I confess. I hadn’t heard a Creed song before I accepted the free flight to Washington DC. By virtue of nearly ten million albums sold in 2000 alone, I guessed they were among the top 10 most horrible bands in America, but it wasn’t until I stopped by a CD store en route to the hotel that I realised I’d made a deal with Satan Himself. The soft metal bombast was irritating. The evangelical Christian overtones were unsettling. Singer Scott Stapp’s Jim Morrison schtick was tasteless and his tone of perpetual anguish – imagine Eddie Vedder, Bono and Michael Bolton sobbing in time at a breast-beating convention – was nauseating. But nothing quite prepared me for the 10,000 Creed fans mustering along the highway as my chauffeured car neared the end of a long journey deep into some forested corner of Maryland. As a tide of flannel and denim engulfed the car, they looked to me like pre-zombie extras in Nightmare At Bible College II.
But hey, it was just another job. I had this getaway ride sorted. I had my tape recorder and the name of the road manager. I’d get backstage, let Stapp talk his leather pants off for 30 minutes, help myself to the rider, then endure just enough of the show to write a decent story. Then I had a weekend in DC, thanks to Sony Australia. Sweet. My first truly sickening moment was watching my car burn rubber and vanish at the drop-off point. The second was when I met the aforementioned road manager. “So you’re from Australia?” he asked in a tone uncomfortably close to contempt. “Man, you guys hated us last time we were out there.”
What? I’d only hated them for a few hours! But the die had been cast. Scott Stapp would not be gracing my Australian arse with his presence. Guitarist Mark Tremonti would do the interview. Stifling a “Mark who?”, I was thrust into a pea-green dressing room with two plastic chairs and a tub of ice filled with a famous American soft drink. No beer…..Nobeernobeernobeernobeerno . . .
Tremonti was a nice enough guy, though he was hard to hear over the din greeting a suitably diabolical warm-up band, 3 Doors Down. I remarked that the reception sounded curiously wholesome, quite unlike your average snotty, profane mosh of the new century. “Yeah, I think it’s cool to step into the rock’n’roll scene and be different, not to be somebody that’s here to spread the ‘let’s break stuff’ sort of attitude,” Tremonti replied. “I think that’s one thing that’s different about Creed. We’re very normal, your next-door-neighbour kinda band.”
No fooling. I told him about the array of normal t-shirts I’d seen punters wearing on the way up the highway: more along the lines of “Have A Nice Day” than “Rage Against The Machine”. “Yeah, everybody’s one big, loving family,” he said. “It’s like a Grateful Dead concert, but modern.” Like, without the dope? “Yeah, without the dope. Our fans are very intelligent. They read into all the lyrics and they know exactly what they are. They’re very into the band. It’s like a cult, kinda thing. It’s like a David Koresh concert, you know?”
The glib comparison to the controversially deceased Waco Davidians’ sect leader would have been the most surreal moment of the day were it not for what happened shortly after I left the comically named “Creed hospitality area”. Not wishing to miss a beat of the show, I gave the long lavatory queue a miss and ducked instead into the darkness behind some bushes. Perhaps this is a heathen Australian custom. But the palpable disgust of the Howard County policemen who escorted me from the premises was nearly enough to make me piss myself.
The good news was that I never heard a note of the Creed show. The bad news? No car, no phone, no story – and man, I still needed to pee. See, I hadn’t quite managed to unleash the offending article before being apprehended by the Maryland constabulary. Which probably made me the only man in America who felt more like Jim Morrison than Scott Stapp did.