SXSW 2013: Dave Grohl's Sound City Players go big (before going home)

By Mikael Wood
Los Angeles Times
Friday, March 15, 2013, 10:01 a.m.

AUSTIN, Texas — By many accounts the South by Southwest music festival is about discovering new talent: the fresh-faced indie-pop outfit, for instance, or the precocious laptop wizard just stepping beyond the walls of his bedroom.

Dave Grohl doesn’t share that view.

On Thursday night, hours after delivering SXSW’s keynote speech at the Austin Convention Center, Grohl and a handful of his famous friends took over Stubb’s for what he described as the final performance by the Sound City Players. It’s the band he put together in connection with his documentary Sound City, which recounts the tale of the grungy Van Nuys recording studio where Grohl’s old band Nirvana, among many other acts, made some of its most well-known music. And on Thursday it spent nearly 3 1/2 hours reanimating a number of rock’s biggest hits.

“It’s my life’s greatest gift that I get to call up these people who I consider heroes and have them come onstage and jam with me,” Grohl said.

Among those heroes was Stevie Nicks, who sang tunes including “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” “Landslide” and (a very dreamy) “Dreams.” She also did “You Can’t Fix This,” a strong new song from the Sound City soundtrack. But Nicks was best in a muscular rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman,” for which she went into her signature whirling-dervish mode, arms outstretched, long blond hair whipping around her.

In an onstage interview earlier Thursday with NPR music critic Ann Powers, Nicks said she’d taken ballet classes early in her career to learn how to use her body while performing. “I can captivate with my hands,” she’d said, and she was right.

John Fogerty also turned up at Stubb’s, leading the Sound City Players through rollicking versions of “Travelin’ Band,” “Born on the Bayou,” “Bad Moon Rising” and more. For “Fortunate Son” he and Grohl traded lead vocals as the band (which included members of Nirvana, Foo Fighters and Rage Against the Machine) bore down on the song’s bitter groove.

Rick Springfield sang compact early-1980s pop-rock hits such as “Jessie’s Girl” and “I’ve Done Everything for You,” while Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick played guitar for that band’s “I Want You to Want Me” and “Surrender.” And Lee Ving of the great L.A. punk group Fear did “I Love Livin’ in the City,” which he introduced as “an old-fashioned singalong.” The capacity crowd knew fewer of the words to that one than to “Landslide.” But neither Ving nor Grohl seemed to care.

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