Foo Fighters Launch "Sonic Highways" Album And HBO TV Series In Chicago With Gig At Cubby Bear!!


I'm just going to come right out and say it: Dave Grohl is probably the best rock "every man" to ever walk the earth.  He is, without a doubt, the one guy that most men would wanna have a beer with and most women would love to bring home to mother.  I mean, who of us couldn't see Dave winning over even the most hardened heart with his easy smile and witty banter?

Whatever rough edges he may have had are long since rounded off and his three decades of criss-crossing the globe in the name of rock & roll have made him one of the best rock schmoozers to ever play the game.  So when it was announced that he and the band would be coming to town to record a tune inspired by the city itself, and to film a documentary of the process while also paying tribute to those artists from Chicago that inspired him, I found it incredibly ambitious.

After all, the Foo Fighters are a band who have earned the right to take it easy.  In fact, it can be argued that they may have gone through that period in their history (which I would put somewhere around the "Learning To Fly" period) and found it unbearable.  For them to exist, Grohl would have to keep coming up with ways to not only inspire himself, but his band mates as well.

On 2011's Wasting Light, he built a top-flight recording studio in his garage, reunited with Butch Vig (and, for one song, Krist Novaselic), and recorded everything to 2" analog tape to keep it old school.

He quickly followed that up with the "Sound City" documentary which, again could have just been a documentary on the legendary San Fernando Valley recording studio, but he took it as an opportunity to collaborate with (and promote) Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Fear's Lee Ving, Sir Paul McCartney, and Rick Springfield.

His love with the visual medium continues on "Sonic Highways", now a weekly series on HBO that will cover each city/each song on the Foo Fighters' album of the same name.  Grohl chose to kick off the series with the Chicago episode, as the song they recorded here ("Something From Nothing") opens the album.  He also chose to promote the launch of the series with a "surprise" gig at the Cubby Bear last Thursday night that HBO streamed online,

Naked Raygun's Jeff Pezzati
Those who've had the chance to see the first episode were no doubt happy to see Naked Raygun's Jeff Pezzati get some notable screen time, considering how instrumental they've been in spearheading the city's punk scene back when there was none and in giving the now well-established Riot Fest some early credibility.

Grohl, of course, tells the story during the episode about visiting family in the Midwest and finding out that his cousin was a punk rocker.  She turned him on to a bunch of cool indie records and took him to see an all-ages Naked Raygun show at the Cubby Bear and single-handedly set in motion the events leading to Dave Grohl becoming the face of alternative rock.

Albini!
So, as the episode begins, the band sets up shop at Steve Albini's Electrical Audio.  Albini, of course, produced In Utero so he and Grohl have a history.  Grohl is nice enough to give viewers a mini-history of Albini's beginnings as a punk irritant (in other words, he even annoyed the early punk community) and transition into the now-legenday indie rock "engineer" who, along the way, has worked with the Breeders, Robbie Fulks, PJ Harvey, the Pixies, Cheap Trick, and Nirvana (just to name a few).

Grohl earns bonus points for simply letting Albini talk because, as anyone who has ever listened to the man or read one of his interviews knows, he is one of the most frank and well-spoken musician producers you will ever meet.  In a short time, we learn how he formed Big Black, what his basic business principals are, and what his monthly nut is ($30,000) to keep Electrical Audio above water.

Incredulously, we soon realize that Electrical Audio is the location where the band will be recording, but that Butch Vig will actually be producing the track.  Nothing against Vig, who also played an integral part in the foundation of the midwestern punk scene by producing seminal acts Die Kreuzen, Killdozer and Laughing Hyenas, but it would've been cool to have Albini produce the track.

The obligatory nod to Chicago's blues community is paid -Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, and Chess Records, et al.  Buddy gets off a great quote, saying "I went to Chicago looking for a dime and found a quarter."



Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen is brought into the studio to contribute a guitar track that, from the look of it, took all of ten minutes to cut.  As a huge fan of Cheap Trick myself, I will never tire of Grohl's desire to involve Nielsen in anything that he does.  Nielsen, of course, made a very brief appearance in "Sound City" as well.

While I may not necessarily be moved by his band's music, the thing that dawned on me as I watched this episode is that he paid tribute to the very same artists I would have if my music career had taken a similar high-profile path as Grohl's.  In that respect, "Sonic Highways" seems like the most honorable of victory laps. where instead of making it all about him, Grohl has chosen to share the spotlight with all the great talents who inspired him along the way.

He also brought a lot of attention to the Cubby Bear, where his band's performance last Thursday was loose and fun.  He could just as easily have played across the street at Wrigley Field - am I right? - but he chose the path less traveled and showed some love to the venue where it all began for him.

What's not to love about that?

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