Every once in a while you have one of those nights that exceeds every expectation you had and takes you on a bit of an adventure. The kind of adventure that while it's happening, you're either pinching yourself to check if it's still real or holding your side because it aches from all the laughter. This is the story of one such night back on the 5th of February, 2008 when my friend and I ended up taking the British rock 'n' roll band Oasis out for a night on the town in Los Angeles.
I've been to the savage little island known as Great Britain enough on tour to understand how you all feel about Oasis, especially those belonging to the punk rock sect. Oasis got so massive that you started to see non-music fans – what are known in the US as "steakheads" or "punters", as you guys call 'em – singing along to the songs on the jukebox at your local pubs. That's enough to ruin any band for me, too. Once something gets that big it can take on new meaning, I get it. In fact, if I were British I probably wouldn't be into Oasis either. Then again, I'd probably also have super fucked-up teeth and be way more into jacket potatoes, so who the fuck knows, right? My point is that here, in the land of the free known as 'Merica, most people only know the second album's singles at best.
But for me, in 1994, when all the smoke cleared after Kurdt Cobain ended his own life with a monster shot of heroin followed by a shotgun blast to the face, Oasis seemed to rise out of the ashes of Nirvana for an angst-ridden teen like myself in America. That first album sounded like a lovechild of the Beatles and Sex Pistols, and its message was refreshing! They were completely British but yet what they were saying translated perfectly to me.
These dudes weren't singing, "I hate myself and I wanna die." No, these normal, working-class lads from Manchester (unlike the posh, dance-oriented Blur, who didn't convert me until their self-titled album) were on some inspirational tip singing, "You and I are gonna live forever!"; "Toniiiiiight / I'm a rock 'n' roll star" and "Is it worth the aggravation / to find yourself a job when there's nothing worth working for?"These guys came from shit, didn't have shit, yet life was great? I was intrigued! Their attitude was refreshing and it sucked me into their world where every song seemed designed to make you feel good. Oasis to me, has always been about living life to the fullest. The following story is about a night that I lived life to the fullest with a little help from my friends in Oasis.
The sun was kissing the ocean and slowly disappearing over the horizon as I pushed my cherry 1973 Mercedes west down Sunset Boulevard to see our Canadian friends in Black Mountain play the Troubadour. Even though I hate West Hollywood, I do love seeing shows at The Troub – there's not a bad seat in the house, they treat bands well and the sound rules. Plus there's so much rich rock 'n' roll history there… it's where John Lennon spent his Lost Weekend, Keith Moon got kicked out in his Nazi uniform, Guns N' Roses played their first show… need I go on? So, I made me way to the show to meet my friend and fellow long-hair, Sam James Velde. After waiting in the will-call line for our tickets (cuz the homie [Black Mountain frontman] Stephen McBean hooked us up), we got our wrists stamped and made a B-line for the stairs by the stage. As we tromped towards the upstairs bar, I surveyed the room only to realise it was just us, the bartender and every member of Oasis.
At first, I tried to play it cool, looking beyond them to the bartender as we approached to order a couple beers. But as I turned round to face the members of Oasis, I just couldn't hold back any more – so I stepped toward Liam and said, "Hey man, I hate to be a nerd but I gotta say I'm a big fan of your band."
Liam leaned in, real close to me. He's what they call "a close talker". Sometimes you get some spit sprayback happening but usually it's accompanied with a really good one-liner, so it's almost worth it. So he leaned in, uncomfortably close. Took his index finger and tapped it against my chest lightly with every syllable of, "You're not a fucking nerd, mate! You've got GREAT taste in music!"
Which is a pretty fucking awesome reply and totally what I wanted him to say, just better. "Didn't we share a van in Switzerland?" said Noel, stepping forward. I'd shared a van with him when I was on tour with Nine Inch Nails, but I couldn't believe he could remember the occasion because we didn't even speak. On top of that, it didn't last more than two or three minutes. I'd got in a van at a festival because it was raining, and once inside I realised who we were riding with. But for him to remember… 'Dude must have a steel trap mind,' I thought.
And with that, Noel racked up Jameson whiskey shots for everyone: himself, Liam, Andy Bell, Gem, Zak Starkey, along with Sam and myself. We all sucked back our Irish apple juice and started bullshitting. Everyone was super cool and in a great mood. Liam and Noel were polar opposites; Noel is the grounded one who's full of wisdom and who you wish was your actual older brother, while Liam's the good-looking younger brother who can just as easily come off like an asshole as he can charm the shit out of you. We were all just drinking and rapping about everything from rock 'n' roll, to clothing stores, to… cheeseburgers.
"Eh, so where's the best hamburger in Los Angeles?" asked Liam.
In-N-Out, Sam answered, adding when pressed that the chain's "Animal-Style" cheeseburger was the pick of the bunch. Then Liam said: "What band is it?" Sam was confused by this.
"If it was a band, which one would it be?" Liam repeated.
"The Stones, bro…"
"Holy shit!" screamed Liam, "It's the fuckin' Stones! Noel! He says it's the bloody Stones!"
Noel looked over briefly as if to say, "I don't care about whatever you're saying, Liam," and continued talking to the bartender.
