Playing the Grohl game with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

“I bet Dave Grohl is the one who nominated them.”
“Dave Grohl will show up. He’d give the speech.”
“Who was THEIR champion in the room? Probably Dave Grohl.”
“Dave Grohl plays the game.”

Almost six years ago, right after Nirvana was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in its first year of eligibility, everyone with even a passing interest in the Hall wondered what effect having Dave Grohl as a member of the nominating committee would have on the future of the institution.

Years after he inducted Queen in 2001, Grohl went on a remarkable three-year run with HBO’s HOF showcase, sandwiching his own iconic induction and performance in 2014 with an induction and performance with Rush in 2013 and another induction performance with Joan Jett in 2015. As Hall watchers like to say, he’s “played the game” for years.

So, I mean, c’mon … we ALL knew he wouldn’t just be a voter, and we were right. He got in the room almost immediately.

We know, based on the compilation work of the great Hall resource, Future Rock Legends, Grohl is responsible for Bad Brains, Jane’s Addiction, and Devo ending up on ballots. He’s a huge proponent for Lemmy and Motorhead. And he was one of the loudest voices for Ringo Starr’s solo induction, which led to this, which is absolutely the most Rock and Roll Hall of Fame thing that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ever Rock and Roll Hall of Famed:

I don’t remember when it was or where it was exactly, but I remember FRL – probably on Twitter – positing the idea that maybe those of us invested in the institution should take a good look at Grohl’s musical documentary work to get an idea of who this so-called “ambassador of rock” might take up arms for in the future.

As far as I can tell, they never did it.

So … I did it for them. The following might be a good barometer for what might be in store from the Head Foo In Charge.

Here we go:

FOO FIGHTERS: BACK AND FORTH (2011)

The band’s 2011 documentary – while also using many songs from the Foos’ previous bands: Scream, Nirvana, Germs, Sunny Day Real Estate, Alanis Morissette, and Queens of the Stone Age – opens with private home movie footage of the band’s five core members, over a mishmash of songs that inspired the group as youngsters.

The opening credit songs include:

  • Queen, “You’re My Best Friend”
  • Sex Pistols, “Pretty Vacant”
  • Motorhead, “Ace of Spades”
  • Dead Kennedys, “Stealing People’s Mail”
  • Foo Fighters, “Iron And Stone ” (The Obsessed cover)
  • Ramones, “We Want The Airwaves”
  • Scream, “Bet You Never Thought”
  • Hüsker Dü, “Dead Set On Destruction”
  • Fugazi, “Waiting Room”
  • The Jesus Lizard, “Nub”

In addition to being a long-form historical document about the band’s evolution, “Back and Forth” also chronicles the making of the band’s 2011 album, “Wasting Light.” Along with welcoming Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic back into the fold, indie rock legend Bob Mould (Hüsker Dü, Sugar) also makes an appearance in the film, recording his guest spot on the album track “Dear Rosemary.”

Mould’s appearance is noteworthy in that it preceded Grohl’s appearance in Mould’s own documentary – 2012’s “See a Little Light: A Celebration of the Music and Legacy of Bob Mould.” It’s especially noteworthy all because of one scene … where Dave flat-out asks Bob if he can give the induction speech when Mould gets inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

SOUND CITY (2013)

Grohl’s documentary about the legendary recording studio basically was the trial run for the “Sonic Highways” series – Episode 0, if you will.

Grohl threw the doors open and interviewed pretty much anybody who wanted to talk about their experiences in the studio: Hall of Fame icons like Tom Petty, Neil Young, John Fogerty, and Fleetwood Mac’s Mick Fleetwood, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks; his contemporaries from bands like Weezer, Rage Against The Machine, and Pixies frontman Frank Black; and even right down to ‘80s niche stars like Rick Springfield, REO Speedwagon’s Kevin Cronin, Pat Benatar’s guitarist (and husband) Neil Giraldo, and Ratt’s Stephen Pearcy and Warren DeMartini.

What’s notable isn’t necessarily who he interviewed – obviously, nobody consulted him when they chose to record at Sound City in the ’70s and ’80s – but who ended up participating on the film’s “soundtrack album.”

When Sound City closed its doors, Grohl bought the studio’s famed Neve Console (in the film, Grohl says “this thing is a piece of rock and roll history. I thought that board would just go straight to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame”) and installed it in his home studio, inviting scores of musicians – dubbed the Sound City Players – to jam and record all-new compositions.

