Dave Grohl Debuts a Bro Love Song He Wrote for Josh Homme at L.A. Benefit, With Beck, St. Vincent and Bill Burr Among Guest Stars

There was a lot of intramural celebrity love to go around — both the self-consciously smarmy kind and the real, earnest thing — as Josh Homme produced an all-star benefit concert for his Sweet Stuff Foundation Wednesday at the Belasco in Los Angeles, with a cast of musical and comedic guests ranging from St. Vincent and Beck to Bill Burr and Sarah Silverman.

A perhaps surprising example of that less hammy, agape love came when Dave Grohl announced he was debuting an all-new, original song he had written in Homme’s honor for the charity event. Homme and Grohl had engaged in enough preliminary joshing — so to speak — that the sold-out audience was primed to laugh at what would presumably be a sarcastic number. It was anything but tongue-in-cheek, though, as Grohl busted out what turned out to be an anthem of unabashed brotherly love, making the hardboiled Queens of the Stone Age frontman cry.

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The first verse of Grohl’s ode to Homme, which sounded as if it might be called either “Whatever You Need” or “I’ve Got You, Man”: “When I’m in a moment where I’m all mixed up / When I’m feeling I’ve had enough, had enough / If you feel like writing, you know I’ll write with you / And if I’m free and you’ve got big plans / Take it from me, I’ll take that chance / Tell me the reason, I understand / Whatever you need, I’ve got you, man.” Other lines included: “Tonight I’m drinking with all your friends / Because we’re all your friends” and “When you feel like dying, I feel like dying too… / As of this writing, you owe me and I owe you.”

Grohl even managed to work in a mention of the name of Homme’s charity into the lyrics of his new song: “Come to me if you need some stuff / Some sweet stuff.” (Watch video of the performance, below.)

The Foo Fighters frontman explained the tortured process that led him to pen an original song for the show at the last minute — including a near-miss with a cover of “Paint the Town Red.”

“When Josh asked me to come out and play today, I said, of course, and then I spent a couple days trying to figure out, what the fuck am I gonna play?” Grohl said. “I was like, you know what? This shit’s funny — I’m gonna come out and I’m gonna do a Doja Cat song, and I spent fucking days trying to learn it,” he noted, singing a snippet of “Yeah bitch, I said what I said.” Having abandoned that because of too many words to memorize, “I was actually on Spotify at fucking 3 in the morning on a weird playlist that said ‘Great Acoustic Covers,’ trying to figure out what the fuck am I gonna do for this thing. And so I thought instead of learning something which I’ll totally forget, that I would write something. So I did something that’s maybe considered really, really uncool — I wrote a song that’s earnest about my friend Josh.

“We’re all here for this one big reason, but I don’t know if we’d all be here if it weren’t for that guy,” Grohl continued. “And when that guy fucking calls you and says, ‘Hey, I’m doing something,’ you’re just gonna; he’ll kick your ass if you don’t, basically. So I thought, I’m gonna write a song about him and embarrass him in front of all his friends by actually singing about how much I fucking love you, man. This is real. I’ve never even sung it out loud.”

The two men embraced after the performance, as Grohl handed the tuxedoed emcee his lyric sheet as a souvenir. Said Homme, “We just heard an original Dave Grohl song about an amazing human being that he totally surprised me with to make me look like a total cunt, and honestly, you did. It’s OK to cry,” he reassured himself.

josh homme, dave grohl and chad smith
josh homme, dave grohl and chad smith

This solo acoustic turn was not Grohl’s only appearance during the two-hour show. Earlier, he’d participated in a bit in which Homme said he was introducing a longtime friend who was the best drummer in the world, at which point both Grohl and Red Hot Chili Peppers stickman Chad Smith emerged from opposite sides of the stage and took to respective kits for a drum-off. Homme then sarcastically clarified that he was meaning to introduce comic Bill Burr as the best drummer in the world.

Burr then emerged to take Grohl’s place at one of the kits, joining the house band (which also included members of Arctic Monkeys and Queens of the Stone Age) in backing singer Patty Smyth, her guitar-playing husband, tennis legend John McEnroe, and their daughter Ruby on a pair of Go-Go’s classics.

