Show Review: Stone Temple Pilots with The Dirty Hooks at the Fillmore, 3/12/18

by Stacy Scales on March 15, 2018

Color me impressed, Mr. Gutt.

Gather round, children, it’s story time. (Well, okay, it’s really just more of a long-winded introduction, but bear with me here…) My brother is, by far, one of my favorite people on the planet. He’s a few years older than me, so he was a senior in high school when I was a freshman, and I was fortunate that he was nice to me in front of his peers. This meant that all the older, cooler kids accepted me rather than finding me annoying. This was also the time in our lives when we first started to agree on (and bond over) music. In particular, we loved Aerosmith (because who wasn’t obsessed with Get a Grip in the early/mid 90s?) and Stone Temple Pilots. So fast forward nearly 25 years, and you’d better believe we were both dying to catch the band at San Francisco’s legendary Fillmore.Sadly, of course, STP has weathered the loss of not one but two irreplaceable frontmen, so I was curious to see who they had found to step into those enormous shoes. The name Jeff Gutt rang a bell, but even when I heard he’d been a runner-up on a season of The X-Factor a few years back, I couldn’t place him until last night when I found myself looking him up as I waited for the band to take the stage. I’m getting ahead of myself, though. I had a moment of feeling terrible when I found out that I had a ticket (not to mention a pit pass to shoot the band), but my brother did not. STP is a band we both love, so while it felt awful to go while he had to skip it, I knew he’d want me to go and enjoy it. But such is the life of a music writer, so I took my camera as my date instead and went alone.

When I got to the venue, I walked into the first song (“Cicada Tree”) by opening band The Dirty Hooks and headed straight for the bar. Mere moments later, I turned my attention to the trio onstage and listened with interest. I’ll admit, when there’s a band I really want to see, I often want the opener to hurry off the stage so I can get to “the good stuff,” but it was clear early on that this was not going to happen.

Las Vegas band The Dirty Hooks is made up of chick drummer and vocalist Jenine Cali, lead vocalist and baritone guitarist Bobby McCall, and lead guitarist Anthony Ratto III. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the name of every song, but they did not disappoint. Everyone I laid eyes on as I surveyed the sold-out crowd (waiting for a much-loved band) seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the Dirty Hooks as much as I was. Cali remarked that they had never been here before, and that it was “fucking amazing.” I think my favorite of their songs was “Moonshine Hustle,” but it’s a tough call; I really enjoyed “Badlands Saints” and “No Good” as well. What you really should do if you’re even remotely interested is take yourself here for a listen and check them out yourself. And that goes double for seeing them live!

The Dirty Hooks: take note (l to r: Ratto, Cali, McCall).

Between the opener’s set and STP, I had time to buy my brother a t-shirt from the show he was about to miss, and to Google Jeff Gutt to see what I could learn “quick and dirty” style. I’m glad I did, because I finally was able to realize that he was the guy I’d rooted for all season long the one season of that show I’ve ever watched. I loved him! Suddenly, I was excited not just for great live STP tunes, but for the dude who’d taken over the microphone. I can only imagine what it’s like to have that kind of pressure on a performer: not only is he wanting to do well with a band he’s been a part of for less than six months, but Scott Weiland and Chester Bennington are both well-loved for their musical and vocal contributions to the world of rock.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait long to see how he’d do. Just before the band took the stage I found a spot in the pit next to a photographer who’s taller than me, who helped me get the shot of the setlist (thank you, Greg!) and then I was ready to roll. The first thing I noticed when Gutt walked on was that he’s now shockingly blond, but it’s working for him, and he’s working it. They began with “Wicked Garden,” and within seconds it was clear that Gutt’s approach to stepping in as new frontman was to shine in his own right, rather than to try to offer the people a new version of either previous frontman. This is the right move, and it works for him because he is both talented and charismatic without needing to do an impersonation. (And I firmly believe no one wants that anyway.)

Badass bass man Robert DeLeo juggles onstage.