Let’s take a look the track listing of the film’s companion album, “Sound City: From Real to Reel”
(keep in mind that Grohl also plays on every track):

  • “Heaven and All” (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Robert Levon Been and Peter Hayes)
  • “Time Slowing Down” (Kyuss/Queens of the Stone Age producer Chris Goss of Masters of Reality, along with Rage Against The Machine’s Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk)
  • “You Can’t Fix This” (Stevie Nicks, with several of the Foo Fighters)
  • “The Man That Never Was” (Rick Springfield, with several of the Foo Fighters)
  • “Your Wife Is Calling” (punk legend Lee Ving of Fear, with longtime Palm Desert Scene contributor Alain Johannes and several of the Foo Fighters)
  • “From Can to Can’t” (Slipknot’s Corey Taylor, with Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen and Kyuss bassist Scott Reeder)
  • “Centipede” (Joshua Homme of Kyuss/Queens of the Stone Age, with Goss and Johannes)
  • “A Trick With No Sleeve” (Homme and Johannes)
  • “Cut Me Some Slack” (Paul McCartney with the surviving members of Nirvana)
  • “If I Were Me” (Foo Fighters violinist Jessy Greene and keyboardist Rami Jaffee, with studio drum king Jim Keltner, a.k.a. the “other” Traveling Wilbury)
  • “Mantra” (Grohl and Homme with Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor)

Worth mentioning: one of the discarded tracks allegedly featured Corey Taylor, Ratt’s Stephen Pearcy and Warren DeMartini, and longtime Dio/Black Sabbath drummer Vinny Appice. Alas, it missed the final cut.

Also, a significant interview comes from longtime Sound City engineer Nick Raskulinecz, whose credits have included Foo Fighters, Alice In Chains, Mastodon, Korn and Deftones. In addition, Raskulinecz played bass with Grohl and Taylor Hawkins during the “2112” performance at Rush’s 2013 Rock Hall induction (he produced Rush’s 2012 album “Clockwork Angels”).

FOO FIGHTERS: SONIC HIGHWAYS (2014)

The set-up of Grohl’s HBO series is pretty well known at this point: Along with producers Butch Vig and engineer James Brown, the Foo Fighters celebrated their 20th anniversary as a band by picking eight different studios in eight different American cities, all with a diverse and musically-rich heritage, and recording a song at each one, usually with a guest musician from that region. The eight songs then comprised their 2014 album of the same name.

Each episode also contained the following:

  • A title card for the featured city, usually accompanied by a montage of its greatest artists.
  • You arrive at the studio and meets its proprietor, sometimes accompanied by a montage of the most notable albums either recorded at that studio or by its proprietor.
  • The series had myriad interview subjects who show up in multiple episodes, but each episode typically features (right before the music video) a slow-motion montage of the most integral interview subjects for that particular episode, providing the insight into the city’s legacy.
  • Each episode ends with a music video of the finished song, which usually stars the guest musician, as well.
  • Also notable: the song that runs over the end credits.

There are tons of artists and albums to choose from here. I mean, he could have picked anybody.
So let’s take a look at who he DID pick, episode by episode:

Episode 1: Chicago

  • Song: “Something From Nothing” (guest musician: Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick)
  • Studio (proprietor): Electrical Audio (Steve Albini)
    Produced albums featured: Pixies, “Surfer Rosa”; Gogol Bordello, ”Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike”; The Breeders, “Pod”; P.J. Harvey, “Rid of Me”; The Jesus Lizard, “Goat”; Bush, “Razorblade Suitcase”; Nirvana, “In Utero”
  • City montage: Cheap Trick, Etta James, Naked Raygun, Chicago, Wilco, Gene Krupa, Kanye West, Ministry, Muddy Waters
  • Interviewees: Buddy Guy, Bonnie Raitt, Marshall Chess (producer and son of Chess Records co-founder Leonard Chess), Rick Nielsen, Naked Raygun (Jeff Pezzati, Santiago Durango, John Haggerty), teen punks Tracey Bradford (Dave’s cousin) and Jason Narducy (Bob Mould, Superchunk), Julia Nash (daughter of Wax Trax! Records co-owner Jim Nash and Dannie Flesher), Ken Ehrlich (TV producer)
  • End credits song: Naked Raygun, “Bombshelter”

Noteworthy: Grohl’s comtemporaries, the Smashing Pumpkins, were not in the city montage. By far, the biggest Chicago band of the ‘90s alt-rock explosion. For some reason, this just stuck out to me.

Episode 2: Washington, D.C.

  • Song: “The Feast and the Famine” (guest musicians: Peter Stahl and Skeeter Thompson of Scream)
  • Studio (proprietor): Inner Ear Studios (Don Zientara)
    Produced albums: None featured, but Bad Brains and Ian MacKaye’s Dischord Records are extensively profiled.
  • City montage: Marvin Gaye, Duke Ellington, Rollins Band, Nils Lofgren, Chuck Brown, Fugazi, Trouble Funk (Starland Vocal Band, ironically)
  • Interviewees: Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat, Fugazi), Seth Hurwitz and Dante Fernando (music club owners), D.C. mayor Vincent Gray, Scream, Bad Brains, Pharrell Williams, Big Tony Fisher (Trouble Funk), RDGLDGRN, Skip Groff (record store owner), Mark Andersen and Amy Pickering (D.C. activists)
  • End credits song: Fugazi, “Waiting Room”

Noteworthy: I mean, if there was ever any doubt as to how Bad Brains ended up on a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ballot, this episode lays that to rest.

