My friends Lauren and Andy celebrated their birthdays earlier this month with a private concert from Brian Vander Ark.
If you’re a 1990s pop culture sponge like myself, you may know him as the former lead singer of The Verve Pipe. He has since embarked on a solo career, and he’s currently taking bookings around the country to defray the costs of recording his next album. I thought this sounded like an innovative and fun idea, but most of my friends had a different reaction when I explained it to them.
“Oh, that’s kind of sad,” they would say, probably envisioning a scene straight out of “This Is Spinal Tap,” with Vander Ark losing top billing to a puppet show at some far-flung state fair.
Not so, I’m glad to say. He was friendly, introducing himself to me as simply “Brian.” He expressed his gratitude to Lauren while teasing her about her chosen set list, mostly old Verve Pipe songs that he’d nearly forgotten. “Are you sure you don’t want to hear ‘The Freshmen‘?” he joked.
No, he didn’t play “The Freshmen,” though he told us that he had sung it on a whim at a karaoke bar recently. He said that he hadn’t thought anything of it, until he finished the song and somebody mentioned the possibility that someone with a cameraphone might have captured the performance for YouTube. “I almost shit my pants,” he said.
Still, Brian played everything on Lauren’s list (including the “angsty ‘I-hate-you-dad’ songs” that he insists are a thing of the past) and even had her join him for a couple of duets. He closed with a few cover songs, including “Here Comes the Sun,” wherein he engaged the entire room in a singalong.
The Brian Vander Ark that I met is a devoted husband and father. He’s a talented musician who is deeply appreciative of his fans.
He just happens to have recorded a hit song once.