Whitney Lockert: I’ve been to Coachella twice, years ago. The first time I went was the first time I ever saw Queens of the Stone Age. I’d read about them a little, I think mainly in the English music publications I read a lot at that time, like NME and Q, but I hadn’t really listened to them yet.
They played in the evening on the second stage, not the larger main stage where I would see them play the next year. By the time of QOTSA’s set, I’d already been seeing bands play all day and it was time to eat. I remember grabbing some kind of food and sitting down near the edge of the area where the crowd was gathered to see them. As we ate and watched the band play, the sun was setting in the mountains behind them, the perfect setting for their thundering desert rock. I gradually realized that I was watching one of the best rock bands I’d ever seen.
I had no idea at the time that they had just finished recording what would become one of my all-time favorite albums, Songs For the Deaf. Nor did I realize that the drummer was none other than Dave Grohl, and that this was the first band he had played drums for live since Nirvana. I didn’t realize that Mark Lanegan of Screaming Trees was the third lead singer in the group, his Tom Waits grunge growl the perfect complement to Josh Homme’s occasional falsetto and Nick Oliveri’s punk scream. I just knew that this band was blowing my mind. When they played “Song For the Dead,” with its stop-start riffs and ridiculous drum fills, I remember thinking the outro was incredibly obnoxious, in the coolest way I’d ever heard.
From that time on, I loved Queens of the Stone Age. I wanted to be in Queens of the Stone Age, and judging by their never-ending series of collaborators I wasn’t the only one. I briefly started a band with the explicit goal of sounding like them; it didn’t last, but their music was a huge inspiration to me for years, even if you might not detect it immediately in my current Americana sound. I saw them several more times over the next few years, but that particular show was the most impactful, the one that I always feel very lucky to have been in the right place and time for.
Whitney Lockert and the Queens of the Desert: Whitney Lockert’s Long Way to California album is out now.
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