The "I Met Alice in Chains" story
Alice in Chains filled a need during some of the worst years of my life. For one, they were always 'there'. Their music and lyrics, and those
fucking Staley/Cantrell harmonies. Damn!! Singing along with their songs provided me with much needed emotional release. (And also taught me how to harmonize
when I began writing my own songs.) Then there were their TV appearances, all of which I still have on VHS (ew! God, I need to transfer that shit to DVD...).
Entertainment Tonight, PBS, and a few Headbangers Ball's episodes featuring bathrobes, waterslides and voodoo which some of you may recall. Bottom line,
these guys were silly as fuck.
So their music was great on its own, add to that lyrics sung with such emotion and powerful riffs and solos that would often cut to the core how I was feeling (mostly shitty), plus hilarious video I watched - or just revisited in my mind - when I needed a lift. They were the 'end all be all' band for those core developmental years into adulthood. I was so into them I made a video of their TV appearances and music videos and made my own video of them, combining two of my interests. I'd been making videos with my dad's pro equipment for several years. The night I finished editing the video (we're talking 1993 and VHS tape to tape editing), I had this overwhelming feeling that it was going to provide an opportunity to get some acknowledgment from the band and maybe even meet them, which wasn't like me. I was way too much of a pessimist.
April 11, 1993 I saw AIC play the San Jose Event Center. I was 17 and unemployed, so winning 4 tickets was pretty sweet! I ran into two of the guys in
Circle of Power while walking around the venue. They'd opened for AIC that night, and I recognized them from Mtv. I mentioned it in conversation. One of
the guys said to send the video to the fan club, that people really do check that stuff out. I figured I'd give it a shot. What could it hurt?
In early June 1993, I received a small package in the mail. Inside was an envelope with a return address for Susan Silver Management in Seattle and a white Alice in Chains Dirt t-shirt. I still vividly recall my heart racing at the excitement and curiosity of what was about to unfold.
Inside was this letter:
And this shirt:�
I'd managed to purchase 2 tickets for June 23's Bay Area Lollapalooza show by selling my in-window air conditioner to a neighbor for $75. I gladly gifted the second ticket to my friend Michael who would be driving. I was looking forward to seeing Rage Against the Machine (an opener), T00L (on the 2nd stage!), and Alice in Chains, of course. We were bummed to get their too late to see Rage (who I didn't get a chance to see again until they reunited at Coachella in 2007) and I never would have guessed that T00L, whose EP I was diggin'), would become one of my Top 5 bands and grow into being a mind blowing experience both on CD and live).
Well into the afternoon, as my friends and I were slumming it in the lawn section of the Shoreline Amphitheater, I caught something odd out of the corner of
my right eye. Was that a dog? I turned my head, and it sure as hell was! A golden retriever by the looks of it. OK, just who would be walking a dog - when they
aren't even allowed here? I followed the leash to see that Sean Kinney was walking the dog. SEAN KINNEY! Without a second thought, I bolted towards him. He
signed a few autographs for fans, then it was my turn. I introduced myself and said I'd sent in a video I'd made of the band about a month ago. He told
me he'd seen it just before they started the tour and asked me some questions about the studio where I'd made it. Then he said that their manager would
love to meet me and to tag along with him so I could get backstage.
I'm sorry, what? He wanted to take me backstage? He knew who I was? Hello, unpredictability, nice to meet you!
I had to tell my friends I was taking off for a while, then rejoined Sean, his friend Jennifer and the dog who I later learned was Chuck, Mike Inez's pup from the "Down in a Hole" video (RIP). They left me waiting at a barrier near the reserved seats while Sean looked for their tour manager to get me a pass. He came back after a while and said they were still looking for him. Without complaint or regret, I waited in that spot for TWO HOURS. I mean, I knew there was plenty of other stuff for bands to do than scurry around, trying to score a pass for someone they just met. Plus, this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Waiting made it that much more exciting.
I spotted Jennifer and called out to her. She couldn't believe I was still waiting. Then I saw Sean, Layne and another guy and called out to them. The
third guy approached me and got me my pass within a matter of minutes. Praise Jeebus.
