Karla Peterson: Dave Grohl's new streaming rock doc is an epic road trip

Karla Peterson, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Entertainment News

Gather 'round the pop-culture campfire, boys and girls. It's time for Uncle Edge and Cousin Exene and Grandpa Ringo to tell you a story about a crazy, beautiful time when future rock stars roamed the Earth in smelly vans, logging thousands of road miles for the privilege of playing live for you and a few dozen of your sweaty friends in a small, also-smelly nightclub near you.

Remember live concerts? Dive bars? The joys of discovering amazing bands long before they became famous? Foo Fighters leader and massive rock geek Dave Grohl remembers, and with his new documentary, "What Drives Us," he wants to make sure that you and your fellow rock 'n' roll friends never forget.

Released Friday on Amazon Prime Video's new Coda Collection channel, "What Drives Us" finds Grohl interviewing dozens of rock stars, indie icons and up-and-comers about their origin stories. What inspired them to make music? What were those early road trips like? And how did the hours they spent crammed in a van with their cranky bandmates change their lives forever?

"All of the biggest bands in the world, they had to start somewhere. Everybody I know started like this," Grohl says. "In a van."

Or almost everybody.

"I realize that I actually never toured in a van," Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich says to Grohl at the beginning of the 88-minute film. "Can I go now?"


He's just joshing. One of the beauties of "What Drives Us" is that everybody is more than happy to talk to the gregarious Grohl, who gets some very famous people to say some very funny and/or revealing things.

Here's the Edge, assessing the results of the first U2 rehearsal, held when the band members were still in high school: "It was just … cacophony. It was not good." Here's Exene Cervenka of X, talking about touring with the same people for decades on end: "You're kind of like a family that wants to kill each other." And let's just say that the gas-passing etiquette tutorial from Ringo Starr is worth your time and at least the first installment of your $4.99-per-month Coda Channel fee.

Everyone wants to talk to Grohl, and the challenge for viewers is that Grohl wants to hear from everyone.

To his credit, the lineup includes big names (Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, Slash and Duff McKagan of Guns N' Roses, Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers); punk veterans (Mike Watt of the Minutemen, Kira Roessler of Black Flag); indie road warriors (St. Vincent, Ben Harper); and up-and-comers (Missouri punk-rockers Radkey). All of these people are smart and quotable, and every single one of them probably has enough great origin stories to fill their own book.


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