Maniacal Still 1

10,000 Maniacs takes the stage at Parker’s PACE Center September 14

If you were on the planet in 1987, you might remember the 10,000 Maniacs’ chart-busting album In My Tribe. Featuring timeless hit singles “Hey Jack Kerouac,” “Like The Weather” and “What’s The Matter Here?,” the album was voted one of the 100 most important releases of the decade by Rolling Stone Magazine. For many of us, it cemented the alt-rock band as an enduring fixture on the college rock scene that included bold, lyric-driven acts like REM and the Replacements.

The Maniacs’ carefully honed sound, a mix of honesty, intelligence and emotional directness,  endures as the group heads to the PACE Center for the September 14 performance of their Playing Favorites tour.

We caught up with lead singer and viola player Mary Ramsey, who returned to the Maniacs as lead singer, songwriter and violinist in 1995 after Natalie Merchant’s departure, along with her longtime musical partner and former Maniac John Lombardo.

When we connected, the band was fresh off their their west coast tour celebrating the 30th anniversary of that pivotal release in 1987.  (The band has been together for 35 years.)

Country legend Glen Campbell had just died two days prior to our interview, and the band had performed “Wichita Lineman” in his honor. “I always do a solo before “Because the Night,” said Ramsey, referring to the song originally written by Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith and re-recorded by the Maniacs in 1993 for MTV Unplugged.

Recorded in 2014 as a live concert in the Maniac’s hometown of Jamestown, New York, Playing Favorites includes the group’s best-known material, including the songs that first launched them into the stratosphere in 1987 and later hits like “Trouble Me,” “These Are Days,” and their beloved remake of “More Than This” by Roxy Music.

This is no 80s-band reunion. The 10,000 Maniacs continue to delight fans with their innovative arrangements and unexpected remakes like The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” and celtic sounds from the British Isles found on their 1991 album “Twice Told Tales.”

“When I’m on sound check I’ll go, ‘Wow, that sounds really great,’” says Ramsey.  “Fans keep us going — we’re excited by their excitement when they hear the vibe and the sincerity of the music.”