After rushing to leave the house and forgetting my camera, a two hour bus ride to New York and three hours of sitting in Alans house drinking beer while the Verizon guy didn’t hook up the internet, we were off to the Hammerstein Ballroom for Dave Grohl’s Sound City Players show. With a lineup consisting of all music legends that had recorded some of rock and rolls greatest albums at the famed southern California studio, it was going to be one for the ages, and the thousand person deep lineup outside confirmed just that. A standing room only floor and general admission seating in the first and second mezzanines, where our tickets were, had me concerned about sightlines and proximities, but we managed to settle four rows from the front of the first level on the aisle, which for the obvious reasons of easy access to beer and bathrooms, became a very crucial component of the evening. The stage was set and we settled in, enjoying the buzz of the pre-show crowd and $8 Coronas. Fuckers.
The lights dimmed and the noise escalated. A screen dropped down in front of the stage and the full trailer for the Sound City documentary was shown, prompting hoots and hollers from the crowd when their favorite artists were shown on the screen. This would be a recurring theme, as each musician’s set would be introduced by a two-minute snippet taken from the movie that featured said artist. Pretty cool way to introduce everybody, and kudos to the stage hands who had everything good to go before the screen rose back up to reveal each Player in the flesh. Eleven frontman and QOTSA/Them Crooked Vultures contributor Alain Johannes started the night off backed by a couple of Foos and we were off, but with the exception of QOTSA’s Hanging Tree, the crowd had little knowledge, and therefore little reaction, to the songs performed and it fell kinda flat, which is too bad because Alain is a super talent and has done it with some of the best.
Arguably my most anticipated set of night, Chris Goss, stoner rock kingpin and mastermind behind some of Kyuss and QOTSA’s best records, not to mention his own outstanding bands Masters of Reality and Goon Moon, was up next. This was when shit kicked into high gear and surprisingly not just because of the set’s first track and one of my all time favorite songs, Masters of Reality’s “She Got Me(When She Got Her Dress On), but because it would be during this set that we were unbelievably fortunate enough to quickly meet the legend among legends, Mr. Jimmy Page, who was watching from one of the VIP booths to our right. There was a quick buzz and stirring in the crowd around when he left his box and headed up the stairs behind us towards the bar and bathroom area, and the aforementioned aisle seats certainly came in handy to jump up and get a closer look. Alan exchanged a couple of words and a handshake the first time around before Page was swept away by a mob and escaped back to his box, and with his second trip up I too shared a handshake and a quick acknowledgement of how good the show was going, though after my encounter he escaped the throngs of fans and slipped into a service elevator not to be seen again for the remainder of the night. The rest of Goss’s set, along with Lee Ving from Fear’s set that followed, was spent dumfoundedly trying to process our run in with greatness: “It’s really dark, was that really him?” “He had really big hands” ” Is he gonna jam?” A proper English accent, super VIP treatment and the mob scene surrounding him solidified any little doubt we had, not to mention that crazy white hairdo he rocks nowadays, and I have to admit, it was pretty hard to concentrate on the stage for the next little bit, knowing I had just shaken the hand responsible for some of the greatest, most recognizable riffs in the history of rock music. Totally fan-boyed out.
Clearing our minds(more beer) and settling back into what we paid to do, Rick Neilsen from Cheap Trick was up next, with Dave Grohl returning to his drumming roots and bringing Nirvana alumni Krist Novoselic out to play bass as well. Foo’s drummer Taylor Hawkins, dressed bizarrely in bright yellow bermuda shorts and nothing else , took over vocal duties and surprisingly laid it down pretty good. Great energy, and between teenage girl-like gushings over the fact he was on the stage with his boyhood hero(and at this stage of the night, boy could I relate!), he actually showed some real ability. Wonder if it leads to anything in the future. It was also a pleasure to see Novoselic in his classic wide legged bass stance, as I’ve never had the opportunity to witness him throw down in a live setting before. A good set making me realize how many Cheap Trick I actually know and enjoy. Who would’ve thunk it?
Not much to say about Rick Springfield, most serious music fans know him for the 80’s classic Jessie’s Girl, while most casual music fans know the song but not the name of said artist. It was a strange inclusion into the show and while I’d admit that the energy level was pretty high and quite entertaining I still cant name another song. Guess I could look it up but…
JOHN FUCKING FOGERTY!!! Holy shit was it ever awesome to take in such a legend in all of his live glory! The Hammerstein was at its highest peak during this set and with good reason. CCR tracks being belted out at record speed and ample time given to the crowd to properly lubricate brains and livers, there wasn’t a seat in the house being used. This was the feeling Dave and Co. were going for I think, the feeling of a packed basement no pants dance party with a bitchin’ lineup and cold brews to keep it groovin’. Travelin Band into Born on the Bayou into solo Fogerty favorite Centerfield into Keep On Chooglin into Bad Moon Rising and Proud Mary before an absolute thunderous crescendo of a finish with Fortunate Son. BOOM. Pretty sure we weren’t the only ones who looked at each other after he left the stage with a “holy shit there’s more?” look on our faces. Could’ve left right there. Completely spent.
When you’re a musician on the sixth best-selling studio album of all time, an album that released almost every song as a number one single, you command attention. Respect. In this day and age, where the single is everything and today’s youth are baffled at the idea of purchasing an album to listen to it in its entirety, this kind of respect is nearly non-existent. It’s not the musician’s fault because with today’s technological advancements the target markets’ attention span is that of a hash riddled goldfish. But this show, nor this documentary, was about today’s shortcomings. It was about the artist. The album. The process that so many of us adore, admire, yearn to accomplish ourselves. And what better way to end such a celebration than with the true master of the domain, Ms. Stevie Nicks. Opening with Stop Dragging My Heart, with Dave Grohl filling in Tom Petty’s parts admirably, it became instantly apparent who the masses were here to see. The next track, apparently written for the documentary, was heart-wrenchingly introduced as a song written for her godson who had recently overdosed. A beautiful track, proving that the songwriting chops still exist without the pretension of actually trying to prove something. Two more Mac favorites, Dreams and a sublime acoustic version of Landslide led us into the last song of the evening, the hauntingly grandiose Gold Dust Woman. Rarely can a song fill a room with such bigger than life auras, proving why the ‘classic’ moniker truly belongs in front of the word music when describing Fleetwood Mac, unlike so many other bands who not only have their music placed in the bloated genre, but actually have the gall to place themselves there in the first place. One of the greatest closing songs I’ve ever seen.
The rest of the night need not be discussed here. After three and a half hours of glorious live rock and roll, we had no choice but to go revel in our good fortunes. New York City may be the greatest city in the world for such revellery, and more often than not, it’s a “you had be there” kinda thing. 4:00AM certainly comes quickly these days though…