I’m currently writing from 37,000 feet. I’m on my way to Oklahoma City where I will rejoin my new band, Walking Papers, to continue gallivanting around the U.S. and Canada with the Rockstar Energy Uproar Tour with stalwarts like Jane’s Addiction, Danko Jones, and headliner Alice in Chains. We’ve been at it since the beginning of August, but I had to schedule a quick trip back home, as my oldest daughter just turned 16 and I wanted to give her a quick kiss and a massive and embarrassing hug (to her, not me). There are a bunch of us dads out here—Perry Farrell and drummer Stephen Perkins from Jane’s Addiction are on this very same plane, as I suspect they did the exact same thing as me (but of course with their own kids).
All of these men have been friends of mine for a long, long time. There are a few of us in these bands who shouldn’t be here at all, and a few, sadly, who aren’t. The respect I have for these guys simply remains silent, unspoken—because there really are no words.
The musical celebration we have enjoyed every night on this tour is, of course, not silent. Alice in Chains is a band that is way on top of its game right now. Just epic, by all accounts. The guys in Jane’s Addiction are fresher and darker than I have seen them in years. They are musically astounding at this moment. Danko Jones is a guy who seems almost evangelical in his message and delivery of said message. Then there is us, Walking Papers, featuring Screaming Trees/Mad Season drummer Barrett Martin and Seattle’s newest favorite son Jeff Angell. For me it is just an honor to play with these guys on a nightly basis.
But there are other bands on this tour, new bands, that I have gravitated toward. Middle Class Rut is a five-piece alternative-ish onslaught that should be the biggest thing on modern-rock radio right now. Of course, American radio does indeed leave a lot of the good shit out (that is a whole other story).
Coheed and Cambria is another new-ish rock outfit that slants more to the prog side of things. They seem to sort of be a new Rush, and, thusly, there are prog fans coming to the Uproar Tour who might now be getting turned on to JA or Danko, and some AIC fans, conversely, getting exposed to a Coheed show that they might never otherwise have gone to. For me, this trading of ideas and exposure to other types of music seems to be the biggest “takeaway” from this year’s Uproar so far.
This traveling circus of a tour will be in its fourth week by the time it hits the Gorge this weekend (in partnership with KISW’s Pain in the Grass), and everyone on the bill will have earned their stripes. Some parts of this tour have been so damn hot and dusty that it almost takes the patience of a saint just to make it to gig time. The 200 or so people who work on this thing do so in relatively close quarters, and all of the men and women who are either performers, stagehands, carpenters, riggers, vendors, truck drivers, bus drivers, caterers, or general production . . . all get a massive dude-nod from me.
Up-and-comers Beware of Darkness had to leave the tour for a weekend to play the Reading and Leeds festivals, but are back. Charming Liars, from England, is a young rock band with a purpose that is undeniable. Circa Survive has been getting active and modern-rock radio airplay, and its progressive style of rock somehow seems to fit nicely in this whole thing. The Dead Daisies, from Australia, are doing their first-ever go-around of the U.S. This is a rock-and-roll band of the finest cut, and even though they do originate from Down Under, some of the members may be recognizable: Dizzy Reed, Richard Fortus, and Frank Ferrer from the newest version of GNR and bass legend Marco Mendoza. The Chuck Schaffer Picture Show won the Battle of the Bands on this tour last year, earning a spot on this whole mess this year. It’s been cool to watch that band learn the ropes.
But the coolest thing I’ve seen so far on this tour had nothing to do with actual music. Jerry Cantrell’s father, Jerry “The Rooster” Cantrell Sr., came out for a few dates. The tour sponsor honored him onstage on the date that has historically been set aside to highlight a U.S. serviceman or -woman (they have had Bronze and Silver star recipients on past Uproar tours). The Rooster, who served six years in “the shit” of Vietnam and indeed was never snuffed, was genuinely taken aback to now be honored for his career of service. The fans stood and cheered and generally lost their shit, and I may have hinted just a glint of moisture in Mr. Cantrell Sr.’s left eye. I’m glad I got to see this moment.
I don’t know what moments await us at the Gorge, but I know there will be some. This is one of the better groupings of artists that I can remember in recent memory. The music is pretty damn great and interesting, and all of it is the real deal.
KISW PAIN IN THE GRASS Gorge Amphitheatre, 754 Silica Rd., Quincy, Wash., 509-785-6262, rockstaruproar.com. Advance: $59.50 one-day, $99.90 two-day. DOS: $65 & $110. 2 p.m. Fri., Sept. 6–Sat., Sept. 7.