Dave Grohl Expands His Epic ‘Play’ Composition to Live 36-Minute Jam (Complete With Spoon Lady)
There's no doubt that Dave Grohl is a talented guy, transitioning from drums in Nirvana to frontman, singer and guitarist for Foo Fighters. But in 2018, the musician created an epic 23-minute composition called "Play" that served as a centerpiece for a mini-documentary he made to celebrate the rewards and challenges of choosing a career in music. But did you know that Grohl actually took "Play' to the concert stage? Footage of that rare performance has now surfaced as part of the new Warren Haynes Presents: The Benefit Concert Vol. 20 compilation.
What Was "Play"?
As stated, Grohl wanted to tap in to that rewarding feeling of choosing a career in music, so he designed the 23-minute composition "Play" as a way to showcase his fascination with music, performing every single instrument within the composition.
"To any musician young or old, a studio full of instruments is like a playground," Grohl began at the top of the documentary segment of Play. "To me, I'm like a kid in a candy store. Most musicians are usually chasing the next challenge and you never feel satisfied. You never feel like you've completely mastered the instrument that you're playing. It's always going to be a puzzle. It's always going to be a challenge. It's a beautiful mystery, but once it gets its hooks in you, that's when the obsession and the drive really kick in."
“Watching my kids start to play music and learn to sing or play drums, it brings me back to the time when I was their age listening to albums, learning from listening," Grohl later added. "When I take my kids to the place where they take their lessons, I see these rooms full of children that are really pushing themselves to figure this out. And even now, as a 49-year-old man, I’m still trying to figure it out ... it’s not something that you ever truly master. You’re always chasing the next challenge, and you’re always trying to find a way to improve on what you’ve learned."
"The idea of coming in and not only recording a song by myself, but a 23-minute-long instrumental -- multiple instruments, running from one to the next -- just seemed like something I've never done before," he explained. "And, honestly, I didn't know if I could pull it off."
For the original composition, Grohl played seven instruments. In addition to rocking the drums and guitar, Grohl played bass, keyboards, xylophone, shakers and vibes. "It was great because some of these instruments I don't even play. Sitting in front of a percussion station of vibes and shakers, that's not my natural habitat, but stepping in front of it and making it through those 23 minutes felt really good," he concluded.
Taking "Play" to the Concert Stage
The same year (2018) that Grohl created "Play," he decided to take it to the concert stage as part of Warren Haynes' annual Christmas Jam show. And in this case, he decided to bring along some friends to help him perform the epic jam for the audience. But in this case, with additional resources to help out and the jam friendly environment of the show, Grohl and friends extended play to 36 minutes.
Helping him on this performance were Greg Kurstin (keys), guitarists Jason Falkner, Alain Johannes and Barrett Jones, Chris Chaney (bass) and Drew Hester (percussion). The performance's distinctiveness was further elevated by the rhythmic artistry of Abby the Spoon Lady, a prominent Asheville-based busker and advocate for street performance, whose unique spoon-playing skill brought an unexpected and captivating dimension to “Play.”
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Where You Can Find the Lone Live Version of Dave Grohl's "Play"
Gov't Mule leader Warren Haynes has annually put on his Christmas Jam as a benefit concert for Asheville's Habitat for Humanity, and he's taking highlights from some of the performances to make up his The Benefit Concert: Volume 20 set, that will be released on Dec. 8 through Evil Teen Records/Mascot Label Group
The Grohl and Friends performance of "Play," which remains the lone live performance of the composition to take place, joins performances from Joe Bonamassa, Eric Church, Jim James, Mike Gordon, Jamey Johnson, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals and more on this compilation. Pre-orders for the set in various formats can be found here.
As for Haynes' 2023 edition of the Christmas Jam, Slash & Myles Kennedy, ZZ Top's Billy F. Gibbons, Gov't Mule, Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Evening, Clutch and more are set to take part in the event happening Dec. 9 at the Exploreasheville.com Arena. Ticketing and additional info can be found here.
Dave Grohl's "Play" From Warren Haynes Presents: The Benefit Concert Volume 20
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Gallery Credit: Philip Trapp