“Vasoline” was next, which is one of my favorites, and I was so stoked to be in the pit in that moment. Yes, I would have loved to have seen Weiland or Bennington sing this too, but let me tell you, Gutt really holds his own with this band. Does he sound like Weiland? Yes and no, and that’s enough. The song sounds just like you remember it, excluding the fact that it’s obviously a different man with a great voice. And out of respect to Gutt, I promise from here on out I will not mention once more that he is stepping into huge shoes, because I think he’s doing just fine where he is. I’m not the only one: I heard several comments throughout the night about how great they sounded; people were definitely digging him. “Lounge Fly” was next, and its end brought me sadly out of the pit and into the crowd with the rest of the fans. At some point early on, Gutt announced that he had never been there before, calling it “such a beautiful place” with “so much history,” and I’m quite certain he was referring specifically to the Fillmore itself, rather than San Francisco.

“Big Empty” was awesome live. At this point, Gutt addressed the crowd again, saying “hell yeah, San Francisco, this is awesome!” and I couldn’t have agreed more. I heard him say something about “definitely a lifelong…” but I didn’t hear the rest of what he said because my ears perked up when I heard a woman shout out, “I love you, Jeff!” which made me smile. Good for her, good for Gutt, and good for STP for finding such a great fit. Beer in hand, I made my way upstairs to survey the crowd. This is something I always enjoy doing at the Fillmore, especially with a sold-out crowd: I always think it’s fun to see a packed house and to gauge how much fun everyone is having. I was up there for “Atlanta” and watched from above as the crowd participated in an epic sing-along during “Plush” (which is one of my favorite of their songs, so I enjoyed it all the more). “Ya’ll are insane, man,” Gutt remarked lovingly, before pausing to plug the band’s new album, which will be self-titled and is out tomorrow. Naturally, this lead to the album’s first single, “Meadow,” which is exciting in its own right. I don’t know it well enough to have strong feelings about it, but I do think it fits nicely with rest of STP’s tunes, which is a good sign.

Eric Kretz on drums.

Another fave came next, this time “Interstate Love Song,” after which I overheard a man exclaim to his friend that Gutt was “doing a hell of a job!” and I nodded my silent agreement. “Army Ants” and “Piece of Pie” were next, followed by the new album’s second single, “Roll Me Under.” Contending with a random drunk woman deciding she wanted to nuzzle on me and bite my shoulder, I was a bit distracted when I saw a fan onstage with the band to intro “Dead and Bloated” (I think his name was Chase, they said), but I quickly managed to shake her off and enjoy the song, after which came “Sex Type Thing.”

The final song in the band’s full set was “Trippin’ on a Hole in a Paper Heart,” and then it was over and I still wanted more. I knew, thankfully, that there was a 2-song encore planned, thanks to the aforementioned setlist pic, but I was at least preparing myself to say goodbye. I personally like it when bands don’t milk the encore and take forever to come back, so I was pleased that this was the case last night. They left the stage for a few minutes, and when the crowd started chanting “STP! STP!” they quickly returned for “Creep,” which was freaking phenomenal, and finally, “Down.” And just as quickly as it had begun, it was over. But there are mere days between me and the new record, so I will wait like a good fan until my next chance to see them. I’ll be learning the words to the new stuff and looking forward to seeing the new Stone Temple Pilots. (Hopefully next time with my brother in attendance as well!)

Gutt’s wisest move when attempting to fill big shoes? Being himself.

Oh, and okay, one last comment: on the way out the door, they handed out STP Fillmore posters (I didn’t know anyone still did that – it was rad). As I crossed the street and then waited in line at the parking garage to pay so I could get home, the man next to me turned and remarked at how great the band had been. I realized that I had had similar experiences that evening with at least four or five other strangers. I’m not sure what it is about this band or this evening that was provoking such a fun camaraderie, but it’s new to me and I loved it. In my experience, after a show, everyone just leaves the building, keeps to themselves, and goes back to their lives. For some reason, that wasn’t the case that night and everyone seemed to be leaving in high spirits. I’d say that’s a good sign for Mr. Gutt and STP as a whole.

STP setlist.

Stacy Scales

California native. Therapist. Word nerd. Music lover. Linguaphile. Amateur foodie. Basketball junkie. Travel enthusiast.

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