Dave Grohl – The Anti-Nirvana ‘Godlike Genius’ Hits Glastonbury


Image: YouTube/Mark Bellingham

In 2011 Foo Fighters big cheese Dave Grohl nabbed the ridiculous-sounding Shockwaves NME Godlike Genius Award. Since then, I can’t help think it’s all gone to his head. On Saturday night, when Foo Fighters headlined Glastonbury’s legendary Pyramid Stage, Grohl walked out alone. He addressed the crowd like a classic WWF (pre-lawsuit) wrestler cutting a promo. His stadium rock-bred smirk every bit the anti-Nirvana.

“I’m about two years late tonight,” he says. Not “we’re.” “I.” Dave “mother fucking” Grohl. That’s who. In the house… Y’all. And I know he chews gum for his vocals, but it added even more of a Tennessee car salesman, Southern preacher twang to his frequent power speeches.

It reminded me of the time he had security kick a fan out of a 2011 Foo Fighters show at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm. “You don’t fucking fight at MY show, asshole,” he said. “Get the fuck out of MY show. Get the fuck out of MY show right now. You don’t come to MY show and fight. You come to MY show and fucking dance, you asshole.” It’s strange. Taylor Hawkins is one of the best drummers in the world. Nate Mendel’s played bass since 1995. Chris Shiflett’s played lead since 1999. And Pat Smear was in Nirvana. Albeit briefly. So why does Grohl talk like they’re his backing band?

I know he gives them each a dance-monkey-dance solo during the set, with their own cringey intros, but that doesn’t take away from moments like these. Still, if you’re a fan of Foo Fighters’ current brand of crowd-pleasing mainstream rock, the band delivers the goods live. Although Grohl’s shouty voice does sound pretty wrestler-like these days as well. And I can’t help but think that, like Grohl, the music’s a million miles away from the urgency, excitement and danger of the band’s origins.


Image: YouTube/Mark Bellingham

Then, of course, there was the time Grohl fell off stage in Sweden in 2015, broke his leg and did the following U.S. tour in a ridiculous, guitar neck-encrusted throne he designed himself. It looked like the rock version of the Iron Throne. Or something out of Spinal Tap. In that moment, Grohl became the exact kind of self-indulgent rock star Nirvana’s stripped back, more personal ’90s sound was reacting to. Axl Rose asking to borrow said throne when he injured himself is all the proof you need, really.

Look, I’m not disillusioned. Dave Grohl’s 48. He’s rich. He’s successful. He’s one of the biggest rock stars on the planet. Shit, I didn’t used to like blue cheese and camembert but now I love the stuff. We grow. We change. And of course, the striking opposite of Grohl’s larger-than-life rock god existence is the quieter, more plaid and shoulder patch path taken by Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic. Whereas Grohl looks like an older, chubbier version of his former self, Novoselic looks like his high school geography teacher. I imagine.


Image: YouTube/Mark Bellingham

During the Glastonbury show Grohl kept shouting at the crowd in-between song lines as well. Yelling things like, “Let me hear you!” “Come on!” and “sing it with me!” He sounded like “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan calling out the Undertaker. And to me, it felt like he was killing the songs. Fans will say he was working the crowd, sure. He’s not the cool, brooding frontman, commanding the audience’s attention with sheer intensity. He’s the running up and down the aisles like Bono, pointing at people while his backing band cranks out a ten minute “Monkey Wrench” interlude frontman.

After the gig, the BBC airs a short interview with Dave Grohl. Caught up in his pre-show excitement, Grohl talks about seeing the stage, and how he plans to “light that motherfucker up,” like some kind of kickass cowboy. I’m sure he’s a nice guy. He seems nice. But he doesn’t seem cool. On stage. At Glastonbury. With his puffy hair. Constantly pointing. Yelling. And swearing. And the more he swears, thrashes around and talks between songs, the blander and less offensive Foo Fighters seem, as they straddle the middle of the road on top of the world.

