A Backstage Jam Session with Jane's Addiction
In some ways, getting backstage at Gexa Energy Pavilion is a letdown. Semi-trucks that carry the bands' stage lighting and equipment hummed a familiar chorus, and several tour buses formed a barricade that left an opened area in the center where a small group of people conversed and smoked cigarettes.
No wild, naked ladies streaking across the parking lot. No shady-looking drug dealers regurgitating heroin balloons. No crazed rock stars screaming obscenities at invisible people. It felt like standing in a Walmart parking lot with a bunch of workers waiting for their band's performance time. But that's not why we're here.
Jane's Addiction hosts special "Jam Room Sessions," where they allow contest winners, VIP ticket purchasers, friends and friends of friends to the see Perry Farrell (vocals), Dave Navarro (guitars), Chris Chaney (bass) and Stephen Perkins (drums) backstage, playing in a small room with no frills and no barriers.
Formed in Los Angeles in 1985, Jane's Addiction has brought fans not only such hits as "Jane Says," "Stop!" and "Just Because," but also the first "alternative" summer festival in Lollapalooza.
As their handlers rushed to rouse Farrell, two thoughts kept echoing like thunder riding the wind: "Don't speak to the band" and "No photos." Wearing a yellow wrist band with the words "ESCORT NEEDED" in bold lettering clearly indicated to everyone there that outsiders were in their midst. Eyes shifted, heads turned. Band members who may have been enjoying rock star festivities behind the stage mysteriously disappeared, leaving only a faint familiar smell in their passing.
It's 10 minutes before 8 p.m. as we make our way to the building that houses the rock stars. It looks like my old high school fieldhouse. It's even painted the same horrible grey color. Several signs indicating who is housed where were hanging above the doors. "Farrell and his dancers" sounded the most appealing.
This year, 97.1 the Eagle didn't pick up the contest to give listeners a chance to be one of the chosen few to watch Jane's Addiction's special backstage performance. So only four of us awaited entry into the room.
Five minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes later and the four of us were still making small talk with one of the handlers, whose job was to make sure we stayed in our allotted area. It's been 25 years since the release of band's groundbreaking major-label debut Nothing Shocking, and one can only hope the band still performs at the same level, especially after Navarro's bout with chemical addiction.
Nearly 30 minutes after we crossed the threshold into the rock stars' world, the handler takes us back to the Jam Session room. The band had already been jamming with a scraggly character who looked like a demented version of Uncle Jesse of the Dukes of Hazard fame (not Willie Nelson's version, either). A few of the band's friends stood in the room as Navarro - whose tatted, nipple pierced physique hasn't changed much in 25 years - Perkins and Chaney finish their previous set.
As soon as Farrell walks into the room, Navarro mentions a song under his breath. Farrell agrees and the band begins to play. Although the room is small, the band's sound reverberates as if we were standing in front of the Gexa stage. People's heads were moving to the beat, and Navarro's witchy eyes burned into each of us as his tatted fingers danced across the fretboard.
The band blazed through the song, and a few unknown people entered the room, interrupting the flow of the music, as the familiar smell followed them through the small group. One of Farrell's body suspension dancers came into the room with a metal meat hook through her back. Blood stained both ends of the surgical steel, and she looks at one of the handlers and motions for him to help her readjust the clamp holding her skin around the hook.
Three minutes later, the handler's pushing us out of the room. "That's it," he says, herding us toward the gate. That can't be it. "Yeah, just one song."
And while Jane's Addiction are famous in their own special way, inside the Jam Session room, it felt like chilling in my buddy's garage, watching his band play through one of their backyard hits. No stage lights to enhance the rock star persona. No smoke. No pyrotechnics. Just four guys playing their instruments for a few friends. And despite the one handler in our midst, we were all part of the band's extended family for just a few minutes.
It was well worth the wait.
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