I found out about this show less than a week before it was to happen. I even called the Viper Room to confirm it, as it's a 12 hour roundtrip drive for myself. They even admitted it was up in the air and didn't confirm it until a couple days before showtime.
My friend Olinka and I had plans to rent a car and do the roadtrip thing, as my car overheated last time I drove out to see Frusciante at the Roxy in March. She had a personal emergency come up and couldn't make the trip. It didn't look like I was going to go then. To be honest, I wasn't all that disappointed, as it was scheduled to be a David Bowie tribute show for his "Hunky Dory" album. I'm not a big Bowie fan, it's a hell of a long drive and thought getting a rent a car by myself would be too expensive.
Even with those factors, something drew me to go. I called at the last minute and was able to get a reasonable deal. It was a '01 Neon with unlimited mileage for $46. Insurance was another $16. Taxes were $10 (I wasn't happy about contributing to the AZ Cardnals new stadium but what can you do?). The grand total for a 24 hour rental that I put 800 miles on was $72.
The bad thing about my car was no CD player and no cruise control. Both are fairly essential on such a long trip but I survived. The speedometer was marked up to 120mph, so I figured I'd crank it up to see what it could do, being the speed racer type of guy I am. At 115mph, the doors rattled like they were gonna fly off the car, so I kept it at a respetable 85mph most of the way.
I rolled into Hollyweird at 4pm. Doors didn't open until 9pm, so I had time to kill and relax. I parked in the parking garage across from the Roxy, where I parked last time, which is about 2-3 blocks from the Viper Room. Last time I got out late they had the gates raised, so I didn't have to pay the $10 parking fee. I was hoping to get the same results this time, which I did! I'm like George Costanza of Seinfeld when it comes to paying for parking... I hate it. Unfortunately, there's very few free parking areas and most of them are zoned for the residents, so you'll get towed.
I did a little shopping at Tower Records and video stores. I ended up buying a Jeff Buckley DVD. I've never even heard the guy but he's been highly recommended, so I decided to roll the dice, since it was on sale for $15. I came close to buying recommended CDs by The Ventures (instrumental band from the 60's) and by Dick Dale (surf guitar legend) but the prices weren't right or they didn't have what I was looking for.
I also ate at a nice little Italian cafe and browsed through a tattoo shop that were both across the street from Viper. This one guy got a wicked sun tattoo with a mean face. It was really bad ass. So much so that was slightly tempted to get it but it was $240. There's other tats that are higher on my "to get" list but it was some great ink.
After that I just hung out by the Viper Room, waiting for people to show up. John Frusciante showed up and I spoke to him, as he recognized me. This was the 4th time in 2 months I've met him and the 5th time, overall. His friend was nice enough to take a pic of John and I with my digital camera.
I asked if it was gonna be a Bowie tribute show and he said no, as they didn't have time to rehearse it. He almost didn't do the show but said he'd do it if it had already been advertised, which it was. I got the feeling that he and the Peppers are trying to buckle down working on the new album. I also brought a video cam and told JF and tour manager Louis that the Viper said no taping. They said they were cool with taping but if that's what Viper said, then they wouldn't over rule it.
It's weird but even though John is very easy going and approachable, I still get nervous, excited and even intimidated by the guy. He makes me feel like a schoolgirl or something. I guess it's because I really admire the guy and he's such an incredibly talented musician that inspired me and I'm always surprised when I get to meet him. My mind really races and I never say or ask all the things I plan to. I don't want to waste his time, yet I want to make the most of the opportunity. I never expect to meet him again.
After that, he went inside to do soundcheck. I walked back to the parking garage to drop some stuff in my car and get a jacket, as it was getting a little cool outside now that the sun was fading a bit.
I found out later from JF's guitar tech Dave, that he was sent outside to ask me if I wanted to listen to soundcheck! But I wasn't there because I went to my car! JF tried to invite me to his soundcheck and I missed out! I was kicking myself when I found out of my missed opportuity. I think JF was trying to reward me for all the recent trips to LA that I've made to see him. Regardless, that was damn cool of him to think of me and make that offer. I would've stood there drooling like a fool and probably wet my drawers if I got to sit in on soundcheck. Dammit.
Later on, I gave Louis a video tape to give to JF (that I forgot to give to JF in the first place). It had his NY performance in March and his show at Small's with Bob Forrest in '97. Louis said JF would be interested in seeing it. Also, a special friend got a package to JF from me that had a yellow knit cap with his initials "JAF" embroidered (so if you see him wear that cap at a show, that's from me) and a belated birthday card. Poor JF is gonna think I'm a damn stalker...
