tribute band called Dreamer's Ball.) His take on Journey's “Separate Ways,” sung with no warm-up, earned him a group hug, the gig and eventually the role of Marty McFly — complete with hoverboard. All of the band’s members are enthusiastic fans of Back to the Future (and occasionally, defenders of Back to the Future II).
“We actually bring people back in time,” Silverberg says, in all seriousness. “We want to make people feel like they’re watching a live show of an ‘80s band.”
At concerts, the guys accept spontaneous requests and ditch backing tracks to perform every part of songs like Run-D.M.C.’s “It's Tricky,” Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long (All Night)” and Toto’s “Africa." No show is complete without Greer twerking and singer McDonald jumping into the crowd.
At one small club gig in Reseda, McDonald got so carried away during a cover of Flock of Seagulls' “I Ran” that he ran clear out of the venue into the parking lot. At 25, McDonald is the group's youngest member, and he tries to surprise audiences by tackling both male and female vocals. “They don’t expect a man to sing the lady parts on [The Human League’s] ‘Don’t You Want Me, Baby,'” he says with a grin.
And then, there's the “DeLorean guy,” as Adam Kontras jokingly refers to himself. In March, Kontras bought a stock DeLorean in Memphis. It was a business experiment; he owns the site RentTheDeLorean.com. By the end of May, he'd spent an estimated $75,000 on custom parts and detail work to outfit it exactly like the one made popular in the Back to the Future franchise, including a flux capacitor.
“I’m not that big of a Back to the Future fan,” Kontras admits. “I mean, I like the movie,” he corrects, but he’s more focused on the novelty of the experience. Around the time his DeLorean was completed, Kontras saw the Flux Capacitors’ Facebook page, and met with the guys 24 hours later.
Since then, Kontras and the band have struck up an exclusive deal and become friends. When Kontras’ time machine isn’t at a Flux Capacitors show, it can be rented for $199.95 an hour and programmed to whatever year its driver would like.
“I’ve been parked next to Lambourghinis that are a quarter of a million dollars, and everyone still comes up to the DeLorean,” Kontras says. “‘Can I put my birthday in?’” he says, imitating a fan’s request to program the flux capacitor. He shakes his head. “‘Yes, you can put your birthday in.’”
After every show, the Flux Capacitors raffle off a guitar to benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation For Parkinson’s Research, a choice inspired by the original Marty McFly, as well as Lanzarotto’s grandmother.
Their dedication to the Back to the Future theme has even caught the attention of a few of the film franchise’s cast members. “I’ve heard of characters named after Back to the Future, but no band has ever struck my fancy like the Flux Capacitors did,” says actor Don Fullilove, who played Hill Valley mayor Goldie Wilson in Back to the Future and recently caught his first Flux Capacitors show. “They were a solid band, and the concept is great.”
And the best part of that concept? If the guys decide to ditch ‘80s music to take on another decade they love — such as the ‘70s or ‘90s — they can keep the band name and the costumes and simply travel in time.
"We could have been a Bill & Ted's band," jokes Silverberg.
If their trajectory mirrors that of the Back to the Future franchise, 2015 should be a key year for the Flux Capacitors. That’s the year Doc and Marty visit in Back to the Future II, and though the world has yet to catch on to hoverboards and flying cars, it does have a new DeLorean crew.
“Literally every single gig that requires an ‘80s band in 2015, they’re going to get,” Kontras says. “Nobody doesn’t like Back to the Future. It’s almost like a piece of Americana.”
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The future is bright.
The Flux Capacitors have two Street Food Cinema shows coming up at Glendale Central Park: before a showing of Ghostbusters on Saturday, August 9, and in conjunction with Back to the Future on Saturday, August 16.