If you talk to any music lover from the state of Maine, they will all tell you the exact same thing –no one interesting or exciting ever performs here. Ever. Maybe it’s because of the crappy climate (we are ranked the third-coldest state in the country, after all!). Maybe it’s because we don’t have much of a younger, concert-going demographic (We are, in fact, the nation’s “oldest” state, with the highest median age in the country, and 1/3 of the population over the age of 50!). Whatever the reason, it’s pretty much accepted as fact around here that, if you want to see a decent concert, the closest you’ll get is probably Boston.
And so, back in February, you can probably imagine my shock and joy when one of my top favorite bands, Arctic Monkeys, played at a venue less than 20 minutes from my doorway. Surely it was some bizarre fluke or strange streak of good luck. This past Saturday, however, that surprise and excitement returned when Queens of the Stone Age finally came back to Maine for the first time since 1999. Lightning, it seemed, had struck twice.
As a newer fan, I was incredibly eager to get the chance to see QotSA live, even after only really being “into” them for less than a year (thanks to my boyfriend, who ranks them about as high as I rank AM and Muse). Full of excitement and anticipation, we arrived at the venue at around 1:30 (a time that felt incredibly late to this concert early-bird). Thankfully, we found that there were only four people ahead of us in the queue (a word that I tried to avoid using in front of my new QOTSA friends, for fear of confusing them… This British rock fan was clearly not in Kansas anymore).
Another fan showed up only a few minutes after our arrival and then, up until less than an hour before doors, it was only us – sitting in the scorching sun, sharing stories, and bonding over our shared appreciation of the band we were about to see (Fact: You will always meet cool and awesome people in a concert queue). Our little group stuck together, and we easily secured a perfect, front-and-center barrier spot. By this point, that familiar, jittery feeling of euphoria began to set in as I eagerly waited for the guys to take the stage.
Opening for QOTSA was Josh Homme’s wife, Brody Dalle, who, after several years as the front woman of two different rock bands, is in midst of her first outing as a solo artist. I had never heard any of her music before, and was pleasantly surprised by her set. Though I found most of her songs to be a bit too punk-sounding for my taste, I was impressed by her energy, stage presence, and skill as both a vocalist and guitarist.
As the crew began setting up after Brody’s set, we began looking over our shoulders at the auditorium around us, expecting the seats to begin filling up as the time for Queens drew closer… We wound up disappointed. Though the GA floor behind us was nearly full, we were greeted by a sea of near-empty seats looking down at us. The 8,000-capacity venue was only a third full, if that. Probably even less. It was pretty pitiful, to be honest. “This is why no one ever comes to Maine,” we lamented. “They’re gonna be so mad at how empty it is”. Our joy and excitement was temporarily overtaken by disappointment and worry as the minutes ticked by… The moment the lights went down, none of it mattered anymore.
I went into this gig with pretty high expectations, and even those were blown away. It was one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to. The guys play with such energy and passion, it’s impossible to not get sucked-in from the very first note. Hearing the complex, intricate layers of their music come to life is a truly mind-blowing experience. Troy, Dean, and Mikey deserve high praise for their exceptional musicianship, switching from guitar or bass to keys to percussion to backing vocals effortlessly (often within the same song), and never losing one ounce of energy. The band’s newest member, Jon Theodore, holds it all together on the drums, blending in seamlessly with the rest of the band, and playing even the oldest hits flawlessly, despite only joining QOTSA back in 2013. And then there’s Josh – the man, the myth, the legend. There is not enough that can be said about this man, who, from his voice to his guitar skills to his style and stage presence, embodies everything a band could want in a frontman.
The band played a set heavy with hits from their newest record, …Like Clockwork. In fact, they played all but one song from the 10-track album (Kalopsia was the only one missing, though they had soundchecked it earlier in the day). Perhaps my favorite song of the set was an incredible, 10-minute-long version of “I Appear Missing”, one of my top favorites from the new album. In truth, all of the new songs sounded incredible live, though I thoroughly enjoyed rocking-out to some of their older hits too, including Burn the Witch, Sick, Sick, Sick, 3’s and 7’s, and crowd-favorite, Feel Good Hit of the Summer.
The crowd was loving every minute of it — dancing, jumping, singing along (even to some of the guitar riffs), rattling the barrier (“You guys sound like prisoners, locked in a cage,” Josh quipped between songs. “In a pleasure dungeon…” *cue screaming and more excited rattling on the rail*) and moshing during some of the heavier songs (I think my ribs still hurt… Ow). We were small but we were mighty. “You’re the little audience that could, huh?” Josh asked us with a laugh. Damn right we were.
Alas, after two unbelievable hours, the gig had to come to an end. Sweaty, exhausted, euphoric, and speechless, our little group made our way to the back door of the venue as soon as the lights came up, hoping we would be able to catch the guys before they left. Thankfully, luck was on our side! We were able to get pictures and autographs from all of the guys, who were incredibly kind, patient, down-to-earth (and, in Josh’s case, drunk). I think it was the most excited/nervous I’d ever been meeting a band or celebrity (not that I’ve met many, of course), and I still can’t figure out how I was able to keep my cool and avoid making a total fool of myself, but somehow, I managed.
“We were so excited you came to Maine,” I told Troy happily as he signed my ticket. “No one cool ever comes here.” He chuckled. “Yeah, I don’t think we’ve ever been here before.” (With the exception of Josh, this was true). “We had a great time.” So did we, Troy. So did we.
Okay, maybe I was wrong. Interesting and exciting people do come to Maine, from time to time. And after a show like that, here’s hoping that they’ll come back. -Guest review by Amanda M.