Every day, these five men go about their daily lives as shipping managers, baristas, professors, engineers and business owners. But when the sun goes down, these seemingly average dudes transform into Crème Tangerine, and display some killer chops performing hit after hit from arguably the best-loved rock band of all time, the Beatles.
Crème Tangerine is a cover band, not a tribute band. They don’t attempt to impersonate. “That means all of the songs have a bit of Crème Tangerine in them,” explains bassist Warren Kinser. “Our thing has always been to bring a fun show as Crème Tangerine playing the Beatles. Good thing, too, because I would have a difficult time looking anything like Paul (McCartney) … and I’m right-handed,” he adds. Kinser claims his alter ego is more like comedian Jack Black.
Crème Tangerine draws good crowds wherever they play. Lead singer Dan Grant doesn’t play an instrument in this group, like John Lennon and McCartney did with the Beatles, but he still shreds on the opening riff of “Oh! Darling.” And just as you might expect a lead singer to be treated, Grant’s bandmates are quick to poke him in the ribs and teast him for being the group’s diva.
“I think I play the diva when I am having an off night vocally,” admits Grant. “I want so much to give my all to those who came to listen to us and I get disappointed if I can’t do that. But I think that makes me more of a perfectionist than a diva!”
In 2003, drummer Jeff Lockhart, lead guitarist Tim Mushen and keyboardist Chuck Dorsett were playing in a church worship band on the Eastside. They were working men looking to have some fun on a Wednesday “guy’s night.” Playing a little rock’n’roll seemed to be the perfect stress release. Inspired by Phish’s Halloween rendition of the Beatles’ “White Album,” Lockhart suggested the band give something similar a go.
The band rehearsed in Lockhart’s garage. “We kicked the car out of the garage a long time ago to use it for its true purpose — a rock band room,” says Lockhart.
The following year, the group began performing informal gigs billed as Mother Superior and the Warm Guns. Fifty White Album performances and one smart talent scout later, they rebranded as Crème Tangerine and added the rest of the Beatles’ catalog to their repertoire. The band’s big break came when it was asked to play the White Album at Seattle’s EMP.
“From that point, we started taking the band more seriously. Gigs became performances, venues and opportunities became more professional and drew larger crowds,” says Lockhart. For the next four years, the band worked hard at establishing its brand and improving the listening experience of its clientele. They literally played from the rooftops in 2009, producing a now-annual concert benefiting the charity Northwest Harvest. Career highlights include headlining fan-appreciation night for the Portland Trailblazers in 2009, a halftime show during a Sounders game and just about every major venue in town from The Hard Rock Cafe to The Triple Door to the Redhook Brewery.
When asked what characterizes a really great show, they universally mentioned engaging the audience. “We have a few songs in which I take a cowbell out into the crowd, with hopes they make it onto the stage to play with the band,” says Kinser. In a recent show at Bake’s Place in Bellevue, each band member adopted a section of the audience. Guess who had the biggest section (Hint: D.G.)?
“Crème Tangerine’s goal isn’t just to play for an audience, but play along with an audience. We’re there to lead the celebration — we just happen to be the musicians that night,” says Lockhart.
And celebrate they do. It is downright hard not to sing along with the catchiest tunes ever written. Perfectly coiffed soccer moms and dads were dancing in the back of Bake’s Place by the end of the show.
Who could have predicted that this worship-band-turned-guys-night-out garage band would end up in demand nearly every week of the year? Definitely not these five regular guys. But they’re loving it.
July 20—Lavender Farm Faire in Sequim
August 10—Kirkland Summerfest (main stage)
September 5—Out to Lunch series, Bellevue (noon)