When I finally got to the backstage/dressing room area for all of the bands, I spotted the guy who had given me the pass. He was talking to a woman in her late 30's, I'm guessing. She asked me if I had made the video. I said I had and asked who she was. "Susan Silver," she replied. "Mrs. Chris Cornell!" was the first thing out of my mouth. She gave me a playful look and said, "I have a name, too!"
By this time the band was getting ready to go on, so I would have to wait until after their set to meet them all. I opted not to watch from the side of the
stage and join my friends (yeah, I would have done that differently if I could do it over. Come on, lawn vs. watching from the stage?! Luckily I got that
opportunity some years later). I smoked a little weed, which I now regret doing because it absolutely fogged up my memory of that night and all concerts I ever
smoked at. (Eventually I quit - why go to a concert I was going to forget? - , but that's another story entirely).
After their set, I headed backstage again. I figured there would be some waiting time. I made myself comfortable amongst the tables and chairs, spotting familiar musical faces walking around and soaking it all in. Then I got impatient. It had been about 30 minutes and I was a teenager on the verge of meeting my favorite band. Can you blame me? I tried not to show it as I approached the guy guarding the door who said the band was having a meeting with their manager, then the paramedics came out. Uh oh! Turns out Layne needed his foot taped up (it was about a year since he'd broken it on the ATV, but who knows if it was related).
A few minutes later, Jerry emerged. Yay! I introduced myself as the one who "made the video", but he seemed less than enthused - maybe he didn't remember it. Sean had even said he didn't remember much of it since he'd seen it a while ago. But he shook my hand (yes, I've since washed it), smiled and said he liked it. He signed a few autographs for a handful of fans, then went back in the room. Next, Layne came out, a large crewmember by his side, and made a bee line towards the busses. Some fans followed him, but it didn't seem like he was much in the mood to socialize. And to this day I don't regret not having tried to meet him. I wasn't looking for autographs; I wanted to talk for a minute or two - or longer if possible. But I also didn't want to be obnoxious about it. That came later…
Next, Mike and Sean walked out together, but I didn't want to follow them around like a dork, so I sat some more. Then I noticed the door was cracked a little, so I poked my head in and saw Jerry, asking if I could come in and hang out a bit. He said he had some people to talk to, but later would be cool. So I climbed up to the metal staircase to watch Primus below from stage left. Despite being local boys, I was never a huge Primus fan. If I was going to listen to something "different", my first choice was going to be Mr. Bungle. And no, it had nothing to do with Mike Patton being hotter than Les Claypool! I'd actually seen some of the Primus guys walking around before they went on and at first I couldn't place where I knew them from. They looked like guys I'd have known from parties or the Junior College. While on stage I realized they looked familiar from all the rock magazines I collected and were also dressed like any other guys I would see at parties. J
I kept my eye on AIC's dressing room door, hoping for some sort of something so I could get just a few minutes to hang out with them together. I'd
started to harbor expectations after both Sean and Susan had made it obvious they had seen the video and knew who I was. I assumed that was all across the
board. When I saw Jerry leave the dressing room, I headed back down the stairs to try and talk to him. This is when I started to feel obnoxious about it. Just
keep in mind I was only 17 (no Winger references, please!) and my biggest draw to the band had become Cantrell because he had written almost all of the music
and words to the songs that resonated so deeply within my troubled self. And those solo's were icing on the emo-cake. Not that I was the only one to
experience this, but I *felt* that music penetrate to my core and it gave me peace and hope and happiness as well as an expression for my anger, confusion and
frustrations, so it took on a very personal connection. And yes, I also thought he was hot as hell, but I wasn't trying to be a groupie. The ideal
situation was to meet these guys and become friends. Did I mention I was only 17?
Jerry and I sort of met halfway after I descended the stairs, and he was so sweet about it. I think it was obvious I was nervous and harmless. He put his
hand on my shoulder (also washed since then!) and said, "I'm not much for talking right now, but I want to tell you that I really liked your video and
I was very impressed." He said he was going to watch Primus and and suggested I walk around backstage and enjoy myself. We smiled and he walked on.
