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Adam Duritz Went Back to Tending Bar at the Viper Room After Counting Crows Hit It Big

'Dark Side of the '90s' narrator Mark McGrath discusses the Viper Room episode of the series. He shares one memory of attending the club before his band, Sugar Ray, hit it big. Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz actually served him at the bar.

Adam Duritz is the lead singer, a founding member and songwriter for Counting Crows. The band still releases new music as recently as their album Butter Miracle Suite One on May 21. Back in the ‘90s, Duritz was a bartender at the Hollywood club The Viper Room. As you’ll learn, Counting Crows was already a success back then, but Duritz wanted a normal job. 

Adam Duritz wearing a hat and leather jacket
Adam Duritz | Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Mark McGrath spoke with Showbiz Cheat Sheet by phone on July 15 about the Vice TV show Dark Side of the ’90s. One of the show’s episodes is about The Viper Room, so McGrath shared a story he witnessed firsthand as a club crawler in the 90s. We’ll have more with McGrath as he tells stories from the ‘90s and new episodes of Dark Side of the ’90s air Thursdays at 10 p.m. on Vice. 

Mark McGrath did not expect to run into Adam Duritz at The Viper Room 

Johnny Depp owned The Viper Room in the ’90s. A lot of bands played the stage, but McGrath was not expecting to see a hit singer behind the bar. 

Counting Crows singer Adam Duritz performs in 1994
Adam Duritz | Patti Ouderkirk/WireImage

“You had Adam Duritz bartending,” McGrath said. “One day, I remember walking into The Viper Room, I snuck in, I knew one guy and he got me in the back room before Sugar Ray had any success. I remember walking in. And Adam Duritz [said], ‘Can I help you?’ I go, ‘Wow, man, the record business is a cruel mistress. I just heard your song on the way over here.’”

The Viper Room let Adam Duritz felt normal

Counting Crows was not having a dry spell when Duritz worked The Viper Room. After “Mr. Jones” and the album August and Everything After, Counting Crows kept recording and performing. Duritz also gives an interview for Dark Side of the 90s.

“He just wanted to work the bar to feel normal and do his thing,” McGrath said. “It was a great place for that.”

Mark McGrath has other great memories of The Viper Room

Sugar Ray played The Viper Room, too. McGrath has many more fond memories of being in the audience for other artists.

Viper Room awning over entrance
The Viper Room | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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“So many great bands came out of The Viper Room,” McGrath said. “I think a lot of people forget about that. It was the places we mentioned bands would showcase. The Neurotic Outsiders, Duff McKagen’s first band after Guns n’ Roses, Matt Sorum with Steve Jones, they got their start there. Every band either showcased or did something there from Radiohead and Smashing Pumpkins. It was the place to be because you never knew who would show up and play.”

The Viper Room holds some personal memories for McGrath, too.

“The irony of the Viper Room episode is it so directly affects me in so many ways,” McGrath said. “First of all, I met my wife there. I met my wife at the Viper Room and then I got engaged at the Viper Room.”