Sum 41 Live At The Kingston Hippodrome – Oh to Be Young Again…

sum-41-kingston-banquet-records-1

I love away trips to Kingston. The place has got such a small town, outsider feel. Like a cool version of Pietermaritzburg, back in South Africa. This is especially evident when tonight’s crowd sings along wildly to System of A Down’s “Toxicity” and Papa Roach’s perennial hit, “Last Resort.” I haven’t seen dudes undo their ponytails and headbang like that since Maritzburg. But tonight, we’re here to celebrate the nostalgic rebirth of Canadian punk rockers Sum 41. Unless you’re one of the 14 year olds posting Instagram Stories. Then you’re just a giddy, contemporary music fan.

Over the course of the past two decades, Sum 41 have gone from small town, Ajax, Ontario pop-punk heroes to world-dominating stadium rockers. So tonight’s show, at the comparatively tiny Kingston Hippodrome, is something special. When I breeze in and almost bump into the stage, I can’t believe quite how small it is. I spot a balcony just above me, climb the staircase and secure an awesome vantage point to drink it all in.

Gut-wrenching St. Albans pop punkers Trash Boat are halfway through their blistering opening set. The pace is full-throttle, but the band still saves time for classically brooding, late ’90s/early 2000s emo sentiment – like reading “letters… kept safe,” and “bleeding on this page.” Does anyone, other than my mum, still write letters? Drummer Oakley Moffatt is especially impressive, as is singer Tobi Duncan’s scream/sing mic control. But Trash Boat’s half hour of power is up. It’s time for the main course.

I still remember Sum 41’s classic MTV Cribs episode, filmed on location at former drummer Stevo32’s parent’s house. Now, listen up kids. This was before YouTube and online streaming, so I had to tape it on VHS to show it to friends. Obviously, the band’s come a long way since then, taking in singer Deryck Whibley’s notorious boozing problems and near-death experience, as well as various member changes. Tonight, though, they’re almost back to that original lineup, plus third guitarist Tom Thacker and newish drummer Frank Zummmo. But it wouldn’t have been the same without original guitarist Dave “Brownsound” Baksh. So glad he’s back.

Sum 41 breeze on stage at 9:00pm sharp, to AC/DC’s “TNT,” and I have to say, I’m a little starstruck. Especially when they launch into “The Hell Song” – I think I downloaded the music video from Punk Rock Vids and watched it a hundred times. Straight afterwards, the set’s contemporised by new single “Fake My Own Death.” Zummo is immense behind Sum 41’s signature two bass drums. A proper athlete, backed up by his marathon-runner’s energy drink and Zummo-branded drummer’s vest.

sum-41-kingston-banquet-records-2

Tonight’s definitely special and sum 41 feel it too. Turns out they were meant to have the day off, before their big headlining show at Brixton Academy tomorrow night. But somehow, as they do, Banquet Records talked them into playing this one-off special intimate show for the fans. And to celebrate, Sum 41 have loaded their set with hits from the vault.

“This feels like when we started the band, in ’97 or ’98, in East Toronto,” says Whibley, introing “What I Believe.” “This song’s off Half Hour of Power, and I don’t think we’ve played it since Half Hour of Power.”

After the song, the spiky-haired frontman takes some time out to talk Trump, rebranding “Sick of Everyone” as “Sick of Trump.” The song’s from the band’s Brownsound-less, My Chemical Romance-ish, Screaming Bloody Murder phase, and as such, not one I’m familiar with. But it’s followed by “Fat Lip,” which gets the biggest cheer of the night.

sum-41-kingston-banquet-records-3

The crowd’s literally throbbing. Bouncing in unison to the 16-year-old song that sounds as fresh as the day it was written. I spot Banquet Records’ Jon Tolley up front, catching crowd surfers and escorting them to safety. Earlier I’d seen him carrying barriers and even a mixing desk. The guy works hard, and Banquet Records truly lives its “more than your local record store” mantra.

To most people, Sum 41’s a pop punk band mentioned alongside Blink 182, New Found Glory and Good Charlotte. But if you know them, and look beyond their breakout singles, they’re full-blown shredders. Brownsound’s solos are NUTS! The very definition of face-melting. And finally, I get Rancid guitarist Lars Frederiksen’s expression “knuckle tight.”

Sum 41 end their set with “In Too Deep,” followed by the most predictable encore in the history of rock ‘n roll. And finally, after a quick blast through “Over My Head (Better Off Dead),” they’re done. What a night. I’m still tingling as step outside, into the welcome embrace of the cold winter air and head for the station.

