Review: Chilling poolside with Drowning Pool at the Hard Rock
Sometimes when I have friends and family who like music in town, I recommend heading over to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
I've had some nice memories there: I covered its grand opening ceremony in 2004, complete with Flying Elvises; I ate a mean Long-Bone Cowboy Ribeye at Council Oak while researching a story about steak; and I spent a memorable 36 seconds with Paris Hilton while covering a Super Bowl party at Floyd's.
But most of that's velvet-rope-type stuff. Assuming you can live with the omnipresent cigarette smell and cacophonous dings and bloops of the bingo machines, you and anyone else you know can go to the Hard Rock and peruse its impressive collection of music memorabilia, a real underrated attraction in Tampa Bay.
Think about it: If all of the Hard Rock's autographed junk on the walls were to move for one month to, say, the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg -- sort of like a traveling exhibit -- it would be a huge hit.
There are instruments, clothes, costumes, lyrics and autographs from almost every conceivable rock star: Guitars from Eric Clapton, Kurt Cobain and Radiohead; a drum kit from Alex Van Halen; outfits worn by everyone from Elton to Elvis, from Hendrix to Hank, from KISS to Shakira, from Chuck Berry's pants to Dolly Parton's nightie; handwritten lyrics from the likes of Morrissey and Lindsey Buckingham; even a piece of the wall from CBGB's and original artwork from the cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It really is like a mini museum.
The weird thing is, the Hard Rock doesn't offer a ton of live music. Sure, there are DJs at Floyd's and bar performers at the Lobby Bar, but few big concerts. A rare one, Native Music Rocks, is coming up next week.
But one thing the Hard Rock does extremely well is accomodate celebrities, which makes it an ideal spot for radio-sponsored meet-and-greets.
And when I found out Drowning Pool would be performing a short acoustic set for 98 Rock by the Hard Rock's pool on Friday afternoon, a few hours before hitting the nearby Ford Amphitheatre as part of Crue Fest 2, I decided to check it out -- and then hang out for a few minutes with the band.
The Dallas rockers are best known for two things: (1) Its 2001 nu-grunge smash Bodies ("Let the bodies hit the floor! Let the bodies hit the floor!"), or (2) the 2002 death of lead singer Dave Williams, who was replaced in 2003 by Jason Jones, who himself was replaced in 2006 by current singer Ryan McCombs.
They play the sort of moody alt-grunge that never wins Grammys but always gets big play on modern rock radio, which makes them a perfect fit to tour with Motley Crue, Godsmack and Theory of a Deadman.
At the Hard Rock, they unplugged for three songs: Singles Shame and 37 Stitches from 2008's Full Circle and Tear Away, off 2001's Sinner. They're not an acoustic band -- far from it -- but the somber songs sounded polished and crisp, and the small crowd of radio contest winners and poolside sunbathers were appreciative.
After the set, I chatted with Drowning Pool about going acoustic and touring with Motley Crue. Here are some highlights.
How’s the Crue Fest tour going so far?
McCombs: It’s been great. You’ve got a bunch of good bands, a variety of bands. A lot of great guys – Godsmack, Motley Crue, Theory of a Deadman, Charm City Devils, Cavo*, Rev Theory … The cool thing about it is, the bands consist of cool people, nice people, easy to get along with, the crews are a reflection of the bands. It makes for an easy and good time out on the road.
Stevie Benton, bass: This past week we had three days away from the tour doing one-offs, and about the second day, we were like, "Damn! We miss Crue Fest!" You forget how great a time you’re having until you get away from it for a few days.
You guys go back a little bit with Motley Crue, right? Didn’t you record some tracks at Mick Mars’ studio?