Episode 3: Nashville

  • Song: “Congregation” (guest musician: Zac Brown)
  • Studio (proprietor): Southern Ground Studios (formerly Fred Foster’s Monument Records) (Zac Brown and Matt Mangano)
    Produced albums: None shown, but Neil Young, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roger Miller and Kris Kristofferson are prominently mentioned as having recorded there.
  • City montage: Johnny Cash, Kenny Rogers, Lady Antebellum, Roger Miller, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton, Brad Paisley, Taylor Swift, Zac Brown Band
  • Interviewees: Dolly Parton, Steve Earle, Tony Brown (musician/producer), Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys), Carrie Underwood, Tony Joe White, Erika Nichols (Bluebird Café manager)
  • End credits song: Tony Joe White, “Woodpecker”

Episode 4: Austin

  • Song: “What Did I Do?/God As My Witness” (guest musician: Gary Clark Jr.)
  • Studio (proprietor): Austin City Limits Studio 6A (Terry Lickona)
    Showcased ACL shows: Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison, Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Buddy Guy, The Black Keys, Sonic Youth, Pixies, Neil Young, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Stevie Ray Vaughan, fun., Neko Case, Fats Domino, Tom Waits, Foo Fighters
  • Interviewees: Jimmy Vaughan, Gibby Haynes (Butthole Surfers), Jimmie Dale Gilmore (The Flatlanders), Gary Clark Jr., Terry Lickona (Austin City Limits executive producer), Willie Nelson, Steve Earle, Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), Roky Erickson (13th Floor Elevators), Tim Kerr (Big Boys), Darin Klein (SXSW festival producer), David Yow (The Jesus Lizard)
  • End credits song: 13th Floor Elevators, “Two-Headed Dog”

Episode 5: Los Angeles

  • Song: “Outside” (guest musician: Joe Walsh)
  • Studio (proprietor): Rancho De La Luna (David Catching and Fred Drake)
  • City montage: The Beach Boys, The Mamas and the Papas, Love, The Doors, Linda Ronstadt, The Runaways, Motley Crue, Red Hot Chili Peppers, N.W.A, Beck. (plus, the Germs are prominently featured. Not a surprise, given Pat Smear’s relationship with both bands)
  • Interviewees: Joan Jett, Joe Walsh, Robby Krieger and John Densmore (The Doors), Duff McKagan (Guns N’ Roses), Daniel Lanois (producer), Lenny Waronker (producer), Mario Lalli (Palm Desert icon), Dave Catching and Hutch (Rancho co-founder and sound engineer), Josh Homme (Kyuss, Queens of the Stones Age), Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys), Rodney Bingenheimer (legendary Los Angeles DJ), Scott Reeder (Kyuss), Chris Goss (producer/musician)
  • End credits song: Eagles of Death Metal, “Wannabe in L.A.”

Noteworthy: A love letter to the Palm Desert Scene. Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal … everything Homme will be a priority for him one day.

Episode 6: New Orleans

  • Song: “In The Clear” (guest musicians: Preservation Hall Jazz Band)
  • Studio (proprietor): Preservation Hall (Ben Jaffe)
  • City montage: Fats Domino, Louis Armstrong, Big Freeda Explode, Harry Connick Jr., Little Richard, Juvenile, The Meters, Aaron Neville, Dr. John
  • Interviewees: Allen Toussaint, Cyril Neville (Neville Brothers), Ben Jaffe (musician/musical director), Trombone Shorty, Dr. John, Ronald Lewis (museum director), George Porter Jr. (The Meters), Tracey Freeman (producer)
  • End credits song: Glen Campbell, “Southern Nights”

Episode 7: Seattle

  • Song: “Subterranean” (guest musician: Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie)
  • Studio (proprietor): Robert Lang Studios (Robert Lang and producer Barrett Jones)
  • City montage: Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Screaming Trees, Melvins
    Jimi Hendrix, The Ventures, The Wailers, Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Sonics, Heart
  • Interviewees: Duff McKagan, Nancy Wilson (Heart), Chris Cornell (Soundgarden), Jack Endino (producer), Robert Lang (studio owner), Barrett Jones (producer), Ben Gibbard (Death Cab For Cutie), Larry Parypa (The Sonics), Sub Pop Records (Bruce Pavitt, Jonathan Poneman, Megan Jasper), Charles Peterson (photographer), Mark Pickerel (Screaming Trees), Macklemore
  • End credits song: Foo Fighters, “Kids In America” (recorded at Robert Lang Studios in the ’90s)

