Backstage with Papa Roach
It's no secret that I am a rocker chick to the core. The mere thought of a deafening guitar riff and a thunderous drum beat, simultaneously booming from an amplifier with sub woofers bigger than my house gets me feeling all kinds of turned on. My friends know this about me, so it only made sense that when one of the biggest new anthem rock tours came through my hometown, I was contacted immediately by my buddy at the radio station, and the conversation went something like this:
Friend: 'Julie, are you interested in accompanying us to the Rock Allegiance Tour, complete with backstage access and press passes?'
Me: 'No, I have to wash my hair.'
Me: 'I will be too busy feeding my cat.'
Me: 'Glee comes on at 9, so it's really not an option.'
Me: 'ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?? OF COURSE I'm in, you asshole!'
Friend: 'Thought so. Pick you up at 8.'
So, now the real question came to mind: what the hell do I wear? I was obviously going to be schmoozing with these dudes in a fairly intimate atmosphere, limited to press people and sponsors, so I didn't want to look like a whorish groupie. I also didn't want to come across as a conservative prude (not that I've ever been referred to as that in my entire life, but for some reason it was a concern weighing heavily on my mind). I skimmed through the dresses hanging in my closet and finally decided on short and tight with not much cleavage. (My rule of thumb is to show one or the other at any given time: legs or tits. Never both.)
The Rock Allegiance Tour included a slew of newer anthem bands and boasted the slogan: 'Loud Riffs, Cheap Tix'. Their lineup contained up and coming hardcore bands like Drive A, Crossfade, RED, and P.O.D., but the headliners of the show were no doubt what I was anticipating the most.
First of all, I must say that Buckcherry is one of the most underrated bands of this decade. They have been around long before 'Crazy Bitch' ever graced the Top 40, and their gritty, raw, old school cock rock gave them a special place in my heart that was normally reserved for 80's ringleaders such as Guns N' Roses and Motley Crue. Their front man, Josh Todd, is a scrawny, sexy, tattooed little beast who bounces across the stage, peeling one layer of stylish clothing off at a time'all the while singing about cocaine and sluts. Two words: pure awesomeness.
Papa Roach, in my opinion, arguably gives one of the best live performances of all time. I am not kidding. Yes, I said Papa Roach. I've seen everyone from Prince to AC/DC, and let me tell you, Jacoby can catapult an audience into another dimension. Not only is his unleashed energy exorbitantly intoxicating, it's contagious. Before you even realize it, you are jumping up and down, screaming in unison with the chorus as he pumps his fist in the air and sprays saliva all over his microphone. He ignites so much fire and passion into the crowd, you think you're on a fucking roller coaster.
We got to the show early so we could mingle with the bands prior to their performance. I was encouraged to bring t-shirts, hats, and bottles of Hot Rawks to give to each of them, so I drug a suitcase full of paraphernalia into the VIP area.
Each band came into the pressroom separately, so we had a limited amount of time to chat and get pictures with them. I had to spark their interest with Hot Rawks within the first few minutes, or else I would lose the opportunity forever.
The pressroom was quiet, cold, and excessively bright with unflattering florescent light. It reminded me of my elementary school cafeteria and I suddenly realized why my 4th'grade teacher had looked so damn ghastly.''I quickly swiped my face with more bronzer.
The first few bands filed in as if they were cattle, and quickly took a seat behind the designated pop-up table. Each band member had their own Sharpie, and the handful of people in the room would line up to get autographs on their Rock Allegiance posters and shirts. When the musicians had all scribbled their illegible signatures on everyone's keepsakes, they stood up to take pictures with each of the fans and members of the media.
Sure, I was wearing something that caught their eye, but I knew I had to be witty to grab their minds and really make an impression. I walked up to the table, and when they would start to flirt I would flatteringly respond,'''I am confident you are already a stud in the bedroom, you know, being a fabulously sexy rockstar musician and all, but I figured you, of all people, would appreciate Hot Rawks. It is almost as powerful in the bedroom as you are onstage'but not quite.' Then I would wink and hand them each a bottle, with my business card attached. They would immediately start skimming the label and laughing amongst themselves. 'Hell, yeah!! Let's take some right now!' was the most popular response. Josh Todd, Buckcherry's frontman, looked at my business card and said, 'Are YOU Julie Wilson, the Founder and CEO?' I smiled and nodded.
Of course we all sat front and center for the entire show, and each of the bands recognized us , pointed, and smiled. One very excited guitarist even pulled the Hot Rawks out of his pocket and thrusted the little black bottle in the air. No one in the audience could tell what the fuck he was holding, but they screamed as if it was the Holy Grail.