Bouncing Souls, Pears – Fighting Cocks, Kingston

bouncing souls, fighting cocks, kingston

Bouncing Souls & Pears
Fighting Cocks, Kingston – 7.07

I’m not the biggest Bouncing Souls fan in the world but I know enough to know that they’re a big deal. The smooth New Brunswick, New Jersey punk rockers have been at it since 1988 – two years longer than Lagwagon and three more than Rancid – and seeing them in a sweaty little pub like The Fighting Cocks, for the first time, was a treat I couldn’t pass up. Plus New Orleans Fat Wreck newbies Pears are supporting, and I haven’t seen them before either.

It’s not like I’m a total Bouncing Souls virgin. I did get massively into their 2003 album Anchors Aweigh, as well as their 2006 follow up The Gold Record. Of course, I also know classics like “True Believers,” “Hopeless Romantic,” “Manthem” and “Kate Is Great.” And that Bouncing Souls have some of the worst album art and t-shirt and sticker designs in the history of rock ‘n roll. Just look at the cover of their new album Simplicity – WTF? They almost make Strung Out’s artwork look decent.

Before the show word goes around that Pears will be on stage at 8:15pm, so I get to The Fighting Cocks earlier than usual. But already, the place smells like sweat and beer, an odour I waste no time contributing to – on both counts. Two beers later and it’s time for Pears.

The Fighting Cocks is the definition of “intimate venue.” And the place hosts big bands like Against Me!, Strung Out, Slaves, and now, Bouncing Souls. Still, the only thing I can think about walking into the venue section of the pub is the stench of sweat, damp and mould.

pears, fighting cocks, kingston

Pears are already on stage and I’m surprised by their look. I don’t know why, but I was picturing hipper, skinny jeans, Warped Tour kids. Instead, these guys already look like a classic Fat Wreck band; overweight, balding, bad facial hair, baggy shorts. I like them more instantly.

Skinny, mustachioed frontman Zach Quinn throws himself around like a madman, barking words so fast they sound guttural and unintelligible. Without his shirt, he looks like a combination of Gollum and Burt Reynolds. And at one point, he goes full-on Pan’s Labyrinth, covering his eyes with his palm tattoos for dramatic effect.

His melodic bits are spot on as well. And guitarist Brian Pretus provides perfect support with his massive, mega-in-tune backups. The music’s schizophrenic, taking in influences like old Propagandhi, NOFX and Guttermouth, and spitting them out in a frenzy of mad-sounding tempo changes, frantic time signatures, old-school hardcore slam dances and straight up melodic punk rock singalongs.

Current drummer Jarret Nathan, who joined the band in 2015, calls the shots on stage – he’s incredible. And his tight fills and Frenzal Rhomb-ish flourishes help prog up Pears’ otherwise punk rock sound. “This song’s for motherfucking Brandon Carlisle,” says Pretus, before the band launches into a blitzkreig-fast take on Ramones’ “Judy Is a Punk.”

It’s easy to spot that Pears have been on the road for a long time. They’re insanely tight and well rehearsed, replicating their albums perfectly – only faster and with more intensity. On top of that, the new songs they bang out sound even more exciting. Before the last song, Pretus begs the crowd to buy the band’s remaining merch, so he can pay rent. Then he begs for some weed, because him and bassist Erich Goodyear, who joined Pears this year, are all out. And suddenly, it’s obvious that this is a band decades apart from headliners Bouncing Souls. But their time will come, and one day their weed will be delivered, free-of-charge.

Even in the small, damp pub the bands’ polar opposite statuses are obvious. First of all, there’s a new fan for relatively new drummer George Rebelo, from Hot Water Music, who joined Bouncing Souls in 2013. And on top of that, there’s a tech guy with a beard and a torch setting up and checking all their gear for them.

the bouncing souls, fighting cocks, kingston

By the time Bouncing Souls hit the stage The Fighting Cocks is unbearable. Everywhere I look there are fat guys with no shirts and spotty backs, glistening with sweat under the orange lights. Oh man… It’s gonna get all Along Came Polly in here.

The first thing that strikes me is how unlikely frontman Greg Attonito looks. He reminds me of Michael Keaton, or something, holding the microphone like a rat pack crooner in his smart button-up black shirt. His voice sounds awesome, though, flavoured with decades of punk rock.

