The year was 1989, and I'd recently bought a small vacation place in Lake Arrowhead, Calif., to get out of Los Angeles in the hope of periodically escaping my bad drink and drug habits. Little did I know that Tommy Lee of Mötley Crüe also had a place up there. Within two months I was throwing up blood at Tommy's cabin. Nobody, not even me at the time, could "hang" with the dudes in Mötley Crüe.I have been asked by the brain trust here at Seattle Weekly to write a piece on Mötley Crüe, foreshadowing their July 27 CrüeFest appearance at the White River Amphitheatre. I suppose I am the most qualified, as my band Loaded just spent a month touring Europe with them, and my old band GN'R toured with them back in 1988. I guess I simply know where some of the bodies are buried.Here are some quick pointers for those of you who want to know more about "the Crüe" but are perhaps afraid to ask:1) Nikki Sixx is a genius. This music visionary (who spent some of his growing-up years in Seattle) had the foresight to move to Hollywood in 1979 and start a movement. With a suitcase full of Sweet, Slade, and New York Dolls records, Nikki banded together a group of musicians who eventually released Too Fast For Love in 1982, and modern rock had a new leader. Way back then, Nikki somehow blended the opposing crafts of songwriting and business smarts, and he's been a beacon for the rest of us meathead musicians to follow. He has found ways to reinvent this band time and time again, overcoming a period in the mid-'90s that would have outright killed many other groups (and did!). CrüeFest (Nikki's invention) has fast replaced Ozzfest as the summer tour for any heavy rock band to play.2) Mick Mars is a hero. Just watching this guy play guitar makes a healthy person feel ashamed for complaining about anything. Diagnosed at 19 with the progressive disease ankylosing spondylitis, Mick has more recently faced a fused back and a full hip replacement as a result. The pain he must endure can only be imagined; his playing of late is a visual release for any musician with a disability. This last month in Europe, I and the other Loaded guys found Mick to be an almost-undiscovered secret weapon of Mötley Crüe...as if to say "Where did this guy come from?"3) Mötley kicked our asses. Back in the halcyon days of GN'R, when everyone thought we were the most badass and hard-drinking/drugging motherfuckers around (and maybe so did we), we quickly found out we were in the minor league compared to where Mötley Crüe resided. With their code names for different drugs and private jet, our peek into their world—when we opened for them on the "Girls, Girls, Girls" tour—was a peek into an abyss that they'd found a way of skating around the brink of while many others had fallen in. Hey, there is nothing glamorous about drinking and drugging, but I must say these guys at least perfected that dark art for a while there back in the '80s.4) Mötley are BACK! Witnessing these guys play a healthy handful of shows last month proved they have somehow found a spark that had been missing over the past 15 years: At a gig in Wettingen, Switzerland, on a makeshift stage in front of 3,000 rabid fans, I saw these guys become almost punk-rock in energy and snarl. It's like they've realized their music is no longer in vogue, and it's them against the world again—and no one is going to help them in the fight. If you have yet to see this band live, now may be the best time to see them ever. They are pissed off and seemingly united in a cause again.Let's face it, Mötley Crüe are not a band that will challenge you intellectually or wow you with groundbreaking, forward-thinking songwriting. Mötley simply keeps throwing out a great groove and simple-but-skull-crushing chord progressions. Want to be challenged musically? Don't go to CrüeFest. Want to have fun and forget about your 9-to-5 job and asshole boss? Mötley are the perfect band, and CrüeFest offers as solid a heavy-metal lineup as you'll be able to find all firstname.lastname@example.org
Mötley Crüe performs at CrüeFest at White River Amphitheatre, 40601 Auburn-Enumclaw Rd., Auburn, 360-825-6200. $28–$300. 3 p.m. Mon., July 27.Duff McKagan's column runs every Thursday on Reverb, our music blog.