The Skip 5 Show #12: Stone Temple Pilots – Church On Tuesday
Man, I miss Weiland, we all do. Anyway, you likely know this one already. This is the STP we know so well, with big guitars and that layered sound that makes everything soar. It swings a bit, and even has tympanis at the end. Found on their 2000 album No.4, this wasn’t a single but it damn well could have been.
Welcome to the first-ever bone chilling, spine tingling, Halloween SLCR spooktacular! Oooh, scary! A night of ghosts and goblins, witches and draculas, your credit card debt, giving a presentation and PowerPoint won’t open, making eye contact with a stranger, 63 million Trump voters, the ceaseless passage of time reflected in your ever-decaying body. And a full-size Snickers if your costume is special enough.
For only the second time in SLCR history, I went to a show on Halloween. The last was when Pat and I saw The Tea Party at Louis’ in 1996 – 22 years ago, SLCR #4 – see above re: ceaseless passage. I didn’t know the band and only went because Pat had a spare ticket at the last minute. It was sold out, absolutely jam-packed, and there was a girl in a genie costume. Barbara Eden genie, not Robin Williams genie. Beyond that, I don’t really remember what she looked like anymore so much as I remember being very invested in what she looked like. As far as The Tea Party, I liked them fine, probably. I don’t remember anything being spooky.
However, I picked an appropriately frightening show for this occasion. An arena full of Halloween drunks! Four bands on a worknight! One of which I’ve never heard of, two I actively don’t care about, and what amounts to a tribute band as a headliner!
Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland battled addiction issues for pretty much his whole career. The band broke up, got back together, they kicked him out, they brought him back – it was constant chaos. I finally saw them with Mika and Dave in 2009 – fifteen years after I was really into them – and though I was expecting a trainwreck, it was actually pretty fun. They played tons of the songs I would have wanted from my high school days, and Weiland sounded great. (We’ll quietly move past the incident at a concert a few months after ours where Weiland fell off the stage but somehow kept right on singing.) Unfortunately, Weiland’s issues continued; he was eventually replaced in the band one last time before dying of an accidental overdose in 2015. A sad end that, frankly, most people saw coming but nobody was able to stop.
The new Stone Temple Pilots’ singer is Jeff Gutt, previously best known as a contestant on the reality show The X Factor. I had some curiosity about what they’d sound like these days, but not enough to get me in the door. Not at $100 for a general admission standing ticket. Not when I also had to buy tickets for Jack White and the Headstones (not together) (but now I wish they were). Not when the openers are Seether and Default, two bands I could happily go my whole life without ever seeing, and Age of Days, who I don’t know but I assume fall into a similar category.
I don’t know if a lot of people felt the same way I did or if everyone had Halloween plans, but I got an email out of the blue. Those $100 tickets? On sale for $25. Much more reasonable for a night I might not enjoy. I’d have been spitting nails if I’d spent $100 when tickets went on sale, but I didn’t, so hooray for a brief flash of fiscal responsibility and subsequent irresponsibility! Premium parking pass? No thank you, the free lot will have room enough for all.
I was flying solo for this one. Mika had to do school stuff and also had no interest in this clown show. And I should clarify, there were plenty of costumes, but not enough that I could call it a literal clown show. Probably for the best. No genies, but there were hundreds of random wigs and painted faces. I found Jesus AND several Waldos. I also got to play lots of my favourite Halloween game, “costume or oddball?” The answer may surprise you, but likely won’t.
After showering, dawdling, skipping supper, and handing out candy to all of three trick-or-treaters (policeman, princess, zombie princess), I got to the Brandt Centre as Age of Days was playing one of their first songs. I didn’t expect to recognize it, and I didn’t expect it to be a cover of Roxette’s The Look, but there we were. It was pretty good but you’d have to put effort into wrecking something that catchy.
I wandered around the stadium, passing some people enjoying a newly legal substance in a still illegal place, and taking a quick look at the stuff table. Eventually I found a spot to stand on the concourse level. I could have gone down to the floor, but why bother?
Age of Days played perfectly competent late 90s/early 2000s rock, the kind that I find kind of catchy but not super memorable, which is exactly what I think of both Seether and Default, so they were a good fit on this bill. I enjoyed it while it was happening, wouldn’t be in a rush to listen to more of their stuff, but wouldn’t turn them off if you put their record on. And that’s how you say “this was fine” in a paragraph’s worth of words.
Is it obvious I wrote most of this (to this point) before the show started and I wrote the bit about Age of Days while waiting for Default? I feel like I’m being inconsistent with my verb tenses and I don’t feel like caring.
As predicted, there aren’t a ton of people here. Or weren’t a ton there. Whatever.
Default got to use the lighting rig, so they’re officially a bigger deal than Age of Days. I liked Age of Days better, though. I thought I knew one Default song (Wasting My Time), but I knew two! So that was nice. They said the other song, Deny, was on the soundtrack to NHL 2003. Also, their new guitarist “refused to play Default songs in his high school cover band, in case you wanna know how fuckin’ old we are.” The highlight was when a crayon stood right by me, turned his back to the stage, and excitedly jumped up and down while his girlfriend, a dragon, shot a video.