After the show was over, we were invited to continue the shenanigans in a much more relaxed atmosphere. Many shots were consumed and pandemonia ensued. We were popping Hot Rawks like Skittles and laughing till our faces hurt. Before I knew it, we were all eating pancakes at 4am.
Needless to say, the tour left our fabulous city and continued on to the next destination. I had no idea where they were going, but I felt as if I had made the most of my short-lived marketing opportunity. They were definitely going to remember Hot Rawks, and like most of the celebrities I've dealt with thus far, I was certain they were going to contact me for more.
Sure enough, I got an email the next day from one of the lead singers. He thanked me for the Hot Rawks and said they appreciated hanging with some real people for once. Then, prior to signing his name, he said this:
'Let us know if you ever want to come to another show. We will miss hanging with all of you at our next gig in Mineral Wells, WV. Hope to see you soon, Beautiful!'
I about choked when I read it. I couldn't believe it. I took a sip of coffee and typed this reply:
'Mineral Wells, West Virginia??? That is right next to my hometown of Parkersburg! What a fucking coincidence!'
Twenty minutes later, my phone rang.
'Is this Julie Wilson?'
'You've GOT to come join us for the West Virginia show, and invite any family or friends you have up there to join you. We will give them all VIP access and backstage passes. The only thing I ask is that you take some of us out on the town the night before the show. We actually have a day off and we are stuck in a small town with no clue what to do. If you are really from there, come and show us around!' It was a voice from one of the headlining bands.
'Seriously? But it's like a 5-hour drive'' I grimaced.
'Listen, if you can't, I understand, but we need a tour guide and I can't think of a better one than yourself. Besides, you've got us all addicted to Hot Rawks now and we will need a much larger stash to get us through the rest of the tour! Don't make me beg.'
This would normally NOT have been as tempting of a scenerio as is seems, mainly because I am a 34-year-old single mother and CEO who can't just follow bands around like a fucking groupie. That being said, I remembered it was my cousins 30th birthday the next week, and intimate VIP passes to one of the only live rock shows that would grace Mineral Wells, would be about the best present EVER'plus, I hadn't visited my hometown in awhile, and this would give me an excuse to get up there and hang with some of my peeps.
'Ok, but I can't promise anything over the top. We will be attempting to party in Parkersburg on a Monday night'this isn't gonna be easy.'
I packed my suitcase full of Hot Rawks, Patron, and slutty attire, then headed up to show some famous rock stars how to have a good time, West Virginia style.
I arrived at the historic Blennerhassett Hotel around 3pm and was immediately greeted in the lobby by my new friends. After conversing for awhile, we decided to venture out into the world and see what trouble we could get into. My hair had been tied up in a loose bun for the entire road trip, so I let it down and shook it out into a tousled mess. I was wearing a True Religion denim skirt and brown cowboy boots. It was hot and humid as hell so I had removed my blouse and was donning an ultra thin wife beater. The guys were heavily tattooed from earlobe to ankle and wearing a variety of thick silver jewelry, cargo shorts, and Converse in a rainbow of colors. The passers-by were gawking and we hadn't even left the hotel.
Thirty minutes later we are shopping at the same mall I used to stroll around when I was in high school. I hadn't been to that mall in over 10 years, and the nostalgia was intoxicating.
We walked into Buckle, and we all started rummaging through their selection of jeans. A pretty little blonde with a nametag that said 'AIMEE' walked up to us and timidly said:
'You're not from around here, are you?'
'Actually, I'am'from here,' I smiled and she grinned back. I shifted my eyes over to the long, fuzzy-haired drummer who was standing across from me. 'They are just visiting for a few days''
'Well you don't'look'like you're from around here!'
'I moved awhile ago, but I grew up here and graduated from PHS.'
Her face lit up. 'What year did you graduate?'
'Ummm. '95.' I said in an undertone.
'Really?? My dad graduated in '93!!! Maybe you know him!!' she was gleaming.
It was time for a drink.
After having a few beers with my cousins at a local dive bar, we decided it was time to head back to the hotel to get ready for a night on the town, I was still unsure exactly where to take these guys, and I was counting on my family to help me out.
We started with dinner and wine at the Blennerhassett Hotel. It was rather ironic, sitting with these tatted out rockers and sipping fine wine while chatting about politics and business. The one thing I've learned throughout my travels is to never judge a book by its cover. More oftentimes than not I've hung with rough-looking rock stars who were really just eccentric businessmen, living out their passion and following their dreams. They listened intently as I told them about how I started my company, and how Hot Rawks came about. It is moments like these that are rare for a small business owner. The largest talent agency or PR firm or marketing company in the world could probably not have given me this kind of one-on-one opportunity. In my opinion, this how you get celebrities to want to help promote you, when they get a chance to find out there is credibility behind your product, and passion behind your brand.