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Bill Barr on drums at the Belasco Theater during Josh Homme’s benefit

Smith returned toward the end of the show, backing Homme and the house band on a penultimate rendition of the Zombies’ “Time of the Season,” which the Chili Peppers’ drummer interrupted with an un-apropos drum solo. “You took the song and you just fucking hijacked it,” Homme joked. “That was a sexy tune, and you just fucking took it to Fresno.”

Burr was one of three comics who performed during the evening, although he said, in apparent seriousness, that he was curtailing the material he had planned because of the number of smartphones recording his set (in contrast to the growing number of star comedians who have phones locked up in pouches at their shows). Having just made a crack that seemed to allude to the situation in the Middle East, Burr said, “You’re filming my act. I’m gonna get in trouble here. I just ended my career.” He also noted that he was about to do a special and couldn’t have the material blow up online before he films it. But before cutting things short, Burr managed to get a final zinger in at the expense of a woman yelling inarticulately from the balcony (seemingly in support).

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Bill Burr and Sarah Silverman

Silverman was trying out some new material, mostly related to sex or death, from a bit about how targeted ads for porn are a tell-tale sign of search histories to some amusing exchanges that took place on her father’s deathbed last year. Magician and comic Justin Willman did the first set of the night, involving Homme in a trick that involved the host picking between what turned out to be pre-scrawled options for “hug” and “anal.”

Most of the musical guests had been asked to sing covers, and for her moment, playing acoustic guitar alone on a stool, St. Vincent offered a languorous reading of the Patsy Cline/Willie Nelson classic “Crazy,” saying “it’s a song that I learned at the small Lithuanian fishing village where I grew up.” (That was a callback to the incongruous introduction she was given by Homme’s announcer for the evening, “Price is Right” stalwart George Gray.)

“I wanna get divorced with you so bad,” Homme quipped at the close of St. Vincent’s performance of the country standard.

st. vincent
St. Vincent performs at Josh Homme’s Do the Sweet Stuff benefit at the Belasco Theater

Beck also did his part to honor the mostly-covers brief for the evening, doing a duet of Seals & Crofts’ “Summer Breeze” with Homme, but also — by pre-show request — doing versions of two of his more obscure songs, “Fume” and “Hollow Log,” explaining semi-apologetically, “Josh asked me to sing two songs from 1992 that no one’s heard.”

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Josh Homme and Beck at the Belasco Theater

Homme also fronted the band in singing his version of Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down the Line,” and was joined by Eagles of Death Metal cohort Jesse Hughes for “Stuck in the Middle,” sticking with a Rafferty throughline. The Kills brought a more electrified duo energy with performances of “Baby Says” and “New York.”

The first musical performance of the evening was offered by Vivant, a band of young boys that includes Homme’s son Ryder on drums, doing creditable covers of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. Kanye stole “War Pig,” but a group of kids from Thousand Oaks was stealing it back.

The senior Homme also kept it all in the family at the end by getting serious for a moment and saying, “I’ve had a very difficult five years” — alluding to his own otherwise-unmentioned cancer diagnosis earlier this decade — “and I want to celebrate one person, my mother,” Irene, aka “the Homme mommy.” She works with him on the foundation: “This charity is a family-run charity. There’s only five or six of us. There’s only that many of us because 98 cents on every dollar goes where it should go.” He further told the SRO crowd that they had sold out the Belasco within five minutes of the benefit going on sale, and that it had raised more than $250,000 for the Sweet Stuff Foundation.

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The cast of Josh Homme’s Sweet Stuff benefit on stage at the Belasco Theater in Los Angeles

Homme explained some of the origin points for Sweet Stuff, noting that it got started “about the time that Queens lost a band member named Natasha Schneider. Bless her heart, she had cancer. It was tough, man. It was tough to (get help for) her. The government gets in the way, as they always do. You know you want to do something right, but it’s hard to figure out, how do I do something to help? So we try to make it easy.” He spoke of “indie motherfuckers on the street that get sick and don’t have a ride to the hospital. … Honestly, lots of times when you play music, you ain’t so good at doing math, so you could write a song that would crush all your hearts but you got nowhere to go.”

The charity has expanded beyond helping musicians, he said, citing the example of “a young girl … who got lymphoma when she was 3, but recently she just rang the cancer free bell at the Children’s Hospital. And,” he added, in keeping with the 98%-irreverent tone of the evening, “I know when she’s older, I’ll be picking her up from rehab, too.”

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