The rain, which seemed like a biblical plague in its proportions, which had me envisioning gathering up animals two by two while simultaneously building an ark, didn’t stop me from making the nearly hour long drive to the Foo Fighter’s studio/rehearsal space, an impressive concrete compound housing the artistic life of one of the true heroes of indie rock, Dave Grohl. I didn’t get to meet Dave there, but I did sit on his toilet, which made me stay in the bathroom for an extraordinary amount of time marveling at it (“Where’s Margaret? She’s been gone everlong!”) because the lid of the seat is actually a guitar. A fucking guitar toilet seat with a soundhole and a bridge and a pickguard. I shit you not. it was the coolest rock and roll bathroom accessory I have ever seen in my entire rock life.
I met our rhythm section – the amazing Jon Wurster (of Superchunk) and I talked about seeing his legendary band so many times and also one time eating in a booth adjacent to them at the 101 café in Hollywood and Jason Narducy, who flew in from Chicago just that morning to back me and Grant-Lee Phillips up in our version of “Your Favorite Thing”, a beautiful Sugar song from one of the greatest records “file under easy listening”. The power of Jon’s drumming blew my mind, as Grant and I have been doing the song ‘o, brother where art thou?’ style mostly, in my acoustic ways, and so we were realizing the power of the track as it’s meant to be played and I was learning how to sing in front of the fast approaching wall of sound behind me. We ran through it a few times and I felt my heart beating fast, in the way that it always did when I went to rock shows then and now. When the band is playing I have the thought, “never stop. I never want this moment to end.” I felt it so many times seeing so many bands all over the world and now this time I was the band and I was singing the song with a makeshift band of some of the best musicians in the world and I never wanted it to end. But we had to be somewhere.
I left speedily and made my way back to my house where I put together a string instrument inspired outfit for my gig with The Section Quartet. Grant and I opened and sort of hosted – actually we just appeared a number of different times, so it was less about hosting and more about disappearing and reappearing. The Section Quartet had put the night together at Largo for a benefit for Japan – raising money to make sure that the children there were not deprived of musical instruments, and so the event drew some incredible luminaries in the music world.
We shared the stage with Matt Sharp of Weezer and The Rentals – who I reminded of a shirt that he had worn during a SPIN photo shoot that had the words “I love janeane garofalo” scrawled on it. He really laughed and told me there had been much love between the Ben Stiller Show and Weezer during that period in the early 90s, and they had not yet met but were sending messages back and forth through interviews and photoshoots. These were the days before Twitter. It was a grunge version of a smoke signal. Also in attendance were Linda Perry (I love love love love love love love her), Wendy and Lisa, who sound and look amazingly beautiful as ever ( I love them so much), Lisa Germano (I’m obsessed), Sam Phillips (I was real real real starstruck by her), Van Dyke Parks (I tried to contain my excitement he is an icon) and members of one of my most favorite bands from the 90s Failure, Ken Andrews and Kelli Scott. I had followed them on the road for a time, and Ken even gave me a cassette of Failure’s version of Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence” in the Failure van parked outside the Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco when the band played there in 1996. I still have the cassette, but nothing to play it on, I don’t have a tape player, along with some Failure promotional photographs and a black nylon Failure windbreaker that was never sold as merchandise, rather given to record executives and radio personalities to show their allegiance to the brand of heavy, emotional, thoughtful, prog-inspired metallic rock that Failure were all about.
I forced Ken and Kelli to let me sing backup on “The Nurse Who Loved Me” and I sat at the piano and remembered all the words. I realize now I should have harmonized but I was just too fucking excited to think about it. After the first verse, Ken looked at me and smiled, in that way that musicians look at each other while they are on stage and express that camaraderie that makes rock roll. It’s a moment that is a space between the notes where you realize that this is music and this is amazing and we are making it and we are all in this together. It’s that moment that I never want to end. Ever.