Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins jokes that he's such a fan of performing with his side cover project Chevy Metal, he would do it at parties, bar mitzvahs and weddings. But when he can do it while raising money for autism research, as he did last night at L.A.’s Sayers Club, all the better.
"It’s such a little thing I can do, getting up on stage and playing. I would do it for free, for no cause, and I have, many a time," he told Rolling Stone backstage at Sayers. "But if I can just get a few people to come spend a few bucks, of course I’ll do it."
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Last night's cause is particularly important for Hawkins, who volunteered to perform at the Generation Rescue benefit as a way to help his family. "My sister-in-law and my brother have a child that has autism and they just moved down here from the San Francisco area," he explained. "I said to [my sister-in-law] a few months ago, 'You were really involved up there in the whole autism community. Now that you’re down here, if you want to get to know some of these folks, I’ll offer up Chevy Metal for anything. Let’s put together a benefit and do something.' It’s for fun and we play a lot of Seventies and Eighties butt rock that people love and we have a good time doing it."
Hawkins and his Chevy Metal bandmates – Wiley Hodgen (vocals/bass) and Mike Murphy (guitar) – were obviously enjoying themselves during a raucous hour-long set that found them living up to Hawkins’ original vision for the band. "It’s music a speed dealer in 1974 would listen to," he joked.
Hawkins explained that Chevy Metal have been on a big Van Halen kick lately, and Murphy did an impressive Eddie Van Halen during the four VH covers in their set. They opened with "Panama" and moved through a ferocious "Mean Streets," a revved-up punkish rendition of "I’m The One" and "Ain’t Talking ‘Bout Love" as the finale.
The L.A. metal scene was shown a lot of love, with Ratt’s "Lay It Down" making the set along with Motley Crue covers "Looks That Kill" and a standout "Live Wire," which captured all the intensity and energy of the original. Hawkins, however, was unhappy with his own drumming on that one. "I fucked the end of that up so bad," he said, laughing. "There is only one Tommy Lee. I cannot be Tommy Lee, my dick is not that long."
As a favor to Sayers Club’s Jason Scoppa, Chevy Metal introduced Jane’s Addiction’s "Mountain Song" into Saturday's set. "We never do that," Hawkins explained. "But we did it in sound check and it sounded great." He dedicated it to Jane’s frontman Perry Farrell, who is one of several artists, including Mick Jagger and Dave Grohl, who have joined Chevy Metal on stage at various gigs.
But last night was all Chevy Metal: no guests, aside from a fan Hawkins invited up onstage to sing "Jet Airliner" after he kept badgering the group to play some Steve Miller Band. Hawkins and the gang showed further versatility by jumping from the aforementioned metal songs to an ambitious interpretation of the Queen/David Bowie hit "Under Pressure," the Vapors’ "Turning Japanese" and the Knack’s "My Sharona."
While Chevy Metal left no doubt onstage that they were throwing a party celebrating rock & roll last night, Hawkins is serious about the cause that brought him there. "It is personal to me. My nephew’s beautiful, he’s wonderful and he’s the sweetest kid in the world," he said.