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Seeing Foo Fighters Again With Clear (Sober) Eyes

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I was drunker than a frat boy at a jungle juice party.

Imagine: Lollapalooza 2011. Chicago. Hot and humid weather. My boyfriend Jeffrey and I were active alcoholics at the time, and alcohol was my bipolar treatment of choice. We’d spent most of the day drinking tallboys of Bud Light while people watching and wandering the grounds of Grant Park swilling beer. We didn’t even witness much music because for us, drinking was the main event.

There are few things that give me greater joy than seeing an amazing headlining performance at a big festival like Lollapalooza. The camaraderie and the fellowship of the fans — thousands of people all tuned in to one musical spectacle, singing along and applauding and screaming gallantly — is extraordinary.

At Lolla 2011, Jeffrey and I did get the chance to see The Mountain Goats and Bright Eyes over the weekend in the balmy 86-degree heat. Then came the storm. It was raining bats and frogs. Mud everywhere. Soaked. Cold. A lull in the rain. Then it came back during the Foos’ set. Then it went away.

I was super psyched to see Foo Fighters because I had never seen them before and I had always admired Grohl, who, as most of us know, was the drummer for Nirvana. In that band, Grohl was just a little drummer boy. After Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain died, Grohl became a successful songwriter / frontman in his own right, with the Foos. He was the unsung hero of Nirvana.

Last night, the folks at Lolla HQ streamed that headlining Foo Fighters performance from 2011 and I didn’t recognize a thing about it. Why? Because I was wasted. But it was truly fantastic to finally experience it. Grohl performed “Times Like These” solo with the band chiming in midway through to rock out.

In fact, that song “Times Like These” takes on a new resonance during the COVID-19 pandemic. I don’t know if it was originally about 9/11 but it came out in 2002. Watching video of the performance gives me the chills. “Experiencing” it live, drunk, I would’ve just been numb and spaced out. But last night, I connected magnificently with the show. The chorus is absolutely beautiful: 

It’s times like these you learn to live again
It’s times like these we give and give again
It’s times like these you learn to love again
It’s times like these, time and time again

Jeffrey and I had just finished beer number who-the-heck-knows of the day. I was so thirsty for alcohol, when we cashed our latest round, I went to the bar to score two more. I was trudging through the mud, and I could barely walk. But I made it to the bar and grabbed two more tallboys. Then, meandering through the crowd, I couldn’t find Jeffrey.

So there I stood, as the band played, double fisting two Bud Lights. I drank them both. The more beer, the merrier.

I am so glad I got to re-experience that fabled performance, which, has become the stuff of legend. Last night, I was ready to rock, and I did from my living room sofa. Clean and sober.

For more stories about the intersection of music, addiction, and mental health — read my book The Bipolar Addict: Drinks, Drugs, Delirium & Why Sober Is the New Cool. Available now on Amazon.

Photo by Diego Mora Barrantes on Unsplash

Originally published: June 17, 2020
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