Mika just texted. She’s back home and has had 2 more trick-or-treaters, bringing our combined total to 5. Verily, the gods have blessed us and we will feast for weeks on Mikes and Ikes. Which is good because I’m starting to regret skipping supper. I don’t want booze and not much else is open here. Maybe I can find a big pretzel while Seether is playing. I suspect my knowledge of Seether songs will make me feel like an expert on Default.
I spent $10 on a soft pretzel and a Coke Zero. The pretzel was crispy and chewy and salty and warm and the Coke Zero had little ice crystals in it. I’m not saying it was the best $10 I’ve ever spent, but it was worth arena prices.
Seether gets the lighting rig AND video screens, so we’ve leveled up again. We’ll see if Stone Temple Pilots can take things even further, though maybe not – Seether is technically a co-headliner. I’m just not giving them their due because I don’t care about them. I know one (Remedy) and a half (they did one with Evanescence lady I think?) Seether songs and they played all of them. I walked laps around the concourse and a very nice Brandt Centre employee offered to let me onto the floor, that area I have a ticket for but haven’t visited. The highlight, apart from “dinner,” was the fans throwing random costume parts on stage and the band gamely wearing everything, even though one wig/mask “smells like a ham sandwich. Did you smoke cigars in this thing?”
I should point out that there are people here really into Seether and Default. Don’t take my lack of enthusiasm at face value – the fans are having a great time. This just isn’t entirely my thing and I knew that going in. Age of Days are still my favourite so far.
The place is starting to fill up. The drunks haven’t been too bad; one just had a nice chat with me about what I was doing. (He guessed “texting” and I went along with that.) There are some couples where only one of them wore a costume and it’s never not funny. I wonder how their dinner went. One couple wore themed costumes and it made their fight in the lobby that much more distressing. I hope you can find happiness and peace, Wayne and Garth. You’re both worthy.
I just took another lap around the concourse. In the empty area behind the stage, another drunk told me how lonely everything looked. As a security guard passed us, the drunk loudly said “I come back here so I can put drugs in my drinks!” The security guard kept walking. The drunk laughed. Then he found another friend of his and I slipped away.
STP up shortly. I hope this doesn’t suck. I bet they play a bunch off their new album. I maybe should have listened to it once.
I’m home now. First things first – STP had the big lighting rig but no video screens. Seether wins. Anyway, the concert. I was way wrong about the setlist. Only two new songs. I took notes, and also had to google some of the titles because with STP, I have the hardest time associating titles to songs:
Big Bang Baby
Interstate Love Song
Roll Me Under
Dead and Bloated
Sex Type Thing
Piece of Pie
Trippin’ on a Hole in a Paper Heart
The real question is how did they sound, and – yeah, a Stone Temple Pilots cover band. A good one, mind – on Wicked Garden, Jeff Gutt sounded so much like Scott Weiland that with my eyes closed, I wouldn’t have known the difference. For the other songs, he sounded more like himself, though sometimes still sounding like he was doing an impression. But I don’t know how you avoid that and still give people what they expect from an STP concert.
The one misstep was Plush. It started with just Gutt and guitarist Dan DeLeo, and it felt like they were on entirely different pages. The rest of the band came back out one at a time and eventually everything came together, but it began on a really rough note. But that could just be the relatively short time they’ve played together, or maybe everybody loved it and I’m wrong here. Either way, beyond that, everything sounded really good. Big Bang Baby and new song Letter were particular highlights, as was Sex Type Thing (shame about those lyrics, though).
Gutt had big shoes to fill, but he delivered with confidence. I really enjoyed their set, but it’s hard to praise the show and the band without having it sound like a backhanded compliment. “He’s no Scott Weiland, but…” “It’s not the same, but…” And he’s not and it’s not, which isn’t meant as a knock. It just is what it is.
While I was watching the show, there was a baseball player and a nurse standing next to me and I was pretty sure they were going to start having sex right there on the concourse about three songs in. They left after a few more songs and I’m certain they just found a quiet corner somewhere to finish what they’d started. Then another guy came along and his costume was an insulation bag. Rockwool insulation, specifically. He cut armholes and eyeholes in it and that was that. Sounds scratchy.
This concert really came about 15 years too late. In high school, I was a big fan of Stone Temple Pilots. I dare say they were my favourite band for a time; specifically the time around the summer of 1994. I credit this mostly to "Purple," their second album. I can’t honestly say that I skipped class to buy the CD on the day it came out, but I did make productive use of a Christian Ethics (!) class that had theoretically been devoted to working on a group project. I played the heck out of that CD; or, rather, a tape I made of it that I left in the car for months until the tape deck ate it in order to force some variety into my musical diet.
And then "Tiny Music… Songs From The Vatican Gift Shop" came out. I am fine with that album now, but at the time, we did not get along. I don’t know what I thought I’d be getting but that wasn’t it. It turned me off the group in a major way for a while. Clearly, Scott Weiland was devastated by my wavering fandom and turned to drugs to soothe the pain. Lots and lots of drugs.
