OK, SXSW. You win.
I know we’ve had a contentious relationship in the past. You’re cost-prohibitive and complicated. You play things very close to the vest. And most egregious of all, you make thousands of hipsters descend on our city each year, making it impossible to do anything at all downtown without a ridiculous hassle. But after last night, I will love you forever.
I’ve never gotten a SXSW badge of any kind, but when I found out the film schedule this year included a documentary on the Foo Fighters (i.e., the Greatest Rock and Roll Band Alive) called Foo Fighters: Back and Forth, I figured it was worth the wait in the single ticket line to see if I could make it in. With individual tickets, it’s really hit or miss on whether you’ll even get in the theater, even if you’ve waited for hours, because badge, pass and online ticket sales people all get in first.
But it’s the Foo Fighters. I’ve loved them since 1995. And rumors swirled that the boys would actually be in attendance. So I stand in line for nearly two hours. Then, the famous white limo bearing the FF logo rolls up and there they are, walking into the theater. Everyone in the ticket lines strained on tiptoe to catch a glimpse. It’s a madhouse, and I am thinking I’m not going to get in. Then, at the last minute, a reprieve. The SXSW volunteer says we’ll make it inside. Luckily for me, I have the best husband in all of space and time, and since he has a film badge and got in long before me, he saved me a seat in the front row of the balcony.
The band came out on stage to say hello before the movie began. The crowd, packed to capacity, went predictably nuts. Then the band took a seat in one of the balcony boxes to watch. The documentary, directed by James Moll, was amazing. I laughed. I cried. (Nirvana and the Foo Fighters meant a lot to me as a teenager, so I’ve got a strong emotional connection there.) Seriously, Dave Grohl just has buckets of adorableness to spare, and all of the band members past (including ex-drummer William Goldsmith and ex-guitarist Franz Stahl) and present (Dave, Taylor Hawkins, Nate Mendel, Pat Smear and Chris Shifflett) gave such honest commentary and perspective on everything from line-up changes to hostility within the band to drug overdoses. The movie began, of course, with Nirvana’s rise and tragic end, followed by Dave’s one-man debut effort with the self-titled Foo Fighters album in 1995 all the way through to the recording of their forthcoming seventh album, Wasting Light, which they recorded in Dave’s garage, surrounded by kids and wives and grilling and swimming, and miles and years away from Dave playing every instrument on “I’ll Stick Around” a decade and a half earlier.
After the screening, my husband told me that as a badgeholder, he had gotten a special wristband to get into some sort of ‘afterparty’ at Stubbs. He was hoping to head straight to another film, so I spent 15 minutes carefully removing his wristband (did I mention that he’s the best husband ever?) and affixing it to my wrist to make it look like it had been mine all along then hauled ass to another huge line outside Stubbs. I nearly wrote the whole thing off at that point, figuring that music badgeholders would get priority, but then, a lovely staff member walked by to assure us we’d all be getting in. Even with my lowly line position, I managed to be only about the length of a pick-up truck from the stage, if that. Maybe 10 or so people deep in front of me. This is a band that I’ve seen before in arenas, stadiums, huge outdoor festivals. And I’m seeing them in a small outdoor venue that holds no more than a couple thousand. And I’m 10 people deep from the stage. Then they come out onstage. And it’s not an afterparty; it’s a show. The first thing out of Dave’s mouth is “We’re fuckin’ movie stars!” They play for an hour and 45 minutes straight, starting with their new album, start to finish, including lead single “Rope” and “I Should Have Known,” which Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic played on the album. After the new album, Dave apologized for not having time to tell stories like he normally does and promised to return to Austin soon for a two-hour-and-45-minute set. Instead, he says, “We’re going to play some massive fucking hits,” which they did, starting with “All My Life” and followed by “Times Like These,” “My Hero,” “Learn to Fly,” “The Pretender,” a jammed-out version of “Stacked Actors,” “Monkey Wrench,” “Everlong,” “Best of You” and ending, where it all began, as Dave said, with “This is a Call.”
It’s truly one of the coolest and absolute best concerts I’ve ever been to. I’m still buzzing. So, thank you, SXSW, thank you, Foo Fighters, and thank you, O’Husband, for very generously giving your wristband to your wife!
In the meantime, while you’re waiting for Wasting Light to come out on April 12, check out the trailer for Foo Fighters: Back and Forth, which will be playing select theaters in April and premiering on VH1 soon.