There was a peculiar vibe on the streets outside the Memorial Auditorium prior to the Queens of the Stone Age show.
First of all, it seemed curious that a sports bar near the venue had more screens showing the State of the Union speech than the Kings game. In fact, three screens had the speech on Fox News and none were showing the Kings game. Maybe it’s just a sign of the times, but it seemed strange. I had to pester the bartender at the establishment to put on the game for the final seconds of what turned out to be a rare victory for our beleaguered team.
Jon Theodore of Queens of the Stone Age
Down the street, unlike the low expectations for the Kings (and the speech), the crowd heading into the Memorial were prepared see a win. Rather than a feeling of resignation, there was an air of confidence. No one seemed to be rushing. They knew what they were in for. There seemed to be an unspoken consensus that the Queens would show up and kick ass and take names. This is something the band have gained quite a reputation for over the years.
However, it’s important to mention that although this feeling resonated, there may have been some deep-down concern over a couple of recent episodes of erratic behavior by the group and band leader Josh Homme last year.
Troy De Van Leeuwen & Dean Fertita of Queens of the Stone Age
First, the band cancelled their prime time slot at Outside Lands due to an undisclosed “injury.” Then, during a holiday show, Homme received worldwide press when he kicked a photographer’s camera, and it struck her in the head during his band’s set. He later apologized via video and called himself a “total dick” for his actions. This was a little over a month ago.
These incidents may have given concern to many, but the band’s core fans didn’t seem too fazed.
Homme has long been a swaggering, anti-hero on the rock ‘n’ roll scene. Along with Dave Grohl, he’s been a driving force behind a movement to keep authentic rock ‘n’ roll expression alive. Together with Grohl and the former Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones he formed the rock supergroup Them Crooked Vultures in 2009, which resulted in a Grammy-winning song for Best Hard Rock Performance. Last year, he collaborated with Iggy Pop on the album Post Pop Depression, and went on to do a tour with the legendary vocalist, which received critical acclaim.
Jesse Hughes of Eagles of Death Metal
The openers on this night in Sacramento were Eagles of Death Metal, Homme’s collaboration with Jesse Hughes, an old high school friend. It was in 2015 that the group and their fans were attacked by terrorists at the Bataclan theater in Paris, where 90 people were killed and naturally, many, many others were scarred for life. Homme wasn’t there, but he was deeply affected by the tragedy.
Despite their name, Eagles of Death Metal are more of a boogie rock band with some rockabilly tendencies. Hughes came out with impressive energy, working the stage like a manic preacher and firing up the crowd by tossing them Dum Dums lollipops. The band rocked and by the time they were done, the crowd was ready to pounce.
Early in the Eagles set, Hughes pointed out that local native Colin Hanks was in the wings. Hanks directed an HBO documentary called Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis (Our friends) that documented the aftermath of the Paris attacks. Homme joined the group on drums for their final two songs and Hanks came out with the band at the end of their set to take a bow.
Queens of the Stone Age were touring in support of last year’s Villains album. The record was a departure for the band, who brought in producer Mark Ronson (Bruno Mars, Amy Winehouse). Ronson helped the group explore a sound that follows Homme’s intention to make a record that amplifies the limber grooves of QOTSA’s sinewy sound. This was highlighted in the live realm by the phenomenal drumming of Jon Theodore (The Mars Volta), who joined the band a few years ago. Another standout figure on stage was Troy Van Leeuwen (guitar, keyboards, vocals), who played with nimble ferocity throughout the set.
Jennie Vee of Eagles of Death Metal
While the setlist was great, the sound in the Memorial Auditorium left quite a bit to be desired. The venue is known to be be aesthetically pleasing but acoustically lacking. On this night the Queens tried to compensate by just turning things way up, which buried a lot of the great musicianship onstage. Someone in their technical crew figured out a tweak prior to the last three songs and the sound improved dramatically. Too bad this didn’t happen earlier.
During all of this, at the center of it all was Homme, who started things off by muffing some lyrics near the end of the opener “Keep Your Eyes Peeled,” but seemed to find his stride by the fourth song, “No One Knows.” After that it was full steam ahead.
Homme bantered with the crowd, at one point promising a fan up front to add an unplanned “Mexicola” to the setlist as a birthday gift. They played it during the encore. He told a nice story about growing up with Hughes. He scolded a stage diver. He danced a little like Elvis, and at the end of it all he handed his vodka bottle over to the crowd.
All in all it was a solid, and often blaring night of rock ‘n’ roll that was a good reminder that Sacramento could really use a better sounding mid-size venue. In the meantime, the Memorial will close down at the end of March to begin a substantial renovation that promises improved acoustics. Here’s to hoping that becomes a reality. And fer godsakes, let’s also hope that the Kings can get some good draft picks.
Dave Catching & Jennie Vee of Eagles of Death Metal
**This review first appeared in print on page 29 of issue #259 (Feb. 12 – 26, 2018)**
Prepare for a night of face-melting riffs and debaucherous rock when Queens of the Stone Age, along with their partners in crime Eagles of Death Metal, come to Sacramento. Since forming out of the ashes of frontman Josh Homme’s former band Kyuss in the mid-1990s, QOTSA has seen its share of band members come and go (including the likes of Mark Lanegan and Dave Grohl), but what has remained true throughout is Homme’s penchant for writing punchy, riff-heavy songs that bear an almost hallucogenic catchiness. The band released its seventh album, Villains in August of 2017, and has been touring the world in support of it ever since. You can check them out live at the Memorial Auditorium (1515 J St.) on Jan. 30. You can purchase tickets through the band’s website, Qotsa.com, or call (800) 225-2277. Just know, you may have to call out of work the next day, what with your melted face and all …
Punk Rock Vixen Turned Full-Time Mom Brody Dalle Blossoms With Spinnerette
Don’t grieve over the loss of badass punk rock singer and guitarist Brody Dalle of The Distillers quite yet—Dalle’s new band, Spinnerette, offers more ear candy for your listening pleasure.
