There are few things more all-American than baseball and classic rock bands, so when Pepsi decided to resurrect a popular drink for the Crystal Pepsi Throwback Tour with all of the acts we loved from the ‘90s it seemed like the perfect collaboration. We headed to the west coast for the Phoenix tour stop at the Chase Field, where Sugar Ray's Mark McGrath brought back the crowd to a nostalgic time.
Prior to McGrath taking over Chase Field, we caught up with him backstage to talk all things '90s. Read on for our interview with the artist as well as our review of the big night!
FUSE: You've been performing on stage for years now, but do you still ever get nervous before a big show?
McGrath: Absolutely, I think Elvis Presley said at the last concert he ever did he was nervous before he went on stage. I think if you lose that, you’re losing the essence of being a performer. I was just in the locker room with the Diamondbacks players and they have these routines and things they’re doing. They’re a little nervous, but they’re very cordial and getting ready to play a game! You have to put on a game face, and I think you do that as a performer as well. God didn’t put me on this earth do sing. I do not have an eight octave range—surprise, surprise. But the will to perform is engrained in me. I love getting on stage and you’ll see that tonight—it’s pure joy! I’ll be down here in Phoenix when I’m 75 playing "Fly" three times in a row and being happy as hell. And still nervous!
Sugar Ray and Pepsi are both such pop culture staples, but why do you think it was a great collaboration?
Crystal Pepsi and Sugar Ray both got its start in the 90s and we blew up in the same era. When time goes by you’re like, “Oh remember Crystal Pepsi? Remember Sugar Ray? Remember baseball?” Yeah I remember those three, so let’s have a party and have a good time! I think it’s a great association! And the ‘90s were a lot of fun. We were all selling so many records, and marketing campaigns were getting bigger. The interpolation between bands and brands was really starting to take off. You never heard of “brands” until the ‘90s reality show years. Girls on the shows are always like, “My brand is important to me!” But who are you? Let’s get to know you first [laughs] But getting these brands together is a fun thing to throwback. You can’t get more ‘90s than Crystal Pepsi, these highlights and Sugar Ray.
There’s been such a huge nostalgic resurgence with classic bands reuniting and tons of TV reboots recently. What's your thoughts on that?
I think its strange because the ‘90s never really ended. I can tell you that the night the ‘80s ended and Nirvana came out, literally that decade was over. For me, it takes 20 years for the stink of a decade to go away. Like wow, that hairstyle wasn’t that bad! You know, hair metal is like the coolest thing out right now. We don’t listen to it with irony anymore because we love it again. And that’s kind of happening with the ‘90s now, but it never really ended. There’s no demarcation date where you’re like, that’s it, it ended. Bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Offspring, Soundgarden—rest in peace, Chris Cornell—Dave Matthews Band are still touring. The industry kind of imploded and they stopped making new bands. Name the last rock star!
Well they’re all rappers now!
Right, good point—they’re all rappers or DJs. But that’s my thing. In the ‘80s we could’ve named 10 guys immediately. So the ‘90s kind of died that down. Even Urban Outfitters doesn’t know what kind of clothes to put out anymore! We’re about two years away from a Sugar Ray shirt being in Urban Outfitters.
Well speaking of Sugar Ray, can we expect any new music? I know you guys came out with an EP like two years ago.
We actually did, I’m glad you heard it [laughs]. You know what’s funny about music now is if you’re fans want to hear it, they can. We’re always writing new stuff and we were in the studio yesterday with my boy who plays drums. When you’re in a band you do two things: you play live, which we’ve been doing a lot and I’ve been fortunate by the grace of god to make it into a career. It keeps the lights on. You also get creative and write music. In 2015 we got together, I financed an EP and put it out. It was for the fans and we had some fun with it. So the new stuff will be out when we’re ready, but probably in the next six months to a year we’ll have a new Sugar Ray record out. Whether you want it or not!
Okay so what is your go-to Sugar Ray song to sing during karaoke?
It’s gotta be “Fly” because even I can sing it!
If you can resurrect any ‘90s band, which would you choose?
It would have to be the band who started it all for the ‘90s. It would be Nirvana! I would kill to see them play again.
I would actually choose Crazy Town! They didn’t get their due diligence!
I’ll be standing over here….[laughs] Wait can we add onto that? They’re my friends!
Haha yeah sure!
Hey Seth you know I love you brother! I’m just kidding with the Crazy Town thing. But if she said Sugar Ray, you would’ve walked off too! I’m in trouble, aren’t I?
Following the baseball game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Chicago Cubs, the stadium kept the ‘90s night theme going outside of the field once McGrath entered the stage. The Sugar Ray frontman was full with an almost tangible energy as he transformed the outside stage into a mini 1995 summer fest.
He began his set with a Sugar Ray classic, “Every Morning,” from their third album 14:59. McGrath then went into “Someday,” which began a singalong as crowd remembered the good times when they used to enjoy a spliff or two during their hazy high school or college days. “It feels so ‘90s up in here that I don’t think cell phones are working right now,” McGrath said at one point.
The rest of his set reflected those breezy and fun times, performing tunes from his fellow ‘90s bands like Smashmouth’s “All Star," EMF's 1991 hit “You’re Unbelievable” and House of Pain's “Jump Around." And prior to singing Sugar Ray’s 2001 single “When It’s Over,” he threw in nostalgic sounds like the Seinfeld and Friends theme songs. While the majority of the concert was filled with high energy, a somber moment came when McGrath honored his friend Chester Bennington. “If you’re hurting, talk to somebody,” he stressed to the audience as he recalled how much the late Linkin Park frontman loved Sugar Ray’s “Fly” and joked that it was no match for Bennington’s impeccable vocal range. Naturally, the 1997 radio staple and the band’s hit single was the final song of the concert. It was the perfect end to a night that made you want to return to a loved decade that was overflowing with major songs, bands and memories.
Below, throw it back to 2013 when Mark McGrath breaks down the top 5 reasons to attend the Mark McGrath & Friends Cruise with Fuse: