BY BRENDAN SKWIRE Last night I went to go see Adler’s Appetite, a band led by original Guns and Roses drummer Steven Adler, backed by members of similarly washed up hair metal acts, including Quiet Riot, Faster Pussycat and Enuff Z’Nuff. Adler, who has battled drug addiction for a long time and has suffered two strokes, is not only touring GnR’s legendary debut LP Appetite for Destruction, he’s pushing his similarly-titled autobiography, My Appetite for Destruction. So what we’re talking about is essentially a live VH1 Behind The Music: “Steve Adler was sitting on top of the world…until drugs brought him down… and now he’s clean and says he’s playing his best music ever.” You know the drill.
The show was at the Mill Creek Tavern, a bar located in West Philadelphia that could best be described as an anus with a liquor license. I’ve played there one or two times in the past, and dropped by on rare occasions to see friends play. It’s never been a pleasant experience: the room is far too large for the bands that play there, the PA system is too small for the room, and the beer selection is barely tolerable. The Mill Creek was originally an old-man bar, but the owner expanded, apparently without hiring a structural engineer, because some new supports had been put into place, blocking the sightlines. It’s about the wrongest place you could imagine to go see a band.
I pulled up at the Tavern on my bike, and marveled at the fact that they’d managed to squeeze two full-size tour buses (one with a trailer) into the tiny patch of gravel that passes for a parking lot. Inside was a sparse crowd of irony-loving hipsters, and a growing number of 40- and 50-something year old hard rock fans. Or, as I like to think of them: All the people that weren’t killed in the Great White fire. I have no idea where these people came from, or how they managed to make it into the 21st century without at least changing their haircuts. I watched Adler’s roadies run around setting up amplifiers and tuning guitars, and wondered how it must feel for musicians who once filled football stadiums and civic centers to play in a room with a 300-watt PA system, where you keep bonking your head on the drop ceiling.
I wandered over to the bar during setup and ordered a PBR. They were out, so I made do with Magic Hat. I hate that beer, but not as bad as I hate Budweiser, my only other option. Meanwhile, the band was taking the stage.
I will admit that I was ready to laugh at these guys. And I will also admit that I didn’t recognize the first song, but that didn’t matter, because ADLER’S APPETITE FUCKING ROCKED. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when a bunch of veteran musicians, who’d spent most of their lives doing nothing but rocking, treated the Mill Creek’s tiny little stage like it was Madison Square Garden. These are guys who can rock the house with both hands tied behind their back, and by the time they hit “Night Train”, the second song, that was exactly what was going on. Never mind that both guitar players looked like zombies, or that Chip Z’Nuff’s hair looked like a Harpo Marx wig. Fists were pumping. People were jumping. Sing-alongs, and a collective shout of “YEAAAAAHHH” when Adler popped out from behind his drums with the biggest, doofiest smile I’ve ever seen to ask if we wanted “more motherfucking rock-n-roll” and if so “show us your titties”. Then they launched right into “They’re Out to Get Me”, as Adler barely made it back to the drum throne on time.
Adler’s name kind of describes the musician himself: his giant hair makes him look like a blonde version of Animal, the drum playing muppet. He’s had a couple of strokes, which have left him with a speech impediment, but at the same time an obvious joy that he’s still alive. Ben Morgan, the promoter, mentioned to me that he doesn’t think he’s ever met a happier musician, and I’d have to agree. Adler’s doing exactly what he wants to with his life, bangin‘ the skins. He’s not even the front man for his own band, letting his singer Rick Stitch lead the exhortation for the “sexy ladies to shake their sexy booties and show us your titties” (always with the titties with these guys). My friend Audra managed to get to the front, and later told me that a surprising number of women were baring their funbags.
This is about when I walked out back to smoke some weed, where I bumped into a roadie for one of the opening bands. “Tell me the truth,” I asked him. “Is this the smallest place you guys have played on this tour?”
He shook his head. “As a matter of fact, this is one of our better shows,” he said.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Brendan Skwire blogs at Brendan Calling and plays bass for the Super Devils.