Last week, it was around noon when I arrived at the Sunset Strip to see Nickelback perform a mid-day show at the House of Blues. According to their press release, they’re scheduled to make a major announcement. Online rumors suggest they’re about to bring their brand of mediocre rock on a world tour.
Their fans worry me. Powered by nostalgia and desirous of a return to some form of Middle-American lameness, it feels like the club is about to transform into a time machine that’ll transport us all back to the Bush years. The spirt of the early-oughts seems to be in the air—Republicans regained control of the Senate just a day before—and there’s no doubt these people are waiting in line look ready to party like it’s 2001. To them, rock’s not dead! It’s just gone dad.
Standing near me are a group of teen girls with dyed hair, punk style, and faces expectant like they’re waiting for a miracle to occur. I ask them why they want to see Nickelback. They burst out laughing. “We’re waiting to see Big Time Rush. They’re staying in that hotel there—across Sunset—but security says we have to wait on this side.” When a black Yukon pulls out of the parking lot, the teens run into the street, chasing the vehicle. And I know how they feel: I also want to run away.
It used to be you sold your soul for rock ‘n roll. Nickelback is proof that not even the Devil gives a shit about rock. By the time the Nineties drew to a close, rock was about as hard as soft serve and just as generic. When the new millennia began, all the big rock hits lacked any of the sexy danger of the past. The chart-topping singles were Linkin Park “In the End”, Incubus “Drive”, Creed “My Sacrifice”, Staind “It’s Been Awhile”. If you wanted anything that had a pulse, the best chart-topping rock song was System of a Down “Chop Suey!” It actually, you know, rocked.
2001 was not a good year for America, or for rock music. Enter Nickelback. “How You Remind Me,” a very catchy number about a dysfunctional relationship, was released just weeks before 9/11. Break-up songs often are popular, but this one tapped a vein.
According to Nielsen Soundscan “How You Remind Me” was the most played song on the radio for the decade. Fuse TV called it the number one song of the 2000s. And Billboard lists the tune at No. 9 in its Top 100 Rock Songs (of the last fifty years). Yes, at number nine.
Many people believe the band plays Christian rock. They don’t. Just consider “Something In Your Mouth”:
You’re so much cooler when you never pull it out
‘Cause you look so much cuter with something in your mouth
Today, as one of the most hated bands in the world, they’re not a group many people will admit liking. Rolling Stone named Nickelback the second Worst Band of the Nineties.
“Rock n roll is dying because people became okay with Nickelback being the biggest band in the world. So, they became okay with the idea that the biggest rock band in the world is always going to be shit.” That was Patrick Carney, drummer from the Black Keys speaking with Rolling Stone.
But, at one point, millions of Americans loved this subpar Canadian rock band. This may be hard to picture since Nickelback’s songs have all of the soul and depth of a Walmart parking lot. It doesn’t help that the lead singer, Chad Kroeger, looks like a guy who’d sell you meth in a truck stop bathroom. But lots of people really love meth, so maybe it makes sense this band has sold 50 million records.
Judging by the crowd, it looks like no teeth were cleaned in Los Angeles today because every dental hygienist in the area is at this Nickelback show. Using rough estimates, the average age of a Nickelback fan appears to be 42 years old. It feels like we should be waiting to attend our 20th-high-school reunion, yet, when Nickelback takes the stage fans react like it’s Led Zeppelin, going as wild as possible for a bunch of suburban moms on a Wednesday afternoon. The women are made-up and appear to have dusted off 2004’s sexiest club look. The dudes in this crowd look like they got ready by ticking off the following checklist: Dragons on my jeans? Check. Flames on my bowling shirt? Check. Called in sick to the car dealership? Check. Beers down the hatch? Check. Welp, I’m ready for some Nickelback!
Quality is not important to them, not as much as that rock n roll attitude. For them, the Sunset Strip mythos of The Doors and Guns n Roses is still alive and well, distilled in rebellious lyrics like:
What do we want?
We want change!
How are we gonna get there?
Standing on the edge…
…of a revolution!”
These words are so bad I can’t help but write them down.
Even lamer than the words is the man singing them. Lead singer Chad Kroeger could not be more of a douche if his job was to clean vaginas.
“Whoa! Is that thing heavy? That looks heavy! I hope there’s some strapping young guy to hold that for you,” he addresses a young woman in the crowd who’s holding a Nickelback sign spelled out in nickels.
I think she’s got it, Chad.
After another song, Kroeger offers to buy everyone a round at the bar. That’s one way to make fans. The crowd cheers, and Kroeger ups the douche factor: “Don’t scream, ladies! I’m not buying Cosmos.” Okay, cool.
Towards the end of the show, boozed up a bit, Kroeger decides to tell a joke:
Do you know what a bass solo and premature ejaculation have in common?
You can see both coming from a mile away and there’s nothing you can fucking do about it.
Ba-dum-dum-tishhh! (Bassists make orgasm faces when they solo.)
As the show winds to a close, I text a friend my final assessment of the show: Nickelback goes really well with a pair of mom jeans.
But hey, moms still want to rock. Good news for moms: Nickelback is touring.