Keanu: Live & sweaty
(Previously published on November 9, 1994 as a shorter version under the title 'Keanu Rocks!')
Lucky Lesley O'Toole, our LA contributor, managed to score a ticket to a rare Dogstar gig (and a sneak perv at Keanu Reeves). She chatted with Keanu last year and catches up with him again in a behind-the-scenes exclusive.
It's 9pm on Friday night outside the Troubadour, a small, hip rock club in West Hollywood. Normally you'd be paying $10 admission and walking right in to hear whatever band was playing. Tonight, though, Dogstar are on. No-one in the music business really knows who they are yet - they've only played about three times. But they've got a bass player named Keanu Reeves and the show has been sold out for weeks.
Dogstar last played here in June. Since then, hundreds of fans have been calling the club every week, to hear when they'd be playing next. If you called Troubadour's recorded information phone line, you heard a voice saying, "Dogstar! Not a ticket in the universe! Ha ha ha!".
Inside, the small venue is packed - there are lots of girls at the front and to the left, because that's where Keanu's white bass guitar is sitting. A roadie-type wanders onto the stage, picks up the bass and moves it to the right-hand side of the stage. The girls force their way over to the other side.
The band is due on at 10pm but they don't come on until 11pm. "OK kiddies, let's hear it for Dogstar," yells blond guitarist Bret, as he walks on stage. Keanu comes out wearing a brown, long-sleeved T-shirt, very ripped jeans and a scruffy, old pair of trainers. Sources say he'll earn about $10 million if Speed 2 goes ahead. He definitely doesn't blow his money on designer labels - he's unshaven and his hair has grown a bit since Speed.
The lead singer, Greg, is wearing a ski hat and looking pretty cool. They strike up the first song. Fortunately, the girls in front of Keanu don't scream until it ends. Keanu looks mortified. He's been standing toward the back of the stage, trying to blend in with the rest of the band, but the girls scream at him. He has a quick chat with them between songs, but he'd rather be playing - he's too nice for his own good.
The band was nervous about the show and had been rehearsing every day for two weeks. Dogstar sound a bit like a 90s version of The Clash - they're quite thrashy and punky with very oddly-named, but catchy songs. There's Ride, Camp (as in summer camp), and Cardigan.
After 10 minutes, Keanu shuffles up to the microphone and says, "Thanks for coming out tonight!". The Keanu fan club screams in unison, "We love you!".
A bit later, they call their man forward between songs again. One of the girls throws ice in his face and he looks completely bewildered - unsure whether they're just messing around or being nasty.
Halfway into the show Greg announces, "Now, the moment you've been waiting for!" Keanu moves into the middle of the stage and sings one song - not only does he play a mean bass, he's got a good voice, too. Then the band launches into a lively cover version of The Jam's Modern World.
After the gig, a friend of the band does a roaring trade in Dogstar T-shirts - at $15 a pop. She sells out in three minutes flat - the girls then race back to the side of the stage where the band is doing a quick T-shirt-signing session. Besides Keanu, Greg and Bret, there's Rob, the drummer (who makes a brief appearance in Speed as one of the guys stranded in the lift).
I chat to some of the Keanu fan club after the show. Tara Kline, Marla McClure, Bianca Herrera, Annie Mateen and Margo Muschamp are all 16 and 17, and they're here because they love Keanu.
"Hey, I'm a bag of teenage hormones," laughs Marla. Tara thinks Keanu has become a bit arrogant since she saw Dogstar last - her friends disagree. "If he was egotistical, he'd have reason to be with everyone screaming," says Bianca. "But he's not. And he's not here to talk to us during the show anyway."
The guys go upstairs to The Loft, Troubadour's VIP area. Not surprisingly, everyone is more interested in the band's bass player than anyone else. The club's staff have noticed that Keanu is more in demand now than the last time the band played - before Speed opened in America - and one of the staff, a huge black guy, has been made his unofficial bodyguard. Keanu doesn't know which way to turn - probably because there are heaps of stunning, scantily-clad girls everywhere. The second he walked into the bar, he was surrounded by people, all wanting a piece of him.
I got talking to some die-hard Keanu fans, the ones who discovered him long before Speed. Maria Saccoccia, 23, lives nearly 5,000 kilometres from Los Angeles on Americas East Coast and has wagged college to be here.
Someone produces a camera so I offer to introduce Maria to Keanu, whom I've already chatted to. I tell him she's flown across the country to be here and he looks at her as if she's completely mad.
"Will you sign my ticket stub?" she says. "Yes, if I can borrow your back," smiles Keanu. "Uh?" says Maria, stunned that she's finally met the guy she's been idolising for eight years. I get her to turn round and Keanu scribbles away on her back. Then I take a picture of them together and Maria looks like she's about to melt.
Keanu seems shy and baffled that so many people want to talk to him.
"You know, I just wanted to talk to my friends, but there's not much prospect of that with all these people around. This was the best show we've ever played, though," he says quietly, smiling again. In the past, Keanu's only comment on the band has been, "We suck. Tonight, they certainly didn't.