The band kicks into “That Song,” from 2001’s How I Spent My Summer Vacation. And by song three, “Kate Is Great,” The Fighting Cocks has lost it. I look up and see Banquet Records’ Jon Tolley smiling in the front row. People literally cannot believe their luck.

The first song that hits me is “Lean On Sheena,” which sounds awesome. But halfway through the song the seven-foot giant in front of me starts calling his buddy, who’s just out of shot, telling him there’s space for him in the front. Only he’s pointing exactly where I’m standing. And of course, the new guy is massive. His friend tells him to take off his shirt, but thank God he decides against it.

Other set standouts include “Hopeless Romantic,” “Anchors Aweigh,” “Kid,” “Sing Along Forever,” “The Gold Song” and gig closer “True Believers.” The second they’re done, though, I’m out the door and away. By the end I was battling to even breathe in there. It takes me more than half an hour to realise it’s actually cold out. Great night. But personally, I found Pears more exciting. More vital, I guess. Hungrier. Speaking of which… I stick on my flannel shirt and head towards Five Guys.

Blink 182 Acoustic Show – Rose Theatre, Kingston

Mark hoppus, matt skiba, blink 182

Blink 182 (acoustic)
The Rose Theatre, Kingston – 7.06

Compared to the bands I usually watch, Blink-182 are a BIG fucking deal – to all ages. And all Blink fans are the same: keen and punctual! When they played Brixton Academy in 2014 the queue wrapped around the venue and down the road behind it. I’ve never seen that at Brixton Academy, before or since. It’s not that there were any more people than usual – the capacity’s always the same – everyone just showed up at the same time, before the doors opened. Couldn’t wait any longer, could we.

Last night was the same. I guess this time it was forced, though, as you had to queue to collect your tickets from Banquet Records and then queue again to enter the Rose Theatre around the corner.

Both queues were immense and there was a definite festival vibe in the air, as people drank beer from plastic cups and talked Matt Skiba, Tom DeLonge and Blink-182. Luckily, the lines moved pretty smoothly – you’ve gotta commend Banquet for how they handled the whole thing. What a professional outfit, right down to the old-school physical tickets. I had a green one, for the 7:00pm matinee show, added due to “unprecedented demand” when people turned up and queued for 11 hours to get into the original 9:00pm performance.

Bassist Mark Hoppus and new guitarist Matt Skiba were no doubt here for some kind of California album promo work, and drummer Travis Barker, of course, famously doesn’t fly. Still, a street cred-boosting acoustic show with Banquet in an intimate venue in Kingston was a pretty decent substitute for full-on Blink. And before I know it I’m sitting in the upper tier of the theatre, looking down on a torch-wielding roadie tuning an acoustic Fender Kingman bass guitar.

It’s a cultured setting for a Blink-182 show. Punctuated perfectly when Mark and Skiba (sounds weird to call him Matt) opened with an acoustic version of “Family Reunion.” Ah, the hallowed boards of the Rose Theatre…

Mark hoppus, matt skiba, blink 182 - rose theatre

“Skiba! Skiba!” shouted the crowd. “Hoppus! Hoppus!” replied Skiba. “What the fuck guys?” said Mark. “You know I lived here for three years, right?”

Next up, “The Rock Show.” And Skiba seemed totally at ease with his new day (and night) job. He played his guitar with confidence and talked shit with Mark like he’d been doing it all his life. On the next track, “Miss You,” there was an expectant silence before fired guitarist Tom DeLonge’s big bit.

“Where are you? And I’m so sorry…” Skiba nailed it. He actually sounded awesome, and a wave of internal cheers pulsed through the crowd. The best bit was he wasn’t trying to mimic Tom, he was just doing his own thing – it was also cool to hear “voice inside my head,” not “yed,” for a change.

Musically, Skiba also seemed to play the harder, higher guitar bits, rather than settle for the easier options – which is pretty impressive on an acoustic neck. Up next, “What’s My Age Again?” Followed by an impromptu song about Kingston while Robert the road dude tuned Mark’s bass again.

