Whether you know it or not, you’ve probably seen The Dan Band before. That “Total Eclipse of the Heart” wedding scene in Old School? That was them. The iconic performance of “Candy Shop” in The Hangover? Also frontman Dan Finnerty and his group.
All those wedding shots in Wedding Crashers? Totally not The Dan Band, but the vocalist says people always tell him they loved him in that anyway.
As Guns N’ Roses and Nirvana encapsulate rock & roll in the late ’80s and early ’90s, so has The Dan Band rapidly become the angelic face of outrageous cover songs for comedy fans across the country.
“People get bored during regular songs sometimes, that’s why they’re all like three minutes,” Finnerty says. “Most of the songs we do are songs I love anyway. If you can break it up with something funny and some fucks, I think that’s God’s plan.”
Just a few years before The Dan Band would sell out venues like the Roxy and (more recently) headline festivals such as the Step Brothers–inspired Catalina Wine Mixer, Finnerty was another L.A. actor trying to find his big breakthrough role while having fun with his cover band on the side. Although belting out famously female-fronted songs sprinkled with a gratuitous number of expletives — a trait the singer describes at “basically rhythmic Tourette’s" — might not have been the first skill listed on his résumé, it was ultimately the one that would bring Finnerty and his crew to the masses.
“The first time we got into movies was because Todd Phillips — the director of Old School — came to one of our shows at the Largo,” Finnerty says. “Todd Phillips asked me what song I would sing at a wedding, so I told him I was working on a medley of ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ and ‘Private Dancer’ that would break your heart. Now I have an altar to Todd Phillips that I bow down to when I leave my place every day.”
Once the world had seen Finnerty’s take on Bonnie Tyler’s classic, and his band had been brought on by Phillips to sing in his 2004 Starsky & Hutch remake as well, it was only a matter of time before the group became cult comedy heroes. But while they’re certainly a recognizable piece of quite a few films, the guys in The Dan Band aren't exactly rubbing elbows with movie stars all the time.
“I’ve only ever been on a movie set for one day for each one,” Finnerty says. “We sing it live — because otherwise it would just be bad lip-synching — and it’s only like three takes. People always ask me what Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn are like, and I’m like, ‘They seemed nice when I walked past them or shook their hand once.’”
Although the movie scenes are almost certainly what bring fans to their first Dan Band show, it’s Finnerty and his bandmates' ridiculous antics that keep them coming back. The set list may not vary too much from one night to the next, but that’s only half of the show. Every evening spent with The Dan Band includes a heavy dose of crowd interaction, impromptu sing-alongs and any number of other spontaneous moments. Some aspects — like the choreography for the backing singers — have become steady traditions over the years, but the rest is pretty much up in the air until it happens.
“The show has always been its own one-hour comedy special,” Finnerty says. “We do all this shit with Hula Hoops and ribbons — it’s like a clown car of look-at-me comedy. It’s really just drunk karaoke that everyone gets involved in. It actually all started with me singing ‘I Am Woman’ at karaoke and it was kind of awesome.”
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What started as drunk karaoke for Finnerty has now inspired his legions of fans to do drunk karaoke of their own, both at Dan Band shows and without them. One fan even put out a tribute album, which Finnerty finds hilarious for being “a cover band of a cover band,” even as he admits it often sounds better than his own performances.
Although Finnerty jokingly made everyone in the band listen to the fan’s tribute album to work on their harmonies, he thinks The Dan Band’s shows are as good as they’ve ever been — and, in some ways, getting better.
“I remember when we first started and L.A. Weekly reviewed one of our shows at the Largo and called me ‘a 30-ish Dennis the Menace.' I was 27 then and I was fucking pissed they called me 30-ish. I’d beg for that now, because we’re like ‘The Older and Fatter Tour’ every time we go out. I think the show’s getting funnier because we’re just so old.”
You can catch The Dan Band live Dec. 1 at the Rose in Pasadena, Dec. 2 at Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach and Dec. 3 at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano. More info at thedanband.com.