They were the first band I ever saw live. April 10th, 1996. Two years to the day after Kurt Cobain’s body was found next to a shotgun. Those two years of music were extremely formative for yours truly. Everyday after school, I snuck into my brother’s room to swipe his CD case, ease those shiny silver discs into my Panasonic boombox, and float into another universe. Nirvana was number one, and they would not be dethroned any time soon. Soundgarden and Pearl Jam were next, followed by Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains, and many others (OK fine I had Hootie too SHUTUP). And in the summer between 5th and 6th grade, there was a new release from Nirvana’s drummer! Dave something! He apparently sings and plays guitar too! The Foo Fighters! Whoa! A new obsession…
CD retail giant Media Play (RIP) sold the Foos’ debut CD, ray gun logo t-shirt, and patch to stitch onto your Jansport; I put all three into immediate heavy rotation. I started 6th grade at a new school a few months later, and made friends with the other grunge fanatics. When we found out that Foo Fighters were playing a concert in Atlanta, we pestered our parents to let us go unsupervised, which was of course was ambitious for a group of 11 year olds, all alone and easy targets. There would be mom chaperones. We dealt with it.
Atlanta’s premiere grunge venue the Masquerade (RIP) had an outdoor stage with a field that welcomed the herds of flannel-clad masses reeking of cigarette smoke, another peculiar aroma I couldn’t yet identify (incense?), and of course: angst. I was wearing ripped jeans and a t-shirt that said “I Hate Barney” (Barney was in purple font); I precociously understood that it was lame to wear the band’s shirt to the band’s show (unless you buy said shirt at the merch table at said show). And when the band came on with those huge guitars and crashing drums: WHOA! LOUD! My ears rang. My chest throbbed. My eyes teared. My fists pumped. There was Dave, Nirvana’s drummer. And Pat, Nirvana’s other guitarist (and of course the other two but I was a guitar guy so mainly Dave and Pat). They tore through songs from the record, a handful of new ones I didn’t know, and a cover of “My Sharona.” Some knuckleheads threw Mentos at the band during “Big Me.” About halfway through the show I tried to shove my way to the front, and got within four feet of the mosh pit before my mother snatched me back by my Barney shirt. What a show.
Fast forward 20+ years, and I find myself dating a lovely gal named Andi who is quite literally obsessed with the Foos. She is oft teased for her fervent fangirling: dozens of concerts, every record on vinyl, and she gets a crazy look in her eye when they come on the radio. I sometimes feel jaded and bored by music these days; her passion is truly refreshing and admirable. It’s only fitting that the opportunity to finally meet Dave Grohl and his posse came through her, not through any strings I could maybe pull.
You know those contests you see online that say “Enter here for a chance to meet So & So and do Such & Such!” and you never enter because it seems like a sham? Well, someone has to win, and for the Foo Fighters VIP Meet & Greet at The Anthem in D.C. last month, that someone was named Andi, and she was a happy little girl. iHeartRadio flew us to and from our nation’s capital and booked us a room at the Hyatt; all we had to do was show up by 7:30PM to the Anthem’s box office, which we barely, and I mean barely, made (American Air landing at wrong airport + rain + weekday traffic = HOLYSHIT.WENEEDTOHURRY.OMFG). Upon bursting through the venue’s lobby doors, we were greeted with applause by the iHeartRadio promoters and the 20 other contest winners at exactly 7:32PM, and then promptly hustled backstage. As we lined up in an empty dressing room, Andi rehearsed the optimal wording to express her adoration for her hero Dave, maintaining a slippery grip on her composure. My voice was gone from a solo show the night before at the Hotel Cafe in LA, a relief for Andi–so there was no way I could do that thing I do when I spout off a bunch of cheesy dad jokes and embarrass myself (I save that trick for my shows).
And then…arms up and fangs out, Dave creeps into the room like a velociraptor, his band in tow, and the room cheers. We were the very last couple in line, and it was not unlike waiting for Santa Claus. We watched the other superfans taking photos and exchanging niceties like “Saw you in Pittsburgh!”, “How’s your leg?”, and “This is my X time seeing you guys!!” And finally, we were up. The moment had come. Andi walked up to Dave, looked in the eye, and said “I’ve been a fan of your music for over 20 years, I’ve been to … I don’t even know how many shows, so thank you for doing this,” and got a warm hug from her hero. No tears or peeing. I was so proud. I bumbled behind her and quickly shook the bands’ hands and managed to squeak out “Great to meet you guys! Sorry I lost my voice last night!” to which Dave replied: “Happens to me all the time, dude.” Touché, Mr. Grohl.
After we met, greeted, and photoed, Andi collapsed on the floor of the backstage hallway, a satisfied grin of disbelief emblazoned on her face. She had met her hero. I had met one of mine. We were led back out to the main hall, where we calmed our nerves with $12 beers, and shoved our way to toward the front of the stage, still slowly floating back down to earth. The lights went down. The screams went up. They strolled out onstage. Our new friends. The Fighters of Foo. They kicked off the show with “I’ll Stick Around,” the same song they closed with on that fateful evening in Atlanta in ’96. It was loud. Our ears rang. Our chests throbbed. Our eyes teared. Our fists pumped. What a show. Rock and Roll, baby.