Combine the notorious drug issues with the on-again off-again status of STP, Weiland’s solo career, and Velvet Revolver, and we were pretty sure that this show would never happen, and if it did, it would suck. One friend of mine saw Stone Temple Pilots in Quebec a year or so ago and walked out halfway through. Another was backstage for a Velvet Revolver concert and saw them delay the show for an hour in hopes that Weiland would come down enough to be able to perform.
At first, we’d figured that Weiland’s bad reputation had followed them to their show at the Agridome. The tickets said the show would start at 7:00; when we arrived at 6:30, the doors were open and there was barely anyone inside. I knew they’d released a big block of discounted tickets earlier in the week, but this was looking mighty grim – worse than I expected.
I sent Jeff a text, asking if he was going to (or was at) the show. He replied that he was already there, and also commented on the lack of any sort of crowd. The sparse attendance was especially surprising because there were no seats on the floor – it was nice and open for everyone to rush the stage, and, well, no rushing was required. Jeff was right up at the front, easily visible because there was maybe a total of two dozen people down there.
As it turned out, I needn’t have asked Jeff if he was going; he’d already updated Twitter to say that he would be there. Specifically, he said "Going to see STP tonight. According to Wikipedia, Scott Weiland is not dead as of this moment, so that’s encouraging."
Being older and more feeble than Jeff, Mika, Dave, and I had actual seats. Before parking ourselves in them, we roamed around the Agridome, past the t-shirt stands and beer vendors that were not doing the business that they would have hoped for. The most bored looking employees were manning the ice cream stand, causing us all to wonder if anyone actually buys ice cream at a rock show. Over the course of the evening, we counted two people. They both opted for chocolate, if you were wondering.
At 6:59 – one minute early! – the lights dimmed and the voice of God boomed throughout the arena.
"LADIES AND GENTLEMEN…"
Dave: "…the show has been cancelled."
"…IT IS TIME FOR THE CRASH KINGS."
The few people in attendance made no noise whatsoever.
In the seconds before they started playing, a girl standing behind us said that Crash Kings sounded like a cross between Led Zeppelin and All-American Rejects. I must confess that this description sounded ridiculous, but having now heard them, I can see where she was coming from. I’ll let you decide for yourself whether this would be a good sound or not. I would rank them as being better than Something About An Elephant, the post-Xylon standard for crappy opening bands, but I do have to say that the best thing that they did was leave the stage. That sounds a little bit mean, I know, but, y’see… okay, so they played for about 40 minutes or so. They finished up a song – didn’t end on a proverbial high note or anything – and noodled around for a few seconds as though they were preparing for the next song. Then the lead singer wandered back to his mic, said "okay, we’re done" and they all walked off. It took the crowd a few seconds to realize that the set was, in fact over, and maybe some applause would be appropriate here.
By the time Crash Kings left, I’d say there were maybe 1,000 people in the arena. Probably less. And I bet there were only around 500 or so when they started. Even with a third of the arena blocked off for the stage, there was probably room for 6,000 people in the building.
There was a nice long wait after the opening act. Dave ran down the list of reasons why this might have been:
– They can’t find him
– They can’t wake him up
– They’re waiting for him to come down
Eventually, the lights dimmed again, and, well, there’s something to be said for low expectations. You’re rarely disappointed and you’re often pleasantly surprised, and this was quite the pleasant surprise. It wasn’t a blow-away stage show; the band played in front of a giant screen that showed a few video clips (including one from Mad Max, for some reason) but mostly ran what looked to be a really big Windows Media Player visualizer. But I didn’t care – the setlist was almost dead-on what 17-year-old me would have chosen and that made this show a huge success. They played almost everything from Purple, a bunch of songs of their first album, and almost nothing from beyond that – by my count, only one song each from "Tiny Music" and "No. 4" and nothing after those. I could see this being a letdown for a diehard STP fan, but it was about perfect for me.
If the music wasn’t enough, you could always watch the security guards maul the crowdsurfers. This was sensationally entertaining. Dudes were not gentle. They’d reach out into the crowd four-deep, grab a limb, and yank for dear life. They were going to pull every crowdsurfer out, and if that was impossible, they were going to pull at least part of every crowdsurfer out. Back in my day, you only lost glasses; I bet someone in this crowd lost an arm.
And it wound up being a surprisingly large crowd when it was all said and done – I’d imagine they got close to 5,000 people in there. Stone Temple Pilots fans must not be an awfully punctual bunch – either that, or they just don’t care about opening acts.
Joking aside, this was as good a STP show as you’re going to get in 2009. Granted, my expectations were such that I didn’t think the concert would even happen, but it wound up being just a flat-out great show. I’d like to think Weiland has cleaned himself up and they’re back on track. It’s a bit hard to believe that when he’s on stage with three normal people (well, by comparison) and he’s looking like a walking anti-drug PSA, but there’s hope. Of course, that’s the problem; do something well once, and people will start expecting quality instead of being surprised by it.