Episode 8: New York

  • Song: “I Am A River” (guest musicians: Tony Visconti and Kristeen Young)
  • Studio (proprietor): The Magic Shop (Steve Rosenthal)
    Produced albums: Coldplay, “Viva La Vida”; Arcade Fire, “The Suburbs”; Bjork, “Vespertine”; The Cranberries, “No Need To Argue”; Norah Jones, “The Fall”; David Bowie, “The Next Day”
  • City montages: New York Dolls, Ramones, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Sonic Youth, Chic, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Barry Manilow, The Notorious B.I.G., Carole King, Lou Reed, A Tribe Called Quest, Cyndi Lauper, The Ronettes, Bobby Darin, Little Eva, Manfred Mann, Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, Kiss, Blondie, Dead Boys, LL Cool J, Run-DMC, Beastie Boys, Wu-Tang Clan, 50 Cent, De La Soul, Public Enemy
  • Rapid-fire N.Y. album montage: “The Velvet Underground and Nico”; Television, “Marquee Moon”; “LCD Soundsystem”; Eric B. and Rakim, “Paid In Full”; “Aaliyah”; Pete Seeger, “American Industrial Ballads”; Miles Davis, “Kind of Blue”; The Notorious B.I.G., “Ready To Die”; Grizzly Bear, “Veckatimest”; Kool Moe Dee, “How Ya Like Me Now”; Lana Del Rey, “Born to Die”; “The Great Adventures of Slick Rick”; Alicia Keys, “Songs in A Minor”; Quincy Jones, “Back On The Block”; Boogie Down Productions, “By All Means Necessary”; Barbra Streisand, “Guilty”; “The Teenagers Featuring Frankie Lymon”; Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force, “Planet Rock: The Album”; Pat Benatar, “Crimes of Passion”; “Vampire Weekend”; John Coltrane, “Blue Train”; Nas, “Illmatic”; TV On The Radio, “Return to Cookie Mountain”; Steely Dan, “Pretzel Logic”; Mary J. Blige, “Where’s the 411?”; Charlie Mingus, “The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady”; Norah Jones, “Come Away With Me”; “Talking Heads: 77”
  • Interviewees: Joan Jett, David Fricke (journalist), Mike D (Beastie Boys), LL Cool J, Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth), Tony Visconti (producer), Chuck D (Public Enemy), Steve Rosenthal (studio owner/archivist), Nora Guthrie (Woody Guthrie Productions), Jimmy Iovine, Paul Stanley (Kiss), James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem), Rick Rubin (producer), Chris Martin (Coldplay), Seymour Stein (Sire Records founder), Clive Davis (industry legend), President Barack Obama
  • End credits song: Beastie Boys, “An Open Letter to NYC”

Noteworthy: He went all out on this one. Multiple montages, both artists and albums. But more than anything, it put the CBGB scene and the birth of hip-hop squarely in the spotlight.

A special thanks to the podcast, “Who Cares About The Rock Hall?” New episodes drop every Thursday night at 11 p.m. sharp and I devour them instantly, so much so that I have a routine to drive out of the way to get gas so I’m able to enjoy each episode in its entirety on my nightly midnight commute home. And I’ve been the Joe and my buddy Teck has been the Kristen for the entirety of our 25 years of friendship.

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My 2015 Yearbook (have a neat summer)

 

All of our new friends at the Foo Fighters show in Kansas City.

All of our new friends at the Foo Fighters show in Kansas City.

 

Yes, I’m back. WE’RE back. The MoSS? boys are all still alive and kicking. But life sometimes happens.

But thankfully, Chris’ 2015 yearbook lit my fuse, and Todd’s Cliff-Notes follow-up made it an actual necessity to respond myself. Woke up from an eight-month slumber to share my 2015 tour stories.

But unlike those guys, who continue to immerse themselves in the new stuff, my year on the road consisted of a tour through what I imagine is the stuff populating the used-CD bins at Record Collector these days.

I ain’t got no complaints …

Less Than Jake (Wooly’s in Des Moines, January)

The year started with this throwback of a show, which was really just a night for all my boys to reunite and celebrate 1997-98 all over again, when we were all just out of college and partying every night like you’re supposed to when you’re 23. There was a time when Losing Streak was the soundtrack to that party and it ranked among my very favorite albums. Well, those days are long in the past, but that album can still take me back to that moment in time. Of course, they only played one or two songs from it.

Oh, and Reel Big Fish opened the show … I felt like I was at a Milwaukee Beers BASEketball game.

Barry Manilow (CenturyLink Center in Omaha, February)

Hey, that's not a wax sculpture ... it's Barry manilow!

Hey, that’s not a wax sculpture … it’s Barry manilow!

“I’m just going because my mom wants to see him.”

That’s was my excuse if anyone asked. Truth be told, I just used that as an excuse because yes, I’m a closet Fanilow. “Weekend in New England” and “Could It Be Magic?” make me misty. Shut up! When I was 4, my mom bought my brother and me t-shirts at the mall with our names on the back and ANY iron-on patch we wanted on the front. Logan got a Star Wars patch (the “a” and the “n” from his name quickly rubbed off his shirt, leaving only Log … which I still call him 38 years later). What did I get? You guessed it … a Barry Manilow patch. Shut up! I guess it was all those times I was forced to sing “Can’t Smile Without You” in the car because it was “cute” (I’m lucky I didn’t get beaten up more).

Anyway … it was enchanting (yes, I said enchanting), and I got some quality time with Mom in the process. And sadly, I’d never had better seats to a show in my life. Ever … only for them to be trumped about four months later.

