For some reason, Stone Temple Pilots never make it on the list of ‘my bands’. Why is that? I pretty much know every word to every song. I go see Weiland or the DeLeo brothers anytime they are near. What’s the deal?
I can distinctly remember seeing the video for ‘Plush’ in 1992 and thinking, ‘what is this?’. I have a very vivid and bizarrely random memory of being in the back of my parent’s suburban in 1993, as we moved from Houston to a small town in Texas, and I was listening to a cassette tape I had made of songs I recorded from the radio. The songs I remember were STP’s ‘Creep’ and Radiohead’s ‘Creep’. I remember thinking, ‘it’s weird that these bands that appeal to the same demographic have songs with the same title and similar thematic elements that released at the same time’. OK, maybe I didn’t think quite in those terms….
However, STP will be most tied to a pastime that existed within my small town called ‘roadtripping’. Sure, everyone knows what that is- but to us it was often our only social option. We had it down to a science- there were small ‘backroads’ that made a giant loop around our small town of 10,000 people. There were stopping points along many of the roads (one was called ’69’….not after the sexual position, but rather, the hidden Tool track), where you might stop and meet up with people. But most of all, the roadtrips involved alcohol and music. You’d pile your friends in the car, people would fight to play DJ, you’d crack open a beer, and you’d hit the road. It sounds horribly dangerous- and it was- but these are the things you do when your town doesn’t even have a movie theater.
STP would often be the music of choice. It appealed to everyone. There’s something about the pace that’s good for driving, and the mood is upbeat but not too happy. It reminds me of sunny Texas springs, low water crossings, dark curvy roads, and green grass.
I first saw STP in 2002 opening for Aerosmith in San Antonio. It was my first and last lawn ticket. They were really far away. It had been raining for days, but had stopped in time for the show. It was incredibly muddy and slippery. Some drunk chick decided she didn’t want to go find the restrooms and pulled down her pants to pee on the lawn, and slipped and fell in the mud on her bare ass. One of my top hilarious concert memories. But I don’t even remember what they played.
After making the much hated trip over the Bay Bridge, I arrived at the beautiful Fox Theater and walked straight up to the front row corner of the barrier- ‘my spot’. You know it’s a good one when the cocktail waitress walks by and whispers, ‘you have the best spot in the house’.
At precisely 8pm, the opener walks onstage. I hadn’t done my research; so when they launch into Police songs, I’m caught pretty off guard. They are The Police Experience, a tribute band. Now, I can completely separate their talent and my special hatred for The Police. I realize that they sounded really good; that mimicking Sting’s voice takes talent. But that music is like nails on a chalkboard to me. Also, I thought it was a really strange choice of opener…..REALLY strange. In fact, I started to wonder if Weiland was back on drugs again.
Between sets, there was a sudden influx of the most annoying female concert-goers imaginable. Two drunk girls on my left start flirting with security, and don’t stop talking to him for the rest of the night. They were actually doing a photo shoot with him…..it was ridiculous…..even more ridiculous that this is not the first time I’ve seen it happen. By the end of the night they were falling all over me, and I’d look at security, like- do your fucking job- and he would look at me, say sorry, prop the girls back up, and continue the flirtation. Then there was a girl who looked about 16, with her boyfriend, who was the very definition of amateur hour. She tried to get on his shoulders. She would yell ‘Encore!’ before the main set was even over. She kept talking about how she was ready for the mosh pit and wanted to crowd surf. But the worst was that she kept throwing her hands in the air like she was shooting a basketball at each member of the band and hitting us in the front row in the head the entire night.
But, the band was so good that I was able to forget about all of that.
They walk out and begin with ‘Silvergun Superman’, a killer, if unusual intro. I’m standing right in front Robert DeLeo, who is super fun to watch. He just radiates that energy where you know he must be a really nice guy in real life.
The stage has a large screen at the back, with a visual sequence for each song. Moving onto ‘Wicked Garden’, my focus moves to Mr. Scott Weiland.
Weiland is one of my favorite front men. After seeing Perry Farrell so much this year, I feel like there are a lot of similarities. There’s something old school about his performance- the way he dances and spins around on the stage. Then there’s the way that they wear their drug addled past. With the news of Weiland’s seizure on a plane last month, relapse rumors started to fly again. But he seemed sober. Weiland is painfully skinny, and he has the look in his eyes like he’s seen it all. Unlike Farrell, Weiland never smiles. For tonight’s performance, he seemed almost uptight about delivering a technically perfect performance. When he did look at the crowd, there was almost fear in his eyes. There’s something about watching him up there that is like looking at a ghost.
‘Vasoline’. ‘Big Empty’. ‘Lounge Fly’. In my mind, I’m sailing down the road in my burgundy Nissan 240SX, with the sunroof open, and it’s 95 degrees outside. Dean DeLeo is playing the chords on my hood, and Weiland is dancing on the roof.
There’s little talking to the crowd- a ‘how are you doing Oakland?’ here and a ‘you might know this song’ there. This performance was more about giving us STP’s greatest hits and executing them perfectly. It’s really comforting to go to a show where I know every single song that is played…..a lot of the shows I go to are for bands I’m only marginally familiar with.
The band chemistry was good…..with Weiland’s track record of pissing off his band members, they definitely set that aside on stage. He would dance around and lean on the DeLeo brothers to help spotlight their playing from time to time. They looked like they were having fun.
They briefly left the stage and came back out for two more songs- the always fun ‘Dead and Bloated’ and ‘Trippin’ on a Hole in a Paper Heart’. They all gathered at center stage and took a bow.
All of the guitar picks had been thrown to the center or over my head, and to my surprise, as soon as the band left the stage, what I’m pretty sure was the band’s head of security came and handed me a guitar pick, saying, “I think you missed out on getting one of these”. I thanked him and asked if it was possible to get a setlist, and he walked up on stage and pulled it off the ground for me. As you can imagine, I was floored. You don’t encounter security that is that nice very often. On my way out, people kept stopping me to look at the setlist like I had won a prize. It felt good.
It has the wrong date and city, and is missing ‘Sin’…..but otherwise should be accurate.
Maybe I should add STP to my list of favorite bands.