Or, Doesn't Anybody Here Get Rock 'n' Roll?
The video seemed to support my assumption that America loves Limp Bizkit because the band's music encourages us to get crazy and wild and punch the air, and each other. We live in a world that puts a lot of pressure on us--and by "us," I mean white guys--and tells us how to live and what to do. Maybe you're not a white guy, but sometimes there's not much else a white guy can do but put on a Bizkit CD and punch the air, or another white guy. It's a sentiment I feel like I really understand, which is why I traveled on a wet Thursday morning to the Rockville Guitar Center, where the one and only Limp Bizkit was hosting open auditions for a new guitar player.
I arrived just in time to make the 11 a.m. sign-up deadline and got my audition number--279. A line wrapped around the side of the building, past some tents set up by local radio stations, and this line was just a fraction of my competition. The tryout was but one stop on a 22-city audition tour of the United States with the goal of selecting a new guitarist for Limp Bizkit--or at the very least, resulting in a lot of kids knowing the location of their nearest Guitar Center.
Each guitarist got somewhere between 40 seconds and two minutes to shine in a room at the back of the store. There were a few rules: no effects, no solos, and no covers. I don't know exactly who judged the guitar players, but I heard that one of the judges was a guy named Danny who had something to do with Flawless Records, the label founded by Bizkit frontperson Fred Durst. At 5:30 p.m., a select few would be called back to the store to jam with the actual Limp Bizkit.
During the whole drive down to Rockville, I pictured myself laying down some furious licks alongside an animated Fred Durst and two or three other guys whose faces weren't so well defined. Once I joined the band, though, I'd get to know those other guys--we'd probably hit it off the moment I strapped on my ax to jam. After all, I do know what it's like to be so wild and psyched-up that you just need to punch a lot of shirtless white guys.
It quickly became apparent quickly that I was the only one at the Guitar Center that day who understood about the punching and the wildness. I had a lot of time to kill before my number would be called, so I walked around outside and chatted with some of my rivals. I asked them about their own fantasies of winning the competition and joining the Limp Bizkit, about the mind-blowing rock 'n' roll life they envisioned living if they were to win the competition.
But not a single person I talked to would admit to having such fantasies. Not one. In fact, no one I talked to even thought he had a chance of winning. I was shocked at first, but then I re-evaluated the people surrounding me. I saw no hoodies, no more than one backward fitted baseball cap, and all the chin-pussy facial hair was the wrong type of chin-pussy. Most of the guys around me looked like they were trying out for Dokken or Queensrÿche. A lot of them were clearly older than 40 and might have actually been in Dokken or Queensrÿche. And no one would tell me that they were going to win the competition. Most said they were there to "have some fun," or to "just play," or to "support it." Support what?
I talked to a 14-year-old kid with long, flowing white hair and an Iron Maiden T-shirt who told me he didn't even like Limp Bizkit. Even a 10-year-old I talked to claimed he had no rock 'n' roll illusions. I tried to frame the question in familiar terms--"You haven't thought that if you win this competition, you'll never have to take the trash out again?" His mom quickly informed me that he doesn't take the trash out as it is.
I was horrified. For four hours I wandered the premises, watching guitarists and their guitars disappear into the building and finding no one who would cop to big rock 'n' roll dreams. One of the radio stations had set up a karaoke machine with which you could sing your favorite Limp Bizkit songs, and the scant few who dared step to the mic sang in a low monotone. No one even heckled me when I stepped up and sang Jay-Z and Madonna lyrics over the Bizkit instrumentals. Where was the energy? Where were the punches? How could these guys expect to join this colossal, worldwide punch-causing force known as Limp Bizkit with such apathetic attitudes?
On one hand, it seemed like I would be a shoo-in compared to the orderly, aged rockers around me. On the other, what if Limp Bizkit itself was behind this orderliness--the lines and the daunting piles of release forms and no-solos rules?
Confused and disenchanted, I stumbled across a guy named Yeti who works for Limp Bizkit in some capacity. I told him I was considered by many the greatest guitarist in the world. He criticized my air-guitar technique and laughed at me when I told him that my guitar was a "Yamaha or something."
"Got to love a man who doesn't know what kind of guitar he plays," Yeti said. Then he told me to stop bothering him.
I tried to incite the radio stations against one another by pointing out DC101's "The Only Station That Really ROCKS" slogan to the other stations, but they wouldn't bite. The most psyched-up response I got was when one guy at the WHFS booth made fun of Tool after I said I liked them.
And that was when Fred Durst appeared. He sauntered through the store flanked by two bodyguards, two police officers, and two waitresses from a local Hooters. He stopped in the audition room for a minute or two, then stepped back outside to conduct a brief interview with a local TV reporter before leaving by van. He looked really tired, and after he left the only thing anyone could talk about was how curiously short and stocky he is in real life.
I stood in the wet grass clutching my ticket and realized that there were no rock 'n' roll dreams at the Center of Guitars in Rockville that day. Maybe the punches in that video I saw were just the results of release forms and long lines--I don't know. But if the pot of gold at the end of this dreary dream was three-day stubble, two Hooters girls, and a crowd of people talking about my height, it was not a dream that I wanted to pursue.
I tossed my ticket to the ground and walked to the Bagel City across the street, where my car was parked. As I walked, I thought for a moment that maybe Korn's lead singer might sleep with his guitarist's wife . . . yes, then, then I will have the chance to give the white guys of the world my gift. My gift of punches.
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