Spoiler alert: My favorite album of 2015 was No Cities to Love

Spoiler alert: My favorite album of 2015 was No Cities to Love

 

Sleater-Kinney (Omaha and St. Louis, Feb./April)

I’ve already covered this one sufficiently. And nothing has changed, except for the fact that I love this band more now than I did then. I’m praying they take another run through the Midwest soon.

Foxygen at the Mission Creek Festival (Blue Moose in Iowa City, April)

IMG_2719This was the only show of the week I went to differing from Chris’ itinerary. We both caught Real Estate and Father John Misty (with King Tuff … those dudes were bad-ass). But he chose Shovels and Rope on Friday, and I chose this one. Glad I did.

A super-energetic show. Sam France has that androgynous look like some ’70s British glam rocker and the band has this wall of backup singers, like they’re Ike and Tina Turner or something, including one that looked like a sex-kitten version of Abbi from Broad City. Yes, I was captivated. I remember saying to Michelle, friend of MoSS? and my partner in the evening’s festivities, that the whole thing was like some hyperactive psychedelic version of Meat Loaf.

After the show, we bumped into honorary MoSS?-Man Travis …

“That was awesome,” he said with his typical chuckle and grin. “They were like psycho Meat Loaf or something, right?”

Bastard stole my line. Case closed.

Diarrhea Planet (Gabe’s in Iowa City, April)

IMG_2766Great stuff. But if I took away anything about this show, it was the realization that from here on out, I will never NOT take earplugs to a show at Gabe’s. These guys play three-guitar punk rock with shredding solos. And as I stood and watched, I could SEE the guitarists’ fingers moving up and down the fret boards with Yngwie Malmsteen-like dexterity, but all I could HEAR was harsh, distorted fuzz. On a whim, I just stuck my fingers in my ears … then and only then could I hear the flurry of notes. I love me some Gabe’s – it’s been my home base for over 20 years now – but the sound needs improvement (it has for a while). I used to worry that the day I started wearing earplugs would be the day I was officially old. I still love it loud, but I just want to hear what’s actually happening. That ain’t old.

IMG_2878

MASTODON!!

 

THE SWORD!!

THE SWORD!!

Mastodon (Five Flags Center
in Des Moines, May)
The Sword (Gabe’s in Iowa City, October)

Hail metal.

I love this doom metal shit, the sludgy stuff coming out of the south, especially – Mastodon, Baroness, Kylesa out of Georgia, and The Sword out of Austin, Texas. I never want to grow up, apparently, because for as cultured as I like to think I’ve become over the years, I still love heavy metal and slasher movies. I hope that never changes.

IMG_2996

Royal Blood (Wooly’s in Des Moines, May)

In the era of two-man bands or even no-bass player bands (think White Stripes, Black Keys or Sleater-Kinney), those bands’ guitarists always find a way to replicate the bottom-end sound where the bass would be. Check out Corin Tucker on “A New Wave” or Jack White on “The Denial Twist” for good examples of this.

But I’ve never seen anyone replicate a screaming guitar lick on a bass before, while still playing bass at the same time. It’s a mindfuck when you see it. But that’s what Mike Kerr does in Royal Blood. Plus, it’s just good old-fashioned hard rock. I like these guys. Quite a bit, actually.

After the show, I asked their sound guy how Mike Kerr did it. “It’s gotta be just a series of effects pedals, right?” I asked. But he basically told me – in that very regal, polite way that only a Brit can – to go fuck myself.

IMG_3049Smashing Pumpkins (Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines, June)

I mean, look at these!

I mean, look at these!

The Barry Manilow show gave me the best seats I’ve ever had for any show ever. Until this one. Second row center and seated, with no buffer between Billy and me (the front row in the center was for handicapped seating, but there were no handicapped people at the show, so it was just as good as front row). This show had sold out immediately months earlier, but I just knew the ungodly-priced VIP tickets would end up on the market again. Checked the day before, at just the right time, and bam, got four at a discount.

But no one wanted to go with me. I, of course, asked the MoSS? boys first (we’ll always have the fantasy draft, after all). Too short of notice. Finally, I got some takers in old reliables Kat and Von.

I loved this show. A stripped-down acoustic set. Yes, it was largely devoid of many hits or deep cuts from the 1991-95 era (more on that later), but at the same time, it didn’t feel like a rock concert. Lots of stuff from Adore (which I was cool with – “For Martha” was excellent, and the arrangement on “To Sheila” was KILLER), a couple of new ones, some Zwan stuff, some solo stuff, all meticulously arranged and presented almost like a Broadway show, with a locked-in songbook. I knew what I was getting.

But this was Des Moines. Home of a ton of buttrock FM radio. A lot of the people who bought tickets, guaranteed, probably didn’t read the fine print about what this show was going to be and expected to hear the big, loud anthems. They didn’t get them. I mean, he did play “Tonight Tonight,” “Today,” “Mayonaise” and “1979,” but mostly? Yeah, they didn’t get them.

