Almost, Almost Famous

As soon as the band starts to play, this feeling that something is about to happen snakes its way into every cranny of the room, teasing us like a climactic moment in a suspense film. It’s as if anything could happen. Would the payoff come from the mike stand, threatening us like a javelin, or the beer bottle so tenuously held in the lead singer’s fingers? Just a slight flick of either wrist is all it would take. It feels dangerous to stand too close to the stage and yet we just keep moving closer.My friend and I had joined the crowd of indie kids, frat boys and slutty looking girls at the Troubadour to see the latest buzz-bin import from the U.K., the Towers of London. The five members (average age 22) have been described as what would happen if the Sex Pistols fucked Poison. Visually, they remind me of the bands of my youth, when the letters GNR meant something and I knew all the words to “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” But sonically, they are way more Ramones than Warrant, and this is why we went. But by the time the band gets to its single, “Fuck It Up,” arms are uncrossed, hands come out of pockets, and slowly bodies start bouncing off one another like electrons, the energy rising until it explodes into a full, bona fide mosh pit. When the set finishes, groans rise from the sweaty room. Everybody wants more. My buddy and I decide to take matters into our own hands and work the band’s manager, Nathan McGough (of 24 Hour Party People fame and former manager of the Happy Mondays), for an invite to tag along. The band asks us to join them at the Rainbow Bar & Grill on Sunset, groupie heaven, where gold records glitter on the walls and the paraphernalia of hair bands gone by is enshrined like statues of saints in a Catholic church. It’s late and we easily snag a seat at the bar next to a few aging rocker chicks, including one in a chain-metal half shirt. Like real life Banger sisters, they try their luck with each band that darkens the doorway.Donny points at me. “I saw you,” he says. I always wondered if they could actually see anyone, up there with the bright lights in their eyes. “During the show, I saw you,” he says softly. I suppose that’s how Penny Lane from Almost Famous got hooked. The object of everyone’s affection that was just dancing and singing onstage has come to rest in your lap. You feel chosen.Within 30 minutes, the entire band has a “bird,” or two, in their arms. I’m in Donny’s, having dragged him down the dark, empty restaurant to a pew-like red leather booth in the back. I was tempted by his generous Eskimo kisses, plus I needed to get him away from the two groupies who were trying to claim him — one a goth in a shredded black sweater and the other a beautiful girl named Harry who has a suspicious London accent.He shares secrets with me, including his real name. We make out, a boozy drug-laced kiss, the kind you get lost in. When our entourage calls us, we slowly double back, finding our way out. After calculating that a titty bar would cost 10 bucks to get in and wouldn’t serve liquor, we all decide to go back to the tour bus, where it’s free tits and booze.The bus door opens. “I’ve never been on a tour bus before,” I giggle. The bus driver looks down at me and snickers, “Yeah, that’s what they all say.”Inside, it’s exactly what you’ve seen in movies, except no one sings “Tiny Dancer.” Drugs are passed around, and so are women. Harry has made her way on the bus and from Dirk to Tommy. But there are plenty of birds for everyone. The lead guitarist, The Rev, stumbles out of his bunk with his pants and a blond chick around his ankles. An acoustic version of “Fuck It Up” plays on a continuous loop.Eventually, Donny cajoles me into his bunk. It’s pitch-black and coffin-like. But the sensory-deprivation experience is cut short when Nathan announces from the front: “This bus leaves for San Francisco in five minutes. Whoever wants to stay is more than welcome.”Donny tries to talk me into staying. The feeling that anything can happen is still ringing in my ears, and it’s hard to resist. But at last I’m called from the cave. My friend is waiting for me. The whole bus shouts, “Goodbye, Linda.”Harry smirks at me. She’s staying. As the bus pulls away, I ask my friend, “What is it about those guys?” She pauses and whispers, “They’re going to be famous.”Oh, right. I had forgotten about that.

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