Review | Photos | Dave Grohl's Sound City Players | Los Angeles

Words and Images by: L. Paul Mann

Dave Grohl's Sound City Players :: 01.31.13 :: Hollywood Palladium :: Los Angeles, CA

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Sound City is the name of the new music documentary directed by Dave Grohl. The film premiered recently at the Sundance film festival, before moving on to a three night showing at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. The movie is an astounding documentary, centered around a dumpy, unassuming old recording studio, that was originally a Vox amplifier factory. The studio was located in a commercial area of Van Nuys, in the valley area of Los Angeles, an area usually reviled by most any self respecting pop star from Hollywood. The building had the accidental good fortune to have a good acoustic balance. The studio also benefited from the foresight of it's owners to install a Neve soundboard, which was the state of the art for recording consoles at the time of it's purchase. The film goes on to interview some of the biggest rock artists from 1975 until the dawn of the 21st century who recorded there and why they found the studio to be such a unique place to create their music. The film ends with the demise of the studio and the purchase of the idolized Neve soundboard by Dave Grohl. In the process of making the documentary, he decided to invite many of the biggest stars who recorded there to collaborate in making new music on the old Neve board. The result was a who's who of American rock stars joining together to make new music. The Soundtrack will be released as an album entitled Real to Reel. The culmination of the recording sessions, was a new song in the vein of “Helter Skelter”, by Paul McCartney, and a reunion of Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, of Nirvana, along with Pat Smear from Foo Fighters, all acting as the legendary Beatles’ backing band. They played their masterful new song live for the first time in December, as the finale of the massive 12-12-12 hurricane Sandy relief concert in Madison Square Garden. It was heralded by many music critics as the most spectacular moment of the evening crammed full of legendary rock superstars.

Dave Grohl by L Paul Mann
It was in this same spirit that Grohl decided to organize a concert at Sundance, to help promote the film. Some of the biggest personas in the movie agreed to sign on, and the three hour concert boasted such diverse rock stars as Stevie Nicks, John Fogerty, and all of the Foo Fighters. The show was such a success that all the major players agreed to repeat it at the Hollywood Palladium, Thursday night, January 31. The few thousand lucky fans arrived early at the standing room only venue, and by the time the first musicians appeared, at about 930PM, the sold out crowd was packed tightly around the stage. The Palladium is an old Ballroom that looks pretty much the same as it did when it was completed in 1940. The round room, with a giant dance floor, looks like a large concrete bunker from the outside. A narrow upper balcony level surrounds the ground floor, offering a single line standing space for the VIP's above. Far from glamorous, the gritty downtown venue has been the site of some of the most interesting rock shows in Hollywood history. Just to name a few standouts from memory, Grace Jones descended from the ceiling on a swing one midnight in the 90's. The Sex Pistols performed their reunion tour there, and Big Audio Dynamite played on their first tour in the 80s at the dusty old ballroom. The rich musical history of the venue made it the logical setting for such a special evening of music.

Alain Johannes by L Paul Mann
The three and a half hour show began with a set by most of the Foo Fighters, joined by Alain Johannes, who is probably most well known for his collaboration with Queens of the Stone Age. But as a collaborator and live performer with one of the most interesting rock super groups ever assembled, Them Crooked Vultures, the bond with Dave Grohl (drummer Them Crooked Vultures) was most apparent. Alain led the group through a four song set, beginning with “A Trick With No Sleeve”, which Josh Homme wrote and recorded in the film.

Between sets, a movie screen would come down from the ceiling and show clips from the film, relating to each upcoming performance. Drummer Brad Wilk chatted in the next clip about recording Rage Against The Machine's first album at Sound City. Asked why he recorded there, he responded “They recorded Nirvana’s Nevermind there”, It was a no-brainer. Then, the screen went up and he appeared as the drummer for the next set. Alain switched from guitar to bass, as Chris Goss from Masters of Reality, took over the lead guitar and vocal duties. Dave Grohl was the only constant performer during the entire marathon concert, seamlessly moving from guitar to drums to bass several times over the course of the evening. Long time Foo Fighters collaborator, keyboardist Rami Jaffe also played on nearly ever song. Another Foo Fighters collaborator, violinist Jessy Greene also frequently appeared onstage. Goss, who has produced many of the bands to come out of the “Palm Desert Scene”, including Queens of the Stone Age, opened with the band's (Masters of Reality) only top ten hit, “She Got Me “When She Got Her Dress On”. With Grohl on drums and Johannes on bass, Goss lead the band in a screaming ear piercing four song set that shook the concrete walls.