Liam paused, gathered his thoughts, cocked his head and fired back at Sam again. What album would In-N-Out's Animal-Style cheeseburger be?
"Well, it's messy – you know, just kinda sloppy?" said Sam. "And there's lots going on but somehow it's still the best – so I guess it'd have to be Exile On Main Street, man."
And that's where Liam lost it, throwing what I can only describe as a toddler happy-fit into what I think was a semi-Ian Brown dance followed by a few, "Wooohoos!" All of which got Andy and Gem to come over to see what was going on. Then Liam stopped smiling, he got real serious and asked: "Alright… what about Fat Burger? What do you get at Fat Burger?"
"Oh… there's so many options there," said Sam, "but I always like the one that comes with a fried egg on top and all those toppings…"
"Right… and what band would it be?"
Liam responded in approval with the kind of sound that people make when they've just been punched him in the gut, as he, Andy and Gem all buckled into laughter and indistinguishable English chatter. As Liam recovered, he spit out, "Yeah, Funkadelic – but what record?"
And with that Liam, Gem and Andy fell on each other in a pile. It was really hard to tell if Liam was the dumbest person on earth or simply a bloody genius. I found it hard to tell where his act began and where the real person finished. He would come off like a complete dick one second, but then come right back and charm the pants off you the next. I could see where his act would wear thin if you had to be around him all the time, but in small doses he was certainly entertaining.
Noel on the other hand, was the most down to earth and grounded millionaire rock star I've ever met. Although I did look at him sideways when he told us he didn't like AC/DC, aside from their first record. Dude's tripping on that subject. But there wasn't a question we couldn't throw at him that he didn't seem to enjoy meeting with a humorous reply. He's a true music fan. While Liam seemed to leap for attention constantly, Noel was much more laid back and secure with himself. Complete yin and yang. We polished off a few more drinks while we watched as Matt from Black Mountain drunkenly tried to explain to Oasis why Blur were better than them, which was priceless. Soon after that, Noel asked me if I had a car.
"Yep," I said.
"Will you drive us to [LA bar and bistro] La Poubelle?"
"Sure, but it's gonna be last call as soon as we get there – just warning you."
At the time I had a 1973 Mercedes 220D, which had less than 30k miles on it and still somehow had that new car smell. I loved that fucking car! It only had one sticker on it. Slapped across the bottom of the back window was the block Oasis logo, which every member of Oasis made sure to comment on as they piled in. It was an extremely embarrassing but funny moment. We drove east down Fountain and cut up to Franklin, passing long corridors of palm trees which Andy Bell said looked "magnificent". I had to agree. We parked and walked in to La Poubelle. As if on cue, "last call" was yelled out as soon as we entered the restaurant.
Just when we thought the night had hit a dead end, we stumbled into this guy Mickey, the bass player from Maroon 5. I barely knew him but convinced him he should invite us and Oasis over to his house so that we could take over his stereo and drink all his booze. I mean who's gonna say no to: "Hey man, I'm with Oasis and they wanna go somewhere and party – but everything is closing… can we all come to yours?"
And party we did. Mickey turned out to be an extremely gracious host, inviting us into his super nice pad up the hill from Franklin, offering us beer and hard liquor. While we were drinking, Noel explained to me that he quit doing cocaine after Be Here Now, suffered massive panic attacks while he was coming off it (which is what he said "Gas Panic" is about) and didn't feel like he was really able to write good songs for about two more records.
Then Chris Robinson from The Black Crowes showed up with what appeared to be a handler. Chris was killer though, he was passing joints around all night like it was his job. And yes: Chris Robinson's weed is as strong as you'd expect it to be. We all got "taller", total face paralysis. Although I think we did offend him when Sam and I took over the stereo, removing Gram Parsons mid-song so that we could drop "I Am the Resurrection", which was met with cheers and Ian Brown dances by Oasis. The celebration had nominated both of us "DJs for the rest of the night", so we dug out all of Mickey's good LPs and dug in for a night near the turntable.
For some reason, Alex Greenwald, the singer from Phantom Planet and the bully in Donnie Darko, was walking around the party with an acoustic guitar strapped to himself. I happened to overhear him and Mickey telling Noel that Definitely Maybe inspired both of them to start bands. To which Noel yelled over to Liam: "Fookin' hell, Liam! Get this, they heard Definitely Maybe and got fookin' Maroon 5 and Phantom Planet!"
As the night continued, so did the drinking, laughing and quotable sayings from the two brothers. The more we all drank, the harder it was to understand Liam; I'm pretty sure he finally caught on that I was just nodding and saying "yeah" to whatever he said when I couldn't understand him. Noel on the other hand remained steady throughout the night and told me a bunch of interesting stories, like the time he met Neil Young and how he came to own two 1969 Gibson 335 guitars that were made on the exact same day as each other. The party, the stories, the drinks and the tunes continued until the sun started to peak its firey head over the hills of Los Angeles. We all silently acknowledged that our night had finally come to a close, said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. As I slumped down in the back of the taxi home, I had to pinch myself with my left hand because my right hand was already holding my aching side.
Travis Keller is a writer and co-founder of Buddyhead Records and Buddyhead.com. Follow him on Twitter @buddyhead