While having breakfast with photographer Nate this morning, I got a call on my cell phone. It was Julian Dorio from the band The Whigs. He was inviting me to come hang out with them backstage before, during and after their show today to document what happens. Instantly, all of my plans changed and my day got busy!
I expected nothing less than an afternoon filled with a mountain of cocaine and lots of hookers! Hey, they’re rock stars, right??
1:10pm I meet up with the band backstage and sit to talk with singer/guitarist Parker Gispert, who was sitting on the ground stringing his guitar. The Whigs have been touring with Kings of Leon and The Black Keys. Gispert makes a point to note that Kings of Leon are actually really nice guys and very hospitable, despite the bad rap they often get. And yes, The Kings are hard partiers also. They’re just now getting to know The Black Keys. They just flew in from Cincinnati yesterday, went out to see Dead Confederate last night and ended up whooping it up pretty hard with that band after the show. Parker and Julian are looking pretty rough today, but bass player Tim Deaux is doing okay. “These two hit it up pretty hard, but I chilled out for once.”
Parker talks about how The Whigs are still traveling by van and how he almost dreams about touring by bus. He also mentions how the band loves going to a place called The Anchor to eat over in Covington, KY when they visit Cincinnati. If you’re from Cincy, you understand how important that statement is. If you’re not from Cincy, it means shit. Julian is kind of like a co-manager as he stops by to remind Parker of an upcoming interview. And how beer is not allowed on stage, but it’s okay in a cup.
1:35pm The Whigs and I watch the band Jeff the Brotherhood from the stage for a few songs. The Whigs’ verdict? They like them.
1:55pm Julian and Parker are pretty tired and just sitting around on the couch backstage, not really doing much. Parker scrambles around to find paper to make set lists. So far, no coke and no whores. Hmmph.
2:25pm The band begins setup. A stage crew member tells stories about how The Crash Kings ended their set 20 minutes early yesterday in prima donna fashion because they were not happy with their monitors. And a few other interesting stories. “Get your giant sausage. Get your prime pork ” Parker says into the mic during sound check.
2:45pm The band signs a paper with the lyrics to their song “Kill Me Carolyne” that is from a kid in the front row with his arm in a sling. Sadly, they won’t be playing that song today.
2:50pm I have to admit, as show time creeps up (10 minutes) my anxiety is starting to build up. Tim is drinking a beer, while Parker downs a Red Bull in about one minute. A friend from college stops in the tent to remind Parker of everything he “forgot” about the night before. The band has no pre-show ritual. Just a lot of stretching by Parker and Tim begins to jump in place.
3:00 Show time! It’s a good thing Parker did a lot of stretching as he needs it to do his trademark balancing and hopping acts on one leg. An empty bottle of tea rolls out onto the stage and there is concern that Parker might step on it and fall. A stage crew member finally grabs it. New song “I Am For Real” has a sort of disco pop sound, a little different than their recent driving rock sound.
As usual “Right Hand on My Heart” brings not only the band alive but also the crowd with a blasting rock build up into a big explosion.
3:40pm The rain is really coming down hard now and though a lot of the before-packed crowd has left, there are still probably 200-300 people left.
3:50 The band finishes their set and the first thing Parker says backstage is “My guitar was so out of tune. Nothing was easy.” No time to rest, use the bathroom or do any drugs; they quickly go back to the stage to retrieve their equipment.
4:05 Their dressing room fills up with all kinds of friends, most notably Erin Tate from Minus the Bear. Their is a high energy level flowing through the room as The Whigs really did perform an explosive set. This is probably the fifth time I’ve seen them and it was by far their best.
4:15pm The band heads over to sign autographs at the FYE booth near by. The report is that the band has sold a ton of merchandise today, which is great news. It was kind of cute watching people be kind of star struck when they meet the band, complete with stuttering words and all. People tell tales of seeing the band in New Orleans, New York and all sorts of places. The line to meet them had been pretty long, so these guys have quite a fan base.The whole band keeps getting distracted by the women on the motorcycle up on the high wire across the street. Julian shoots video.
4:40pm My time with The Whigs has ended for today. New hookers. No blow. But this has been one of my favorite rock star experiences. Cheers fellas, until next time!