Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

One Feminist's Take on Stone Temple Pilots, Circa 2011

Written by Katy Otto
 Active Image Seventeen years after my full-fledged obsession with the mid-90s rock lords Stone Temple Pilots, I was finally able to see the group live recently at the Williamsburg Waterfront. My friend Lauren informed me that we could volunteer through the Open Space Alliance, an organization dedicated to North Brooklyn's parks and events, and forego the $50 ticket. I was in. On the heels of reading lead singer Scott Weiland's autobiography, Not Dead and Not for Sale, this opportunity was too perfect to pass up.
Seventeen years after my full-fledged obsession with the mid-90s rock lords Stone Temple Pilots, I was finally able to see the group live recently at the Williamsburg Waterfront. My friend Lauren informed me that we could volunteer through the Open Space Alliance, an organization dedicated to North Brooklyn's parks and events, and forego the $50 ticket. I was in. On the heels of reading lead singer Scott Weiland's autobiography, Not Dead and Not for Sale, this opportunity was too perfect to pass up.

Following my completion of the book, I pulled out Purple and downloaded a host of other recordings and videos of the group. "Trippin' on a Hole in a Paper Heart" was stuck in my head for days. Weiland has all the makings of, not only a great rock star—command of the audience, electric chemistry with his bandmates, cockiness blended with pathos in a perfect cocktail, a fine-tuned flirtation with androgyny, and soul soul soul—but also of a bona fide twenty-first century poet—use of stark imagery, vascillation between the beautiful and the broken, relatable storytelling of heartbreak and loss.
The recent book outlines the meanings behind a lot of lyrics penned by the formerly heroin addicted songwriter who struggled with his relationship to his father and stepfather, the women in his life, and his friends, for years. What struck me most was his disclosure of survival of sexual assault as a young man—something I consider incredibly brave. The man who took the stage as the sun set in North Brooklyn was composed and compelling, opening with a pitch-perfect version of "Lounge Fly." With the original lineup in place including the DeLeo brothers, a crowd of thousands responded fervently, fists in the air, singing note for note.

It was refreshing to enjoy live music with a truly unpretentious and diverse crowd. I met a twenty-eight-year-old woman, very tanned and with bleached blonde hair, who talked about how much the band meant to her throughout her high school years. The look on her face when STP hit the stage was nothing short of joy. One guy next to me nudged his friend and said, "These women love Scott Weiland—what am I doing wrong?"

I thought about it for a second. Watching him onstage, I had to note that the man, now in his early forties, was graceful. Not a parody of himself, as so many former rock heroes are when they take the stage again later on. The group's newest record is still vital and interesting, and the chemistry is obviously still there (demonstrated most when bassist Robert DeLeo leaned over in a song to kiss Weiland on the cheek).

Some of the songs were performed with various interludes and jazzy renditions, with hits like "Creep" and "Still Remains" tugging at heartstrings, followed up by an over the top rendition of the farcical "Sex Type Thing." Weiland exists in the space between male and female, in the vein of many rock performers—strong, unerring and masculine, but also vulnerable, empathic, and feminine. The confession of heartbreak with his ex-wife Mary outlined in his book set the stage in my mind for an understanding of a person who has truly come out of pain and hurt, who loved someone else that struggled with manic depression and drug addiction, and who is currently facing demons day by day—through his published memoirs, his ongoing work at sobriety, and his decision to make music in public again.

At one point in the show, Weiland told the audience, "This song is off our album Purple. We named it Purple because it sounded purple." That commitment to synesthesia and feeling spreads throughout most of his lyrical storytelling. Lines like "Pick a song and sing a yellow nectarine / Take a bath, I'll drink the water that you leave" and "Time to take her home / Her dizzy head is conscience laden" make the listener feel something, but you are not sure quite what. For some, like me, it almost assumes the role of an inner monologue of a past lover you never fully understood but wanted to. Sometimes, truly, colors and pictures and images say far more than words less flowery and more direct ever could.

So, yeah. The sixteen-year-old girl I once was wrote "I love Weiland" on her red Chucks in high school. The adult woman I am now is ecstatic watching the music and art of a survivor who has been courageous enough to put the skeletons in his closet on display for his fans and detractors alike. My love for Stone Temple Pilots, their muscular songwriting as well as their lounge and soul-influenced ballads, has been mocked by many of my friends and musical peers. But boy, when Weiland hits the stage in a dapper suit, vest, and hat, you truly are being treated to something special, and something from within. Here is to many more years of Weiland and the rest of STP owning the stage.

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