Needless to say, it got ugly. For the first hour or so of the show, he had the room in the palm of his hand. But when people started realizing that this show must be winding down and they still hadn’t heard “Cherub Rock” and “Bullet with Butterfly Wings,” they started getting antsy. During the end of the show, people started yelling out requests, which Billy actually took in stride, until some jackass yelled, “Play ‘1979’ again!” At that point, the famous Corgan petulance reared its ugly head. All tour long at that point, he had taken some requests for the final encore (including one stop when he played the entire Gish album in less than six minutes). But for us, he came out and played “Spaceboy” and got the fuck outta there.

Look, I’ve been very vocal over the years about how his refusal to play the old stuff is petty (basically, he feels like if he plays the stuff from Gish, Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie, he’s no better than Warrant playing “Cherry Pie” at the state fair. “I’m still making new music, dammit. You should want to hear that,” he thinks). There is a middle ground. People will listen to the new stuff if they know you’re gonna reward the years and years of loyalty with a few of the deep cuts. He needs to realize this.

But on that night, in that room, under those circumstances, I was on his side. We (I mean Iowans in general here) looked like hayseeds and it reinforced my fear that this was one of the reasons that Iowa is just the warm-up show for Chicago or Detroit.

I got into it pretty intensely with Chris about this afterward. A snippet of our correspondence:

“I can’t be on his side if he can’t entice me to attend. He can’t be bothered to include true fan rewards like Crush or Suffer or Obscured or Soma or Hummer. These are not hits. These are legacy-affirming songs but because they were written in the 20th century he won’t play them, even though he’ll play 1979 and Tonight and Today. If he wants an entire room of disciples without having to play the entire Greatest Hits tracklist, he would do this.”

I agreed with every word of this (my response: “I knew this was coming. And I know your stance. In fact, how many times have we had this discussion … and I AGREED with you? Because you know that I do”), but the contents of his acoustic tour were well-documented. It’s just that I bet no one was playing attention.

Well, I bet Todd would’ve loved it … I think.

All your base are belong to Rational Anthem

All your base are belong to Rational Anthem

 

80-35 Festival (Des Moines, July)

Miss Lewis in rock star pose

Miss Lewis in rock star pose

Jenny Lewis (she of Rilo Kiley, playing with the Watson Twins, and Jenny and Johnny) was awesome. Wilco was as good as they usually always are. Cloud Nothings sound better live than on their record. Run The Jewels were the balls. And Weezer played maybe the quintessential example of a perfect festival gig – every hit, a few deep cuts, a couple new ones, and the huge ones to shut it down.

In addition, on Friday night, I caught the Ataris play at the Gas Lamp … and the show was opened by Rational Anthem, my current favorite Iowa City band. Originally from Florida, they hooked up with fellow Iowa City punks Lipstick Homicide (also awesome) somewhere on the road and relocated to Iowa City when they realized that at any given moment, they were within a four- or five-hour drive of Minneapolis, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Kansas City and Omaha. If you like fun pop punk, check them out.

Against Me! (Wooly’s in Des Moines, July)

Tom Gabel was the shit. Best voice in punk rock. That was always the draw with Against Me!. Laura Jane Grace? Now she has the best voice in punk rock. I love this band.

Cheap Trick (RAGBRAI stop at the Coralville Marriott, July)

“Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees I’ve seen live” list as of July 2015: The Rolling Stones, Van Halen, Metallica, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, B.B. King, Neil Young, Buddy Guy, the Pretenders, Fleetwood Mac, Lou Reed, Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, U2, R.E.M., Beastie Boys, Guns N’ Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Public Enemy, Kiss, Nirvana, Green Day, Parliament (well, George Clinton), Run-DMC (kinda) and Patti Smith (kinda).

Now, I can add these guys to the list. Getting inducted this year (as well as Steve Miller, who I saw in 1992 and is also getting inducted this year). So many awesome anthems. And I bought a great t-shirt to boot.

A sidenote: After drinking a few too many beers that night, my buddy and I headed over to the Lumberyard II for a little post-show entertainment. I just want to say this to the strippers of the world: Picking your music? Shouldn’t be that difficult. Hair metal or ’90s R&B. Just keep it simple, ladies. It ain’t hard.

IMG_3372Foo Fighters (Sprint Center in Kansas City, August)

Just one of the shows that you always imagine a rock concert will be like when you’re 12 and haven’t been to a rock concert before.

IMG_3434I have friends who rag and rag about Dave Grohl and his overexposure. It’s tiresome. And it makes my head spin so much that it’s impossible to gather and articulate my thoughts on the matter (check out this piece that Chris wrote almost over four years ago, then check my counterpoint in the comments. And Chris wrote this BEFORE he was just starting to truly usurp Bono’s roll as media-appointed rock ambassador… his roll has only gotten bigger since then).

But anyone who tries to say the Foo Fighters are not one of, if not THE best, arena-rock bands in the world is crazy. This night was a tour de force.

