Hey, Mom, Im a Rock Star

On tour with a wildly famous Orange County band

While in Phoenix, we see Third Eye Blind in one of the airport lounges. Seems they're on the very last leg of their two-year tour, waiting to go home. They don't look happy.

We finally get to Tucson. Upon arrival, we learn the singer cannot be found—he missed his ride to the airport. Later, we find out that he's allegedly suffering from a "hangover," coupled with the anxiety of playing live for the first time in eight months, and he has decided to blow off the gig. Instead of catching the next plane home, we decide to take advantage of the local hospitality, since the hotel is already paid for by the radio station. In the limo on the way over, we hear four announcements about the canceled gig on the radio. Somebody suggests we call the station and explain, or at least offer an apology, but nobody gets around to it.

Dec. 6. Back home in Costa Mesa. I drive to LA at 11 p.m. and stay in the Roosevelt Hotel with the guitarist, so I don't have to make the trip in rush-hour traffic the next morning to make our live performance on KROQ's Kevin & Bean. Dec. 7. KROQ. We go in the back door and set up. I will be in the hallway with the DJ, while the rest of the band are in the studio. Tami Heide knocks my headphones off while walking by. None of the on-air personalities are very friendly—namely, Kevin, Bean, Jimmy Kimmel or Tami. Lightning is fairly cool.

During one song, the worst thing imaginable happens. On the air, before 2 million listeners, the DAT machine breaks down, disastrously fulfilling my earlier predictions. Bean mercifully stops the proceedings. We try it again without the DAT, but the singer stops after five seconds when his voice cracks, sending him into what most parents would call a hissy fit. We go to commercial and regroup. With fears of becoming the Milli Vanilli of alternative rock, we do it acoustically for the first and last time on the tour.

Dec. 8. Portland. We check into a Shilo Inn. It's not a bad place, though it seems better suited to travel-weary businessmen than traveling rock shows. I'm rooming with one of the techs (it's not P.C. to call them roadies nowadays). His first question to me is, "Do you mind smoke?"

"No," I respond, figuring he'd only be smoking pot, which isn't so bad. I will later come to regret this assumption. Another thing I'm not informed of is his nickname: the DJ has dubbed him "The Cappuccino Machine," due to the combination of his aggressive marijuana habit and a recurring sinus problem, making sleeping within 50 feet of him impossible.

But none of this matters: this is the first real gig, everyone has shown up, and I'm excited. We're playing in the home of the Portland Trailblazers, and our dressing room is stocked with a tub of Budweiser, cabernet from Sonoma Valley, a loaf of bread, peanut butter, bottled water, some gift bags with radio-station paraphernalia, and a deli tray. Everybody proceeds to get hammered. Soul Coughing have the dressing room across the hall and go on before us. Between them, Cake, the Violent Femmes and us (all the bands in this wing of the building), we are by far the loudest, most partying group. I have my special Salvation Army rock-star duds on, and the rest of the band grumbles that I look more like a rock star than they do.

Finally, we get to the stage, and I discover to my dismay that my keyboard has been unceremoniously dumped behind the bass player's 6-foot-tall bass amps, regardless of the fact that the stage is easily 100 feet wide and there's about 20 feet of unused space right next to the bass player, in which I could easily fit. People will be lucky to see my head, much less me or my outfit. As far as I can remember, every time I saw the Rolling Stones, I could see Ian Stewart. In addition, I can't hear anything the band is playing because I'm behind the amps. I have monitors, but the only sound coming out of them are the notes I'm playing.

We play the gig to thousands of screaming 12-year-old girls. One of the new songs is being played on Portland radio, so they know that one and the hit from the summer before. The singer energizes the rest of the heavy-metal-type set with a lot of spitting, jumping around, taking off his clothes and insulting the audience. In the dressing room after the show (and a few more beers), he points to his crotch and proclaims, "Let's see how many of those chicks wanna get ahold of this Cosmo dick!"

But the night isn't a total loss, since I've discovered the beauty of the all-access pass. The rest of the band heads back to the hotel, while I end up drinking with Todd and Xan from Cake, who turn out to be pretty nice guys (and who also happen to be in a band with a dictatorial leader). Since Garbage is about to take the stage, I grab my pass and excuse myself. I go backstage and hang out, hoping to get a glimpse of the band before they go on. When their door opens, Shirley Manson is the first one out. She sees me and, I think because of the way I'm dressed, gives me a big smile and a wave. I smile and wave back. This makes my entire night. I go out in the crowd to watch them play, and to my surprise, the Garbage songs I've been hearing on the radio for the past three years all of a sudden sound really good to me. After they're done, I head back to the dressing room for more beer and then go exploring. There's really nowhere I can't go—the power of the pass is intoxicating, so I go out in the crowd and back about five times, just for the thrill of it.

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