Mark hoppus, matt skiba, blink 182 - rose theatre - kingston

New single “Bored to Death” was the best song of the set. It was the first song with a hint of the new musical partnership, with darker, more brooding riffs and a touch of Skiba – even the title is classic Alkaline Trio.

And that’s where it was meant to end. But Mark and Skiba were so overwhelmed by the response (and pre-orders) they practiced a few more songs “twenty minutes before” we all walked in.

“Stay Together for the Kids” was the one blip on the set. All of a sudden I did miss Tom’s signature nasal twang on the high “So here’s your holiday…” bits. Mark and Skiba’s vocal ranges are a lot closer than Mark and Tom’s, and the song didn’t sound as good as the rest of the set.

“Down,” on the other hand, sounded incredible. Skiba sang the words with such care and attention to detail, totally taking the lead and owning it. Right down to the “this can’t be the end…” lament. “All the Small Things” was a treat, and “Josie” was an awesome way to end the acoustic trip down memory lane.

Oh yeah, someone was nice enough to film the whole thing…

Dillinger Four, Stay Clean Jolene, The Number Ones – The Dome, Tufnell Park

Erik Funk Dillinger Four
The Number Ones, Stay Clean Jolene & Dillinger Four
The Dome, Tufnell Park – 28.04

I can distinctly remember reading (and re-reading) an old Fat Wreck zine I got with a postal order in the early 2000s. It had a list of Fat Wreck musicians’ favourite albums of the year. Lagwagon frontman Joey Cape’s was Dillinger Four‘s 2002 record Situationist Comedy. It was the first time I’d ever heard of D4 and I remember thinking, “Damn, if it’s Joey Cape’s favourite it must be the shit.” A thought vindicated 33 seconds into track one “Noble Stabbings!!”

I think it’s fair to say that the Minneapolis quartet aren’t the most active, or productive, band in the world; they’ve released four studio albums in 22 years and the last time they toured the U.K. was 2009 – a year before I moved to London. So tonight was special. Seeing Dillinger Four was a big deal. Their 2008 album Civil War‘s one of those gems you know every word of.

When we get to The Dome opening band The Number Ones is on. A Dublin-based supergroup, from the sounds of things. We catch the last few songs. The band’s all big hair and complicated shirts. The music’s retro, garagey powerpop, saccharine and catchy. But some of the singing’s out of tune, which makes it hard to get into.

Stay Clean Jolene John Dagger

Up next is Manchester band Stay Clean Jolene. Another surprising support act for a band as cult and iconic as Dillinger Four. There’s a workman-like quality to Stay Clean Jolene’s sound and they remind me a bit of seminal Sunderland punk band Leatherface. But without the same kind of dark, brooding, storyteller’s poetry.

Instead, the music’s lighter, up-tempo and more skate punk. Guitarist and backup vocalist William Farley’s screams and riffs sound modern alongside frontman John Dagger’s gravelly vocals and more old-school punk rock demeanor. But overall, they come across a bit like a band that got back together after some time off.

Dillinger Four, The Dome, Tufnell Park, London

In my mind, Dillinger Four are larger-than-life punk rock superheroes. Instead, four pretty old-looking dudes who clearly enjoy a pint walk out sipping cans of Kronenbourg. But as soon as Erik Funk kicks into the opening riff for “A Jingle for the Product,” it’s on like fucking Donkey Kong.

Dillinger Four have just got such a kick-ass combination of wit, social commentary and fart jokes. The songs are insightful and all heart. And Erik Funk has one of the coolest voices in punk rock; a catchy lament that’s part whisper, part gremlin and all melody. Of course, he’s more than backed up by his more bear-like bass-playing cohort Patrick Costello and D4’s own Matt Freeman, second guitarist Bill Morrisette.

Dillinger Four Patrick Costello

“Saturday night in London town,” says Costello over and over – it’s Thursday. Songs like “Noble Stabbings,” “Minimum Wage is a Gateway Drug” and “Gainesville” sound awesome and D4 look like superheroes playing them. Before “Minimum Wage is a Gateway Drug,” Costello says, “This next song, she’s about theft” over and over, turning his back on different sections of the crowd and urging them to slap his arse after each delivery. A slightly more non-committal, “Can I get an amen brothers and sisters.”

