Thursday, 21 February 2013

Sound City Players- The Forum, London- 19/02/2013

"Here's the thing, I came up with this stupid idea, I was like 'Hey! Let's all do some shows where we all play a bunch of songs that people have never heard, let's play a bunch of songs from all these different catalogues and turn people on to fuckin new rock'n'roll! Hey, guess what, Pat and Nate and Chris and Taylor, you've gotta learn 40 fuckin songs in 10 days!!' And they fuckin did, because they're the best fuckin band in the world!" 
I had the absolute pleasure to be in the audience of the most buzzed about show in London only 24 hours ago- Sound City Players featuring Dave Grohl himself, Nate Mendel, Pat Smear, Chris Shiflett, Taylor Hawkins, Alain Johannes, Lee Ving, Chris Goss, Rick Springfield, Rick Nielsen and the 2nd surviving member of Nirvana, Krist Novoselic. 

Despite the very famous cast of players, this was far away from the phrase "Nirvana Reunion" that comes to mind and any audience member who was expecting that would be disappointed, and playing 'Breed' on the speakers before the start of the show was as soon as it would get. 

It was a night of pure rock ecstasy of all kinds: blues; punk; hardcore and the kind of stylish hard rock that you thought QOTSA could do.

Most of it was kind of unexpected, really.
With the due release of Sound City, the documentary directed by Dave Grohl about the legendary recording studios in California (now defunct) home to the recording of everything from punk band Fear to Fleetwood Mac back to Nirvana's own very Nevermind. The documentary doesn't sound anything for the light-hearted, but considering this I thought last night would be a mash-up of Blues Rock from ageing rockers that had got too old to do thrashin' punk (Par you Dave and the rest of the Foos).

I was surprisingly wronged. 
The night started with the inclusion of a handful of Foos onstage with producer and engineer Alain Johannes, who has collaborated with QOTSA. This was ace, but never did I think it would get heavier than this. This was the kind of throbbing quiet-loud dynamic that Dave had perfected in the first place with Nirvana and to say the least, it was kind of hypnotizing. The way that QOTSA have always got the audience to nod at the same pace, with the same expressions on their faces... that's true enjoyment, and at sometimes the rockers on stage got more into it than the audience. (One of the videos I shot shows a total unison wave of body movement, mostly of males aged 30-40, which was the prime audience among young Foo fans like myself). But not to despair, this was a totally new world for me, where I'm just used to the throbs of Foo Fighters' Dave, where the peak of heaviness probably climaxes with 'Wind Up' from The Colour and the Shape or any of Dave's first album, Foo Fighters (My absolute favourite, Wattershed, could be reminiscient...)

Among all the reviews that take the technicality of the show a bit too far- yes, it could be involved as self-indulgent, but when is a wide span of 70s hardcore to 00's monster rock not self-indulgent?- is the personal side for me, and something that everyone could appreciate. The best part of the whole night, without a doubt, was seeing your one and only music hero with his heroes- the people he had too grown up listening to adamantly and probably biting back the tears when he finally got to see them- and there he was last night, absolutely loving every second, reaping the rewards of his highly successful rock career. You forget that first and foremost Grohl is a "Punk one"- you don't want to put a label on it- but he was. He came from the DC hardcore scene and spent his waking hours listening to the likes of Black Flag, the Dead Kennedys and the punk band Fear- whose lead Lee Ving turned up onstage also last night to a collective punk sigh of all sorts, with his harmonica and a whole lot of attitude for someone that's gone sixty (you have expected him to start tap dancing before you realised that a heavy punk blow of all sorts of handling his guitar would happen) He wanted to be a punk, and when that wasn't enough, he taught himself to drum on his pillows, backing Led Zep (my favourite Dave story). Grohl monologued this himself- this is the 2nd time seeing the man himself for me now, and my favourite thing already is his ability to tell a story and just make the audience laugh, for example after Rick Springfield made his appearance, Grohl joked to the audience of just over 2,000, "We USED to play big gigs" to a rapture of laughter and in his kind of cute awe of the 'proper rock star type' that is Springfield he proclaimed "Hey, I'm just a Foo Fighter!". Chris Goss was awesome, Pat Smear was an audience favourite of the night with his continuous pogo-ing and cheeky grins, and you half expected Johannes to self-combust with the sincerity of his playing. AND Taylor Hawkins on vocals anyone? Cheap Trick's most famous "I Want You To Want Me" was probably one of my favourites, because the audience finally got a chance to sing along and it was such a contrast to the openers with Johannes and Nielsen's guitar solo and Novoselic's coolio status, well, it was all the money in the world. 

This is as intimate as it's going to get with Foo Fighters as big as they are now, and having the opportunity to be so close to a personal hero of mine is something I will never let go, and I don't think my friends will either! Nirvana were the first band I ever truly loved, and here it was that 3/4 of the members were on stage 10m away from me! My 13 year old heart couldn't take it, this was all I'd dreamed of. It was a night of remembering (albeit, slightly cheesy) of where I belong, in this little chasm of music they call "hard gigs". I couldn't have enjoyed myself more, neither could Grohl, and that's all there is to it if you like, the "human element" that Dave kept reminding us with. "Real people, playing music, right there, real people!". Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you a real rockstar, and everyone on that stage no less deserving of basking in their glory of having truly found their place. I have never enjoyed music as much, and neither had they. 

EDIT: This was also, supposedly, the first performance in the UK of Dave and Krist together since their Nirvana days. Musical history, everyone, doesn't get much cooler than that. 

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