Lee Ving by L Paul Mann
The next set was dominated by lead singer and bassist Robert Levon Been and lead guitarist Peter Hayes, both from Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. While Grohl played thundering drums, the two led the band in a three-song jam, drenched with the heavy feedback infused melodies that has been the San Francisco's group's trademark sound since 1998.

Lee Ving, the godfather of American punk was up next, bringing the sound of Fear to life, with the Foo Fighters acting as the best back up band the performer has ever had. The stoic and good natured Ving has kept Fear alive in one form or another, since 1977, and has enlisted an army of backing musicians over the years. But it is his trademark guttural screaming voice, that was captured in Penelope Spheeris' definitive 1981 American punk music documentary, The Decline of Western Civilization, that has kept Fear alive all these years. The elderly statesmen of punk led the band in a lightning speed six-song set, beginning with the song he recorded with Grohl for the movie, “Your Wife Is Calling”.

The next set was led by one of the most disparate and unlikely match ups of the evening. Rick Nielsen, the iconic guitar player of Cheap Trick was joined by metal maven Corey Taylor, the lead singer of Slipknot, and the reclusive bassist of Nirvana, Krist Novoselic. With Grohl on drums and Pat Smear of Foo Fighters also on board, the group tore through a five song set, including Cheap Trick classics, and the song that the musicians recorded for the movie, “From Can To Can't”.

Rick Springfield by L Paul Mann
Soap Opera star and Australian pop rocker Rick Springfield played the next set. An integral part of the Sound City film, Springfield was one of the biggest success stories of the studio, netting the struggling owners a cool first royalty check for a million dollars, from Springfield’s 1981 album Working Class Dog. Springfield won a Grammy for his mega-hit song on the album, “Jessie's Girl”, which has become a timeless iconic classic. In the film, Springfield jokes that the producer of the song didn’t think he could play guitar very well, and they enlisted Pat Benatar's longtime collaborator guitarist Neil Giraldo to play the now famous riff. Springfield must have been practicing, because he can certainly play a mean guitar now, as evidenced in his Sound City performance. His new and improved capabilities were especially evident in the first of five songs he played in the set, “The Man That Never Was”, which he recorded with Grohl for the movie. The set ended with Grohl joking that Springfield didn't have anymore songs to play. “Oh wait”, he said. “Rick Springfield, you have a song that people recognize after three f---ing notes. Congratulations, Rick f---ing Springfield”.

Then they proceeded to play the pop anthem, “Jessie's Girl”, heard in countless discos across the country nearly every weekend. At times Springfield, seemed to forget some of the lyrics, asking the audience to fill in with a sing along, but it didn't matter to the ecstatic crowd, seemingly suffering no ill effects from sensory overload at the musical smorgasbord.

The evening took a turn towards classic rock with the next set led by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, John Fogerty, the voice of Creedence Clearwater Revival. The singer and guitar wizard organized a classic jam session, trading licks with Grohl and Pat Smear in a triple guitar threat, reminiscent of an original Lynyrd Skynrd jam. Fogerty played seven of his most famous songs, dating as far back as 1969, in the longest set of the night. He even switched to a guitar made from a baseball bat, during the latter part of his performance.

Stevie Nicks by L Paul Mann
The evening ended fittingly with superstar Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac fame. Nicks played a prominent role in the film, beginning with her early days hanging out at the studio with then boyfriend Lindsey Buckingham. The duo hooked up with the original Fleetwood Mac in a chance encounter, and formed the new version of the band. The group went on to record the studio's first hit album in 1975, Fleetwood Mac. The album went on to sell five million copies, put the recording studio on the map, and made the band members superstars. All of the Foo Fighters joined Nicks in a five song set that included some of her biggest hits and a song that she recorded with Grohl for the movie. It was a poignant moment in the concert when Nicks introduced the new song, “You Can't Fix This”. The singer solemnly explained the inspiration for the tune, her young teen age godson, who OD'd last year. The evening ended more than three hours after it started with the band playing one of Fleetwood Mac's most seminal jam songs, “Gold Dust Woman”. It was a fitting end to one of the most remarkable evenings in rock music history. Since the Foo Fighters have announced a long hiatus for their own band, it was also a bittersweet and all the more relevant moment for fans of this stellar jam band as well.

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[Published on: 2/11/13]

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