Foo Fighters could easily have filled the Bell Center. Why did the band prefer to wake up the rock ghosts of the Verdun Auditorium? Because its leader Dave Grohl has a sense of history. The former Nirvana drummer’s relationship with Montreal is not new.
On December 20, 1987, it fell on Montreal, it is said, one of those storms that surprise Quebecers every year, gifted to live in denial of the inevitable return of winter.
Nick Farkas organized that Sunday in the former Club Soda (on Park Avenue) a show by Scream, a hardcore band from Washington, D.C., which had been recruited in 1986 by a young 17-year-old drummer, Dave Grohl.
What does Nick Farkas remember? To have lost a lot of money, because the snow had confined many punk rockers to their homes. Fortunately, the members of Scream had been able to sleep in the basement of the family home of his friend and future partner in Greenland Productions, Paget Williams.
“But what I remember most,” continues Nick Farkas, now vice president of concerts and events at evenko, “is how upset I was, because Dave was already such a good drummer, he hit so hard, it was a machine. Usually I look at the singer or the guitarist, but this time I only looked at him.”
A follower of punk reciprocity, Grohl in turn welcomed his Montreal friends when they were at his home in Virginia, whether he was on the road or not.
Dave Grohl would visit Montreal again with Scream on at least two occasions, June 9, 1989 and June 19, 1990, at Les Foufounes Électriques, before the group disbanded. He was therefore not at the Nirvana show in this same legendary bar on April 17, 1990 – Chad Channing was still officiating behind the cymbals – but was there on September 21, 1991, three days before the release of Nevermind, for an evening which more Gen Xers claim to have attended than there were actually spectators in the room (about 300).
“We were always welcomed with open arms by our extended family of weirdos and geeks,” Dave Grohl writes of Montreal in his autobiography My Whole Story.
“When the Foo Fighters agent asked us if we were still doing shows at the Verdun Auditorium, I laughed,” evenko’s Nick Farkas said. The Darkness is the last major group to have plugged in its amps there, on June 22, 2004, the dilapidated state of the facilities making the Sud-Ouest arena less and less welcoming.
Although there is something surprising (and touching) about the request, Dave Grohl’s desire to honor his long relationship with Montreal in this way, in a relatively intimate place (4,000 seats), is part of a rich series of projects and events worthy of a man with a sense of history (hence the gaminet des Foufs that he sported on stage in 2019). He is, after all, the man behind a documentary about the legendary Sound City studios in Los Angeles (Sound City) and another about the role of a touring vehicle in the life of a band (What Drives Us). .
Not to mention that his knowledge of the Quebec metropolis certainly deepened between 1999 and 2001, when he was in a relationship with Montreal musician Melissa Auf der Maur. And that Nirvana’s last visit to Montreal dates back almost exactly 30 years ago, on November 2, 1993, at the Verdun Auditorium, five months before Kurt Cobain took his own life. A group by the name of Radiohead was in town the same evening at the defunct Woodstock Bar on Saint-Laurent.
“What I remember about Verdun Auditorium is that it sounded like ass,” says Groovy Aardvark frontman Vincent Peake, who had his “first big show ever” at Verdun Auditorium. on June 26, 1982, that of Iron Maiden.
This temple of metal, in the 1980s, opened up in the 1990s to grunge and alternative rock. Between August 1993 and August 1996, only Pearl Jam, Lenny Kravitz, Blind Melon, Sepultura, Soundgarden, Green Day, Pantera, The Cranberries, Beastie Boys, Bad Religion and Rage Against the Machine stop there.
The renovations completed at the Auditorium de Verdun in September 2021 suggest that the hall could reconnect with its golden years, although other amphitheatres, including Place Bell, now play this role of intermediary stage for major artists whose popularity justifies a large enclosure, but not yet the home of the CH.
“What comes to mind when I think back to the Verdun Auditorium is how epic it was to go. It was like an epic in the Wild West, “illustrates the former host at MusiquePlus Geneviève Borne. “It’s not that far, Verdun, but it was that at the exit of the metro, there was already an atmosphere, with rockers walking side by side. »
The nickname she and her cameraman gave the place? “We called it the Verdun sauna, because there was no air conditioning. We knew each time that we were going to be excruciatingly hot. We were not in the comfort of today’s arenas. But it was raw. It was rock. »