Dammit! I didn't want to walk around. I'd waited two hours just standing around, waiting for my backstage pass! Then stood for AIC's set. By now, I
just wanted to sit down. And with Primus closing the show, I knew time was running out before they'd have to go. I found a basketball court and there was
Roger Rocha (drummer for 4 Non Blondes) and Whitfield Crane (Ugly Kid Joe's singer, and cute as hell) shooting hoops with some other guys. I'd actually
met Crane earlier while I was waiting for my pass, because he'd walked by me a few times for drink runs and we'd talked a bit. Cool guy.
Eventually, I spotted Mike and Sean out of the corner of my eye, heading back to the dressing room. I opted to head that way as well. I asked the guy watching the door if I could go in, so he asked if the band knew me. I said they didn't *really* but I'd made a video, and… He cut me off to exclaim, "You made that video?! Come on in!" That moment completely blew my mind. These guys and their camp knew who I was. Me! And it made enough of an impact that I was escorted into their dressing room. To this day, those circumstances still blow my mind.
He introduced me to everyone, saying, "She's the one who made the video!" Even though Sean and Susan had already met me. It didn't matter, it was still cool as hell. Sean shook my hand, saying, "I'm glad you made it back. Sorry it took so long." I sat on the couch next to Susan and the guy who let me in, who I learned was their Tour Manager Kevin. They offered me a drink, so I accepted a Grolsch, which I still refer to as "The Alice in Chains beer". Haha
Susan introduced me to Mike. He said he hadn't seen the video yet and I joked he was really missing out. My guess was that since he wasn't really *in* the video, since Mike Starr had been when I was making it, why would they show it to him in general? Then he started to talk to all of us about George Washington being a hemp farmer. As interviews clearly show, Mike is a people person and enjoys talking and hanging out.
Jerry emerged from a back room with an attractive, skinny brunette with some remnants of smeared lipstick. *ahem* lol He got her some bottled water, then Sean says to him about me, "She's the one who made the 'Would?' video, Jerry!" Susan asks if we'd met and I say yes. I decided to ask why they didn't play either of the new tracks, "A Little Bitter" or "What the Hell Have I"?" He said they only have an hour, but they played those last night and someone always asks why they didn't play a particular song. There's no pleasing us fans, I guess.
Jerry and his companion leave, then Sean starts playing with Chuck, joking about what he's gonna do to him if he shits on the bus and that if they gave
him some beer, he'd be out for the entire bus ride. (I don't have dogs, but I get the impression they all like beer.) Susan left the room, then Sean
and his friend Jennifer, which left Mike and I. I've always been curious about life on the road and what goes into being a pro and very successful
musician, so I asked a lot of questions that he graciously answered. He asked if I'd met his dog, and I said yes and I'd also read about him in BAM
(Bay Area Music magazine). He asked, "How did the interview turn out? I haven't seen it yet. Did we look like a bunch of dorks?" "No,"
I replied. "You always look like a bunch of dorks!" hahaha Chuck was getting hyper, so Mike decided to take him for a walk. He told me to make myself
comfortable, help myself to whatever I wanted, and that people would be coming in and out all night and to just hang out. "I'll see you down the
line," he said as he left.
Sean, Jennifer and Susan were back within a couple of minutes with Chuck in tow. Susan asked me about other video work I'd done. I told her some had been on local TV shows my dad had produced and I'd only been doing it since I was 14, "which wasn't that long ago. I'm not even 18 yet!" I said. Sean says, "Take that beer away from her! Chuck, attack!" He and Susan started talking about a friend from Jersey named Walter and were doing their best impressions of his thick Jersey accent. Sean recalled numerous times Walter dragged him from bars to keep him out of trouble. Then Jennifer shared a drunken Sean story about a party at her house. When her guests were leaving, Sean was taking a leak in a large potted plant near the door and shaking their hand with his free one. We were all cracking up.
After some more talking and laughing, Susan had to get going to the airport. Sean offered to carry her bag (aww!), we all said goodbye and went our separate ways. And so ended my backstage with Alice in Chains adventure, which led directly into the "Where the hell did we park?" and "I'm totally lost while on foot!" adventure. Where were cell phones when we needed them?!
And here's the video!
Compared to what people can do now, it's no big deal and crappy quality.
But for 1993, not to bad overall.