I met some of my net friends in line, later on. It was great to see "groundskeeper" (Simpsons reference) Elliot from Scotland. It'd been a year and a half since we met at the RHCP NYE show. Elliot's a cool guy, a complete character and as dedicated a JF fan as they come. I also met his new, trusty sidekick from Holland, Jan Bart. I thought I'd see Carrie too, but she couldn't change her flight plans. I also got to meet my pal Ernie and some of his crew. I definitely have to say hi to my friend Sarah, whom I met inside the club. They don't come any nicer or kinder than her. She's the original fangirl.
I was the first guy inside and saw Bob Forrest at a booth. I just wanted to say hi and give a quick thanks, as he was very cool to meet after the RHCP benefit gig at the Palladium. Bob is a great guy and very approachable. He even invited me to sit down and showed me his new re-released Bicycle Thief album. He was so proud of the new artwork he chose for the album. He was like a proud papa. It was neat to see his enthusiasm. He said he'd give me the new album but it was the only copy he had on him and I completely understood. He also mentioned he was reading an article on the making of Nirvana's "In Utero" album.
What's wild about the Viper Room is it's so damn small. I've been to house parties that had bigger basements than this place. I bet it held 200, maybe 300 people, tops.
The first band was Whiskey Biscuit. I'm not easily impressed by opening bands who's work I'm unfamiliar with but they were surprisingly good. Very bluesy. Their uptempo stuff was very good but they had some slower songs and Bowie covers towards the end that dragged a bit, though.
They had 2 guitarists, a keyboardist, a drummer, a singer (who was a cliche with getting a little drunk and tipsy onstage) and a percussionist type guy, who had no sense of rhythm but wasn't easily heard, so it didn't make a difference. They sounded very good, except the singer's voice was buried a bit, which is par for the course, from my experience. He didn't have the greatest voice but it had personality and it's a bummer when you can't really tell what the vocalist is singing about.
The singer's girlfriend took a bazillion pics, which was getting a little ridiculous. Also, some guy was allowed to film with a professional camera. A couple times he got right in my earhole and I had to shoot him a few looks of daggers and lasers from my eyes, so he'd gimme a little breathing room.
Next up was Bob Forrest and Josh Klinghoffer, with Josh playing accoustic. Josh wouldn't face the audience. He was sideways, facing Bob and seemed a little uncomfortable, possibly. I thought they sounded great, except both Josh and Bob could've been louder. Unfortunately, they only played 4 songs.
Then came the man, myth and legend, John Frusciante. He had his hair wetted down and slicked back. It's growing out and even had a little curl in the back. He has a full moustache and a bit of sideburn. He looks like a NY Italian or Puerto Rican (I hope nobody takes offense to that, as none is meant. I'm just trying to describe how he looks, as best I can). He wore slacks, argyle socks, black wingtips and a printed shirt like was sorta paisley but not quite. He almost looked like he could've been in "Saturday Night Fever" with John Travolta.
I was so close, I could've literally tied his shoelace. His guitar tuning pegs were 1 to 1 1/2 feet from my face. I don't recall all the songs, as I was really caught up in the moment. His voice was very strong, stronger than the Roxy show but maybe not as many high notes. He also strums his accoustic guitars so damn hard. It's amazing he doesn't break more strings.
Sometimes JF knows exactly what he wants to play and other times he looks for inspiration. I was the inspiration (suggestion) for "Curtains", one of my favorite songs that night. "Curtains" is a piano song but Elliot informed me JF played it a few nights prior at a show in San Francisco.
Two of my favorite songs were disappointments just because he didn't finish them. He couldn't remember all of "Femininity" and stopped. And he just changed his mind after starting the cover "Neighborhood Threat". All the songs he did do were really incredible. He had a compression problem but they rectified it. JF was like I like compression as much as the next guy but this is ridiculous.
He was also very gracious towards the fans showing up. Jokingly, he said he was surprised anyone showed up after what happened in Santa Barbara (he had a bad reaction to his herbal drinks and acted a little goofy). He said he got really fucked up, drank too much kava valerian.
There was talk of a jam session afterward, but it never happened. Even though JF's set was shorter than the Roxy gig I think I enjoyed this one more. I wasn't stressed about my car overheating, the club was a comfortable tempature, as it was a cooler night than the Roxy show, I saw friends that I hadn't seen in a while, JF played his normal solo set instead of the Bowie tribute that was planned, etc. After indecision about going, I'm really glad I went.
Elliot, Jan Bart and I went to the Rainbow Room to eat. We had a good old time and I even saw a pic of Diamond David Lee Roth on the Rainbow's wall. The waitress said he had been there a few weeks prior and actually behaved himself (I'm still hoping the Van Halen reunion will happen).
I was itchy to get home and had just enough time to get the rental back in on time. I probably averaged 90-100mph on the way home and took an hour nap at a rest stop to recharge my batteries.