McCombs: Nikki Sixx, actually. We wrote two songs with him. One song made the record (Reason I'm Alive, from Full Circle), one got stuck back in the archives to work on a little bit more. Great experience. We’re all big Motley Crue fans from way back, so we went in there just trying to keep levelheaded, trying to keep focused, and he did a good job of keeping us that way. It was awesome, because you don’t know what you’re going to run into when you’re dealing with somebody that has that kind of history behind him. And he was so killer to work with, because he didn’t come at you like, "Hey, I know. I’m Nikki Sixx.” We sat around in a circle and bounced ideas off of each other, and everybody had an opinion, and everybody’s opinion mattered. It was a cool experience.
Were you guys all Motley Crue fans back in the day? Did you do the Dr. Feelgood tour and all that?
Mike Luce, drums: One of the first records I ever got was Theatre of Pain by Motley Crue. My brother gave it to me on my 15th birthday. The first concert I ever saw was Girls Girls Girls when I was 17. It was unbelievable, being a drummer. The first concert I ever see is the one with Tommy Lee flipping in the spinning kit, so to me, it was mind-blowing.
C.J. Pierce, guitar: When Live Wire came out, I remember seeing the video, and Nikki Sixx’s legs are on fire. I thought that was the coolest thing ever. So from the get-go, I’ve been a fan of theirs.
McCombs: You’ve always been a fan of fire.
Pierce: Yeah, I’m a fan of fire! I like lighting s--- on fire!
McCombs: The first concert my brother ever took me to was Dr. Feelgood. It’s cool to be on this tour, and that be the theme. At the same time, it kind of sucks, because it’s like: “Wow, that was 20 years ago?”
You guys must do a lot of these acoustic sets for radio stations. Do you rehearse them?
Pierce: No, they’re always on the fly, man. It’s great like that.
Benton: It’s hit or miss. Sometimes they’re awesome, sometimes they’re awful.
Luce: They’ve been getting a lot better. We’ve been doing them more and more as of late, and honestly, when we first started doing them, we just looked at each other like, “What the hell are we supposed to do for an acoustic thing?” And it wasn’t until 37 Stitches – and Tear Away, really, has kind of become its own little thing for us to do acoustically; it’s really cool. But the next record will have some more of these little ‘sleeper hits,’ if you will.
Stevie: “Sleeper hits?” Let’s stop having sleeper hits, and have real hits. I’m tired of all these sleeper hits. (laughs)
Speaking of the next record, how’s that coming along?
McCombs: We actually jumped off the road right after the holidays and started concentrating on new material. We’d started a little while before that when we were on the road, but we jumped off the road and really just focused on it, and 37 Stitches blew up at radio at the 12th hour, and we got the offer for Crue Fest, and it was, "Jump back on the road again and support the album," which is awesome. The album had been out for two years at that point, and for all of a sudden that song to blow up that way really caught us off guard. I mean, we had faith in the song, but at the same time, to be realistic, we were working on the next record. ... We’ve been taking the time out when we have days off of Crue Fest to pop into the studio in different places; jumping in and recording some of the different ideas that we’ve got. It’s been a great situation to be in, to not have to push the next record.
I saw you guys did a tweet on your Twitter feed from a studio in Baltimore, I believe. Which one of you handles your Twitter feed?
Benton: Oh, yeah, I do the Twitter stuff.
What do you get out of that as a band?
Benton: I have no idea. The label was on me about starting it and doing it. I guess people want the instant connection with you. Now, there’s no such thing as the dark mystery of a band -- unless you’re Tool, I guess. Now fans want instant feedback, they want to know what’s up right away.
McCombs: My favorite one so far is, “Tomorrow’s a day off. Time for manscaping.”
Benton: (laughs) Ryan reads my Twitter! All right!
Pierce: Ryan wants to know what’s up with you every second of the day!
McCombs: I got a phone call going, "You’re manscaping tomorrow?” “I guess I am!”
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*
* Cavo, a post-grunge band from St. Louis, also played an acoustic set. Unfortunately, I missed most of it while talking to Drowning Pool. Oh well. There's always Crue Fest 3.