I went to this show with T-Dub and it was a classic T-Dub and Vodka Bob outing. More than a few frosty beverages. Screaming every lyric, including the end bridge of “Monkey
Wrench.” Making friends with total strangers. There was the
IMG_3461purple-t-shirt guy. There was the beautiful girl in the checkered dress. The dudes in the Cinderella t-shirts (by the way, we weren’t ripping on you … we actually do worship at the altar of Tom Keifer, guys!). We invited one woman who was partying hard and her sister from Idaho out for post-gig drinks … unfortunately, I really don’t remember a whole lot about this or anything after (I do remember asking Miss Idaho if she liked shopping malls, because I remembered a line in Adventures in Babysitting when the kids in the movie asked the guy who carjacked the car they were sitting in to please drop them off at the nearest mall and the carjacker said “where do y’all think we are – Boise, Idaho?”). I think I asked for her number and she did give it to me (I’ve never used it), but she didn’t tell me her last name. I think she made the right call.

Anyway, I woke up the next day and start checking the receipts in my pocket. It was all worth it.

X (Wooly’s in Des Moines, August)

IMG_3546One of my favorite movies of all time is The Decline of Western Civilization, Part II: The Metal Years (why Penelope Spheeris has never done a “Where Are They Now” follow-up on the London dudes, the Wet Cherri guy, the guy with the one-side-bleach-blonde/one-side-blue-black hair, and Randy O. from Odin, I’ll never know. I mean, I REALLY want to know, for real).

Anyway, The Metal Years came out when I was 15, and after that, I was obsessed with seeing Part 1. For 25 years, I tried seeing it. I tried renting it everywhere. Never had it. Out of print. I started checking every used video store. No luck. Any time the TV guide said it would be on, I set the timer and it ALWAYS ended up being The Metal Years. No dice.

Finally, this year, the red tape finally got cleared up and the entire Decline of Western Civilization trilogy got released on Blu-ray. Part 1, for the uninitiated, is a deep dive into the L.A. punk scene of the early ’80s – The Germs, Circle Jerks, Fear and Black Flag, most predominantly. But X, with that infusion of rockabilly, stood out to me.

Skeet and I loved it. Doe rocks. Exene Cervenka kinda looks like a crazy Muppet these days, but still had me in the palm of her hand.

Plus, I didn’t want to think of John Doe as just the guy that said, “that guy at the end of the bar is fuckin’ Dalton, man.” Glad I went.

Beach House (The Pageant in St. Louis, September)

IMG_3711Chris already covered the specifics of this show well. I was just disappointed that he left out the late-night driving playlists I utilized to keep myself occupied while he slumbered … an ‘80s New Wave that featured Erasure, Duran Duran, Bananarama, The Dream Academy (twice!), Berlin, Bow Wow Wow, Romeo Void, Kajagoogoo, Simple Minds … I could go on and on, but it wasn’t until “Perfect Way” by Scritti Politti came on that he finally said, “Can we listen to something else, please?”

Then, on the way home, it was Vol. 4 of my essential “Anson Thrash” series, with enough Slayer, Exodus, Testament, Motorhead, Venom, Death Angel, Coroner, Forbidden, Sacred Reich, Overkill and Death to satisfy any knuckle-dragging, wastoid, headbanging degenerate like myself.

He didn’t say it (he was dozing), but I know he was impressed.

Not even gonna attempt a Top 10 for 2015 list …

… but I will say goodbye to a couple of dudes that meant a whole hell of a lot to me.

It was a good year. See you in 2016 … I mean, I hope I don’t fall asleep for another eight months.

Road Trip Revelations

My job sometimes requires me to spend a lot of my day in the car. I don’t mind too much. It gives me time to think, reflect on my life and most importantly listen to great music. On these trips I sit back, relax and turn up the tunes. After many hours alone in the car though, I tend to have quite a few random and moronic thoughts. These are just a few of the revelations I came away with on the road.

No Sir, I Will Not Honor Your Thumbs Out Gesture

The-HitcherI drove past a freezing cold hitchhiker today. He seemed harmless enough. Clean-ish clothes, presentable face and a not too worn backpack. I thought, “Man what a shitty day to be stuck out in the cold. The guy probably had car trouble and just needs a ride to the nearest town.” A co-worker of mine tells me stories all the time about picking up hitchhikers. He thinks it’s fun and good for a story or a laugh. So I think, “It would probably be fine to pick him up.” Then I remember that I have an irrational fear of hitchhikers, road weathered tramps and Rutger Hauer. That’s right. The Evil Rutger Hauer. This all stems from when I was 11 and watched the movie, The Hitcher, starring a post-pubescent C. Thomas Howell and, of course, The Evil Rutger Hauer. That dude is just plain scary. Check out this scene if you dare.

He’s like a more determined version of The Terminator, an unstoppable killing machine. There’s a scene where he draws and quarters C. Thomas’ stglove interest with semi-trucks. Terribly disturbing for a young lad like myself. The Evil Rutger Hauer was in another movie called, Surviving the Game, where he was equally as sinister. In this one, he plays a rich dude that holds an annual hunting excursion where they hunt homeless people…you know hitchhikers and such. One might think that after The Evil Rutger Hauer created my fear of hitchhikers in The Hitcher, I would root for him as a hitcher-killer in Surviving the Game. No way. I’ll not get fooled by your crafty evil beguiling ways. Plus, I’m not looking to get stabbed to death by some psycho mobile hobo whose only fear of death is that he won’t be the cause of mine.

