This summer I treated myself to something I rarely do – a concert ticket. In a little getting to know Katie moment, I suffer from claustrophobia. But I’m not the usual small spaces type, instead I’m the all fun too many people in a given space type. It makes going out and doing things socially SUPER fun and easy. (Ah sarcasm, how I love thee). Honestly though, concerts in particular are tough for me, so even though I love music and live music in particular I have only ever been to a handful of concerts in my adult life.
But, my sister wanted to go see the Foo Fighters and I desperately wanted to go with her. So we spent a little extra money and got seats in a section that meant I wouldn’t be likely to feel crowded in. It was expensive, but it was totally worth it. That concert was the Foo Fighters this July when they played at Fenway. A few days after that concert Cannonball’s own janniethestrange posted her review about This Is a Call: The Life and Times of Dave Grohl and I knew that it would be the perfect accompaniment to what I’m sure will be one of the best live music experiences I’ll have.
I wasn’t wrong. Paul Brannigan uses Grohl as a wheel hub for talking about the music both created by Grohl, and the music that inspired him. In many ways this book serves as a fantastic companion to Michael Azerrad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life which I reviewed back in 2013. The two works cover the do-it-yourself ethos of music between 1981 and 1991. Those ten years saw the birth of the American punk, post-punk, hardcore, noise rock and twee pop movements. Indie rock oases popped up all over the US, and Grohl was a part of the ones in Southern California, D.C., and Seattle.
Brannigan, like Azerrad, approached his book as a journalist. While Azerrad told the story of thirteen different bands in an era, Brannigan instead focuses on music and scenes that impacted an artist, and then the music that artist creates. Brannigan uses his own interviews with Grohl (which date back to the late 1990s), as well as interviews with major players in the music scenes in question to write both a biography of the man, and a history of his brand of music.
Something that came to the surface for me while reading this book is that Grohl has never been afraid to change, to grow. He wants to be doing music, and he has pursued that goal always. That also means that as he has spent nearly 30 years in bands and playing live, his tastes are going to change, he is going to be inspired by new things, and that shows in the discography of the Foo Fighters as well as his other bands. While This Is a Call was published in 2011 and ends with the Foo Fighters’ Wasting Light album, I think Grohl’s HBO series Sonic Highways which accompanied the band’s latest album also captures that idea, and shows the band playing around with it. I highly suggest watching that series, but particularly if you think this might be a book for you as many of the people that appear in the book are in the series, and it always helps to but a face with a name.
Now off to listen to some more Foo Fighters.