Towards the end of the set, Dillinger Four do seem to get a bit rustier and Morrisette’s vocals sound badly out of tune singing “Walk away” on final song “D4=Putting the ‘F’ Back in ‘Art’.” It can’t end like this. Surely…

And it doesn’t. The band comes back out to play “Holy Shit,” off their “first seven inch.” Unfortunately, they don’t look like they’ve played it together for years and I start to wish they’d ended on a high, like “Maximum Piss and Vinegar” or “Gainesville.” Still, it can’t ruin the night. Especially when I get my copy of Civil War signed by the entire band. Score.

The Flatliners, Pale Angels – Dingwalls, Camden

Flatliners at Dingwalls, Camden
Pale Angels, The Flatliners
Dingwalls, Camden – 21.04

I’d never been to Dingwalls before and didn’t know what to expect – other than “a 500-capacity venue in the heart of Camden” that has “seen the likes of Mumford & Sons, Foo Fighters and Coldplay perform.” And when we saunter in, that’s exactly what we get. Only this time U.S./Welsh punks Pale Angels are on stage, blasting their way through a non-stop set of off-kilter grungy rock ‘n roll.

The first thing that strikes me, other than U.S. guitarist and co-frontman Mike Santostefano’s striking vocal resemblance to Kurt Cobain, is the fact that they’ve got two drummers. Well, 1.5… really. There’s the regular guy, on a conventional drum set up. And then there’s the drumming equivalent of backseat driver, whose sat right next to him, bashing away on his own set of toms and cymbals.

Pale Angels, Dingwalls, Camden, London

As a drummer, it’s unsettling watching the conventional guy look over his shoulder, like, “Come on dude, keep up.” While the backup percussionist watches the conventional drummer, like, “Dude, what are you hitting next?” I’m not sure what the situation is; did an older drummer rejoin the band and they didn’t want to kick out his newer, better replacement? Or was he a Make-A-Wish kid whose one dream was to co-drum for Pale Angels at Dingwalls?

Other than that, the most striking thing about the band is gangly bassist Jamie Morrison’s intense stage performance and killer fuzz – at times it sounds like he’s on lead bass. And suddenly, without a word, the band kicks out of Santostefano’s slower, garagey blues, as Morrison takes the lead on blistering punk rock stinger “Ditch Digger.”

IMG_9164

The song sounds more like Morrison’s other band The Arteries, and it’s a welcome lift. The weird thing is the two co-frontmen don’t seem to sing much on each other’s songs.

When Morrison’s done the band slips back a couple of gears and we head to the bar. At one point I thought it sounded like they were off on a weird Doors jam without keyboards.

flatliners at dingwalls, camden, london 5

Canadian headliners The Flatliners have got to be one of the hardest-working bands in punk rock. Without even meaning to I’ve seen them six times – they even seem to be in London more than Against Me!. Last time I saw them, however, it was a letdown that left a lingeringly sour taste in my mouth. And things don’t start well.

Frontman Chris Cresswell’s guitar isn’t working on first song “Birds of England.” Rolling with the punches the band kicks into “Sew My Mouth Shut,” which sounds fierce – love that song. Then I catch a glimpse of drummer Paul Ramirez, who looks like a stoned Yoda behind his kit – his eyes look higher than his cymbals.

Last time I saw The Flatliners they played the O2 Academy Islington, supporting Lagwagon. And the sound exposed how softly Ramirez seems to hit his kit. I found it hard to get into that show. It also didn’t help that he was followed by Lagwagon’s Dave Raun.

flatliners at dingwalls, camden, london 4

This time, same thing. Only if you don’t look directly at him he sounds fine. Better than fine, in fact – the dude’s a shredder. But the way he brushes his cymbals like he’s doing the dusting is such a turn-off. I grab a vantage point where I can’t see his face directly and get swept up – he’s like a reverse Medusa.

A few songs in the crowd gets caught up as well, fist-pumping to “July! August! Reno!” and singing along to hits like “Monumental” and “Resuscitation of the Year.” And finally, “Eulogy,” which is followed by a defiant-sounding rendition of “Christ Punchers” and a crowd-pleasing encore of “Count Your Bruises” – what a song to have on standby. We leave Dingwalls on a high.

flatliners at dingwalls, camden, london 3