Named after a spider’s silk-spinning organ, Spinnerette is more than just a revamped version of The Distillers—the band attempts to branch out and conquer new musical territory. “Spinnerette is more musical, more like the sound of music,” Dalle says. The Distillers were, in Dalle’s words, more of “a dirty punk-rock band.”
The Distillers released their final album, Coral Fang, in 2003. The band came to a natural end just a couple years later. “Creatively we had hit a wall and we were exhausted,” says Dalle. “We had been on tour for two years straight and we were a raw nerve”¦ It was a really unhealthy time, and we all imploded.” At first, she remembers the breakup being pretty messy, but alliances have been restored; Spinnerette features former guitarist for The Distillers Tony Bevilacqua. The band also consists of bassist Alain Johannes (Eleven, Queens of the Stone Age) and drummer Jack Irons (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Eleven).
Spinnerette was officially formed “on a blue moon” in mid-2006, says Dalle. She and hubby Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age had just experienced the arrival of their first child, Camille, and Dalle was aching for music. “I hadn’t done music for so long at that point, and my life had changed so much. I was desperate to have a little glimpse of myself.”
If a new maturity can be heard in Dalle’s music, it’s likely that her daughter is part of the reason. The transition from full-time musician to mother was difficult. “It was probably the hardest transformation of all time,” she says. Camille is now 3 years old, and is apparently not fazed by having rock stars for parents. “She just thinks that everyone’s mom does this for a living,” Dalle laughs.
Overall, the chemistry between the band members has been amazing. “I started writing with Alain after Camille was born and it kind of just organically happened, and became this thing magically overnight,” Dalle says. “It was like I planted a magic bean and it sprouted.”
The band’s releases trickled out slowly, starting with the song “Valium Knights” in 2008. They’ve also released several singles, a Ghetto Love EP and a 12-inch vinyl. “We’re slowly feeding everybody new things,” Dalle says.
Their debut album is self-titled, and was released in June 2009 after many difficulties. “Everything you could throw at someone, we had thrown at us,” Dalle remembers. They were originally going to release their album through Sire Records last February, but had some issues going through a major record label. In the end, they went with Rush’s label, Anthem Records, which Dalle feels was a fitting choice. “[Rush] started a label because nobody else would sign them, so it seemed so appropriate for us to sign
Die-hard fans of The Distillers are divided in their opinions of Spinnerette. “Some of them like it and some of them hate it,” Dalle says. “It’s kind of to be expected.” To be fair, fans of The Distillers may be disappointed if they’re expecting to hear the same rebellious punk gal screaming with post-adolescent angst. Spinnerette’s songs are catchier and more melodic, hinting toward a newfound musical maturity.
But Spinnerette’s music certainly won’t be too mild for your taste buds—the songs go down smoothly but leave a bitter taste at the back of the throat.
Dalle writes all the lyrics herself, and she describes the album’s theme as “relationships and transformation, and coming out unscathed.” She writes with the same in-your-face attitude you would expect from former frontwoman of The Distillers, such as in the song “Rebellious Palpitations,” where she writes: “Hey what’s your name?/I’ll take everything you’ve got/All aboard the drunk express/Bottles of wine in excess.“ Dalle wails in her characteristic raspy voice about sex, love, pills, sex, a bit of wine and that oh-so-heartless cupid. Oh, and don’t forget about sex. Surely Dalle is no tempered flame.
While Spinnerette’s studio releases feature the same core group of musicians, Dalle takes a different approach to live shows, recruiting talent from amongst her vast group of musical friends and acquaintances. “We don’t have to be so serious about being a band anymore,” Dalle says. “It seems so silly to sign your life away and put your heart on the line. We’re just going to go out and play shows.” Musicians who have played with her include Vincent Hidalgo, Bryan Tulao, Dave Hidalgo Jr. (Suicidal Tendencies), Nicole Fiorentino (Radio Vago) and Matt Caughthran (The Bronx).
Spinnerette previously toured with Band of Skulls, and are now embarking on several solo shows, as well as the 2009 Capitol Hill Block Party in Seattle and the Virgin Festival in Vancouver, BC. Spinnerette will be playing at the Boardwalk in Orangevale on July 22, 2009.
As he continues to distance himself from his estranged sister, Jack White has recently added yet another side project to his list of musical monikers. White unveiled new band The Dead Weather at a private Nashville gig earlier in March. Although White was named the #17 “Greatest Guitarist of All Time” (I would have to object), he takes on the roll of drummer and shares vocal duties with The Kills frontwoman Alison Mosshart. White did contribute some guitar on the forthcoming Dead Weather album, Horehound due June 9, but yielded lead guitar to Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Dean Fertita and bass to his The Raconteurs bandmate Jack Lawrence. “This is about the physicality of music,” White told Paste magazine. “It’s music you can smell, touch”¦taste if you want to.” I don’t know if I want to taste anything Jack White has touched.