My Satellite Radio Kicks Can Kick Your Satellite Radio’s Ass

fooI have written many times on these road trip posts that I love my satellite radio. Great content, no commercials and minimal DJ babble. My radio is portable so I hook it up to the car stereo using an FM modulator. I pick a nice unused radio frequency and I’m like a mobile broadcasting force. Sometimes I drive by other commuters that are doing the same thing. They come up from behind me and I hear a little static then maybe a hint of another song or talk radio station. Occasionally, these cars completely wipe out my station altogether. More times than not, when I hear that static noise, my radio overpowers the HowardJonesother cars radio and wins the battle for the airwaves. I love looking over to the car next to me and seeing the confused and irritated driver. The irritation continues until they get outside my 100 sq ft broadcasting range. This morning I heard that familiar static sound as an SUV pulled up beside me. I had my radio tuned to Sirius Alt-Nation and was enjoying the Foo Fighters song “No Way Back.” That song started to fade out as the car came up beside me. The ‘80s gem “No One is to Blame” by Howard Jones fought its way from the SUV radio into my car radio. The lights in my car dimmed and the engine revved harder as the stereo pulled extra power from the battery and fought back. Soon Howard Jones could be heard no more and the other driver reached for the tuner on his radio. This is the standard sign of defeat. Better luck next time Howard Jones Guy.

Sammy Hagar Knows How Many Ways There Are

And of course, by the end of my day I was feeling tired and in need of a serious hair metal fix. I thought, “What if I rock incorrectly? I know I need to rock, but is there more than one way? If there are multiple ways to rock, how do I know which is best suited for this particular occasion? I could look quite the fool.” I quickly flipped stations over to Hair Nation in search of answers. Luckily, Sammy Hagar’s “There’s Only One Way to Rock” was playing and curbed my anxieties. His message is so simple…

Crank up the drums, crank out the bass
Crank up my Les Paul in your face

There’s only one way
There’s only one way to rock!!!

Just rock baby! You can’t screw it up!

All in all it was a pretty good trip.  Plenty of tunes.  Plenty of dangerous hitchhikers. If you see me cruising down the interstate sometime, don’t bother sticking your thumb out for a ride. I’ll just scream and drive right past you.

 

What I think after watching about 12 minutes of the Grammys…

I caught the Foo Fighters performance of “Walk” (I had to look up the title).

The Foos confound me.

I liked their first two albums just fine. The debut had killer singles (“This Is a Call,” “I’ll Stick Around”), fun tunes with funny videos (“Big Me”), and personal faves (“Floaty”). The second album was more of the same, only maybe a little hookier/better. I still find “Monkey Wrench” and “Everlong” to be killer tunes years after they were in heavy rotation.

But what they played last night didn’t catch my ear like those early songs. It just sounded like…a slightly cooler, perhaps rowdier, Wilco. (Yes, that’s a backhanded compliment.) Like some dudes who are technically proficient with their instruments flying on autopilot.

For everything that seems cool about Dave Grohl (like wearing Slayer shirts), I can’t get past the Nirvana factor.

Specifically that he was better at what he did in Nirvana (play drums, sing the higher-range backing vocals, throw his drums everywhere at the end of the set) than what he currently does with the Foos (yowl, play power chords, lead the crowd in clap-alongs).

Or that he’s not Kurt Cobain. Which is fine in the sense that he’s not addicted to heroin, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, or married to Courtney Love; but it also means he’s a dude whose songbook, decent as it might be, does not include “Lithium,” “Scentless Apprentice,” “Heart Shaped Box,” “In Bloom,” “Drain You,” “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle,” “Pennyroyal Tea,” “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Verse Chorus Verse,” “All Apologies”…

It’s hard for me to watch the drummer from a mainstream-jolting band like Nirvana stand on a stage at the Grammys and do some lame-o “clap-over-his-head” routine to get the crowd “pumped up.”

And come on, Mastodon should have won Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance.

[Update: You should read sambob25’s comment on this post. A differing perspective, but one I won’t—or perhaps more accurately, can’t—invalidate.]

Other thoughts…

We have the answer to the question, “Was John Stamos the absolute low point for the Beach Boys?” The answer, now, is no.

The Band Perry and Blake Shelton performing Glen Campbell songs was kinda cool.

Glen Campbell performing was kinda cool, too. I’m glad he was having a good day; it made his post-performance “Where do I go? Do I go somewhere or shut up?” utterance a bit charming, when on a bad day it would have been rather sad.

I shut off the Beach Boys after about 30 seconds, fired up the DVR to watch the new episode of The Walking Dead, then turned the Grammys back on in time to catch the Campbell tribute.

In other words, I watched the walking dead, then watched The Walking Dead, and then watched the walking dead.