EARLY WORD: Stoned In The Queen Age


mike_wolverton.jpgBY MIKE WOLVERTON The first time I went to see Queens of the Stone Age was in New York in January of 1999. I was just getting into Kyuss at the time and had caught wind of this new project involving some of those guys. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to go, it was a Friday night and I had already had way too many drinks. I called an old work buddy and invited him to go with me, thankfully he turned me down. I somehow stumbled downtown to this dive on Saint Mark’s Place, where I was greeted by an unexpected and enormous line. With the boldness of the pickled, I squeezed my way past those waiting and up to the front, where I told them I was on the list. I was not on any list. And no amount of dumbfounded doubletalk was going to get me in. I was inebriated enough to forget the ensuing embarrassment and walk of shame back past the line and out the door.

The first Queens of the Stone Age gig that I actually got into was twenty months later during the Rated R tour. Towards the end, they were playing a song from their debut album (“You Can’t Quit Me Baby”), when I experienced one of those transcendent concert moments. I realized I was in the presence of greatness at the height of its power. I felt incredibly lucky to be there and can still picture that moment.

I’ve seen QOTSA three or four times since. I may have been wrong about them being at the top of their craft for the Rated R tour; they might have peaked with the next record, Songs for the Deaf. The band had never had a steady lineup, but a major change prior to 2005’s Lullabyes to Paralyze led some fans to feel the band’s best was behind them. I’ll admit that I can’t quite get into that album, although I’ve tried. Not that it’s bad, there just aren’t any exceptional songs. I like Era Vulgaris (2008) better, but will admit that the last time Queens of the Stone Age came to Philadelphia, I skipped it.

They’re back — playing a sold out show at the Electric Factory tomorrow — and I’m fired up for two reasons. First, I’ve found renewed love for Josh Homme (QOTSA’s founder/singer/guitarist/keystone) through his Them Crooked Vultures project, which released my favorite record of 2009. And second, QOTSA will be playing their eponymous debut album in its entirety, and that means some sick tracks (i.e. songs 5-11). My personal concert policy means that if I’m familiar with the material, I try not to listen to the band in question for a month or so before the show. That way, the songs seem fresher. But since this tour coincides with the reissue of a remastered version of Queens of the Stone Age, I decided to give it a listen, mostly to see if “remastered” really means anything.

The verdict: “Remastered” means fuck-all on my tinny computer speakers (couldn’t find the headphones). And I only made it through one song. In the end I just couldn’t bring myself to listen when I’ll be hearing these same tunes live in three days. But I don’t need to hear this record to review it: the first four songs are decent and the last seven are great, specifically tracks 6-10, which kick ass and blow minds. The show should also feature B-sides from the same era, a couple of which appear on the reissue. I can’t wait. Perhaps I’ll see you there, this time I am on the list.

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