The Passion of Dave Grohl
Dave Grohl is about to sing the last song of the night in a room where he saw his first rock show, in 1982: a Chicago bar, the Cubby Bear, across the street from Wrigley Field. The group was local punks Naked Raygun. Grohl was 13, a Virginia kid visiting family in town, and taken to the gig by a cousin. He was transformed. Everything wild and good in his life – dropping out of high school to tour with a hardcore band; playing drums in Nirvana; writing hits and selling out stadiums with the Foo Fighters; making rock films – started here.
“Just remember, all it fucking takes is for you to turn someone else on to something that’ll change their fucking life,” Grohl tells the crowd, referring to his cousin Tracey Bradford, as the Foo Fighters wind up a two-and-a-half-hour performance celebrating the premiere of Grohl’s HBO documentary series, Sonic Highways. “Imagine all the shit that you can fucking turn your friends on to and change their fucking…”
Grohl turns to someone making a gesture near the stage. His grin turns to a glare. “I’m serious, asshole!” he snaps, in a rare flash of anger. Later, Grohl will recall that moment, still pissed: “This smartass chick in the front row goes like this” – he points a finger at his head, like a gun, and fires – “like, ‘Wow, mind blown.'” (It was the wrong show of irony. Twenty years ago, Grohl’s bandmate in Nirvana, singer-guitarist Kurt Cobain, took his life that way.)
At the Cubby Bear, Grohl quickly recovers his good humor. “I might be an earnest, nerdy guy,” he says, “but it’s worked for the past 20 fucking years.” Then Grohl, guitarists Pat Smear and Chris Shiflett, bassist Nate Mendel and drummer Taylor Hawkins bolt into the Foos’ howling 1997 song “Everlong”: “And I wonder/When I sing along with you/If everything could ever feel this real forever/If anything could ever be this good again,” Grohl sings in hopeful unison with his fans.
“People can’t imagine being that real and simple and honest,” Grohl, 45, says a few days after that show, at the house in the hills overlooking Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley where he lives with his second wife, Jordyn, and their three young daughters. He shakes his head in amazement, brushing back the long, black hair that constantly falls across his face. “It’s important to me – that the stories that inspired me can inspire other people. I don’t feel like I’m on a mission. But I have the opportunity and the resources.”
He has invested two years and his own money – including the Foos’ take from two stadium shows in Mexico last year – in Sonic Highways, also the title of the band’s companion album. The follow-up to Sound City, Grohl’s 2013 film about a fabled L.A. studio, the HBO show is an eight-part tour of great American rock and roots-music cities such as Chicago, Austin, New Orleans and Seattle. Grohl conceived Highways, directed it and conducted interviews with a catholic spectrum of peers and elders, including bluesman Buddy Guy, Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers, country singer Carrie Underwood and President Obama.
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