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SLCR #144: Stone Temple Pilots (November 14, 2009)

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
– etc.

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.

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