I’ve not had cause to mention this yet, but I actually had my very own brush with Foo Fighter greatness. Up close and personal.
But we’ll get to that…
Wasting Light, the Foo Fighters’ most recent album, was released in the spring of 2011, and the band spent most of the next 18 months touring and promoting, both here in the U.S. and internationally. It was a grind of a schedule, and last fall they finally got off the road and went back home for some well-deserved rest.
So, what do Foo Fighters do when they’re not on stage or in the studio being Foo Fighters?
Turns out, they do lots of the same stuff that normal mopes like you and me do when we have time off. They go on vacations with their families. They have hobbies and activities outside of music – drumming wonder Taylor Hawkins is a cycling enthusiast, specifically mountain biking, and Nate Mendel, the Foo’s extraordinary bassist, dabbles in writing – he contributes regularly to the band’s web/blog sites and he wrote a well-thought out contribution to last year’s “90 Days, 90 Reasons” website supporting President Obama’s re-election.
And there are lots of side projects involving music, just not Foo Fighters music, per se. If I had my way, the band would release an album every year just to satisfy my desire for more of their music. But, hey, we all need a break from the job, even if it’s a job we love. I get this. And being the good Jewish mother that I am, I try to be supportive of all those side projects. Which leads me to my Foo Fighter encounter.
One side gig is a country band, Chris Shiflett and the Dead Peasants. Chris is the Foo’s lead guitarist. His roots are in punk music, he plays a pretty mean rock and roll guitar, and even though I’m not a big fan of country music, I recognize his skill as a country western guitarist as well. Safe to say, if you needed a skilled shredder to play lead guitar in your genre band of choice, Chris would be your man.
So last March, when I found out he and the Peasants were going to be playing at a local watering hole/BBQ joint on a Sunday afternoon, I informed my husband that we would be in attendance.
At our house, especially now that it’s just the two of us, Sundays revolve around coffee, talking head news programs, and laundry. I’m not required to get out of my pajamas for any of these activities. Often, I don’t. I allow very little to intrude upon my Sundays, so an outing to chow down and hear live music was a big deal. Mark, my husband, was a little stunned by the suggestion (actually, it was more like an edict, as I recall!) but happy to tag along.
“What kind of music is this?” he asked.
“Who cares? It’s Chris Shiflett!”
While I was getting ready, he was tinkering around on the computer. As we were leaving the house, he presented me with a little plastic sleeve of business cards. They had my name and all my contact information on them, along with the title “Band Mother in Waiting.” And a Foo Fighter logo.
“If you’re going to meet a Foo Fighter, you need to be prepared,” he said.
To see what was the essence of my dream job, my life’s wish, spelled out in black and white on a business card stunned me. It was one thing to talk about it to a very small group of friends and family, and something else completely to see the idea, MY idea, expressed in writing. I admit, it rattled me.
I couldn’t imagine any circumstance that would prompt me to take one of those cards out of my pocket. It seemed so presumptuous. And a little creepy. Stalker-like, even. Definitely not how I wanted anyone to think of me. Especially not a real live Foo Fighter.
There was even a moment when I thought maybe we should just turn the car around so I could go home and put my pajamas back on and forget the whole thing.
But I had to go. It was Chris Shiflett! Chris. Fucking. Shiflett! And besides, I was hungry.
So we went. We had lunch. Sat out on the patio and enjoyed a lovely March afternoon – St. Patrick’s Day, in fact. Chris and his Dead Peasants arrived and proceeded to set up their equipment. Apparently, when you’re out on the road with your side band, and the side band isn’t as well-known as your primary band, you become your own crew of roadies. That was okay with me. It softened a little of that bright shiny stardom that I had anointed Chris with, and made him seem more like a regular guy.
If I had to classify their first album, I’d say the Dead Peasants are a country/rock hybrid band. But that Sunday, their sound was pure honky-tonk. Most of the songs were covers of old country classics by legends like Faron Young, Merle Haggard, and Del Reeves. My husband was delighted – this was the music he’d grown up with!
After the show, when the band was breaking down their gear, I went up to meet Chris. I said the usual things you say to a star when you’re star-struck and groping for words – I love your work, I have all your albums, I think the Foo Fighters saved my life – yes, I actually did say that. My friend Lynne took my picture with Chris. It’s a goofy picture. I was facing the sun and I didn’t have my sunglasses on, so I’m squinting like Mr. Magoo and grinning like a fool. But it’s me! With Chris. Fucking. Shiflett!
As we were leaving and chatting with him and the other band members, I had a moment of bravery and I said “Hey Chris, if you guys ever decide you need a cook, I’m ready to take the job.” He said that when the Foos travel internationally, the food service is pretty good, but here in the States, it’s hit or miss.
“That’s why you need me. Here, let me give you my card.” And I did.
If you’ve still got that card, Chris, give me a call. I owe you a pan of brownies.
Chris Shiflett and the Dead Peasants’ second album, All Hat and No Cattle, is available July 30th at record stores and e-music outlets everywhere.