Okay, back to the evening'we had already consumed several bottles of wine and a couple liquor drinks, so we were all feeling tipsy and ready to go. My cousin suggested a couple of bars, but the musicians were dead-set on a titty bar. Shocking, I know.
'Um, the strip clubs here really aren't that great, trust me,' my cousin explained, 'especially on a Monday night''
'We don't give a fuck! We have a free night'Take us to see some titties!'
Their wish was our command.
We piled into two taxis and instructed the drivers to take us to the best strip club in Parkersburg. We ended up on a gravel parking lot in front of a square, concrete building in the middle of nowhere. There was a marquis sign facing the road that that was missing some letters, but I was still able to make out the words:
'ALWAYS H R NG. DR NK SPEC ALS N GHTLY.'
They were apparently out of 'I's'.''(In some instances, having no 'I's' might not be a bad thing.)
There was a placard affixed to the front door that read, 'Ring Bell for Admittance'
The security guard who was accompanying us for the evening (let's call him Tiny, for sarcasms sake), placed his enormous index finger over the cracked plastic button and pressed it gently.
We heard a bunch of rattling and clicking go from top to bottom on the other side of the door, as if we were waiting in front of some inner-city apartment while they dismantled a multitude of locks prior to letting us in. Even Tiny looked a bit panicked.
The door finally swung open and a petite 40-something woman with shoulder-length blonde, frizzy hair smiled and welcomed us inside.
'I need to see some I.D. please!' she boomed.
We all handed her our licenses and she positioned a pair of reading glasses over each one to inspect the dates.
'That'll be $5 each please,' she said matter-of-factly as she handed back our identification.
She took our money and disappeared behind the back door. We were all standing, tightly cramped in a tiny foyer between the front door and the door to get inside the club.
Suddenly we heard a buzzer go off and the same girl opened the inside door.
'Come on in and take a seat anywhere!' she said through a beaming smile. She was actually quite pleasant.
I took a look around the place. It was dimly lit (thank God), and had a stage that lined the left side of the building. The 'stage' also happened to be the top of the bar. I could see the rows of liquor bottles that lined the opposite side and two weathered-looking cash registers. Barstools lined the other side of the bar, and card tables with plastic chairs were positioned towards the front of the stage. Even further to the right side of the building were several pool tables and something that resembled a pinball machine.
When our rugged looking rocker crew made an entrance, every single person in the whole club stopped to stare'all 6 of them.
We picked out two tables in front of the stage and made ourselves comfortable.
'We need drinks, asap!' Tiny said.
The waitress scurried up to take our drink order. It was the same blonde girl from the front! After she took our order, she literally hopped over the bar (in a short neon skirt, mind you) and proceeded to MAKE our drinks.
'Is she the only one working here?' the drummer asked, laughingly.
Just then a curvy little brunette wearing a black dress that was cut all he way down to her belly button, came out of the back and walked up to the jukebox. (Yes, I said jukebox). She punched several songs and then strutted over to our group.
She took a seat and propped her elbows up on the table.
'Hey. Where are ya'll from, anyway?' she batted her eyes in the most animated way. She couldn't have been a day over 18 years old.
We proceeded to chat with the young girl and she even danced for Tiny. The drinks were going down like water, and we were making my cousin do tequila shots off of Blondie's chest. We were all laughing our asses off in drunken bliss'
Suddenly, the guy sitting beside me grabbed my arm and said, 'did you just see that??' He pointed to the floor by the wall.
"See what?' I asked.
I looked down to see a mouse scamper along the floor by the bar and then bolt under our table.
'Ahhhhhhhhhhh!!!' I screamed and jumped up onto my wobbly plastic chair in such a panic that I couldn't hold my balance. Think about it: I'm drunk and I'm wearing stilettos. I jump up onto a plastic lawn chair. Do you see where this is going? I toppled over and landed onto the guy beside me. We ended up on the floor, laughing so hard that we couldn't even muster the strength to get up. We were crying at this point, and Tiny resembled a human Empire State Building, hovering over us and trying to help us up.
We finally pull ourselves together and get up off the sticky, nasty floor.
'I think that Mickey is telling us we don't belong here,' my cousin said, still laughing uncontrollably.
We paid our tab and got the hell out of there.
I still keep in regular contact with my rock star friends (which I now refer to them as 'RawkStars' since they are avid Hot Rawks customers). They are still traveling and touring like crazy, but the one thing they all agree on is they have yet to have a titty bar experience more memorable than that Monday night in Parkersburg, WV.'J