A decade ago, four friends from Voorhees hit the road on a June afternoon to see their favorite band, Queens of the Stone Age, play a semi-secret show in North Jersey.
The group performed at the Vintage Vinyl record store in Fords for a few dozen fans on a small stage near the stacks of prog, hardcore punk and death metal CDs. QOTSA was then touring to promote their album, Like Clockwork. They visited the Garden State a day after appearing on “Late Show with David Letterman.”
The friends — Chris Urban, Cody Reisig and brothers Connor and Mitchell Rothstein — knew it was going to be an intimate concert but they never expected to be recruited as roadies. They loaded equipment and participated in the soundcheck. As a reward for helping set up the gear, they had pizza with the band in a back room after the performance.
“That’s stuff you would see in a movie,” said Urban, now the father of a 2-year-old daughter named Lucy. “The day Lucy was born is always gonna be the best day of my life but meeting Queens of the Stone Age is a close second. I still tell people about it all the time.”
Ten years after the band’s surprise Jersey date, QOTSA is kicking off a world tour promoting their new album In Times New Roman, which will be released on June 16. The band won’t be stopping at Vintage Vinyl this time around — the landmark record shop closed in 2021. QOTSA is, however, still showing their love for record stores. They have organized Midnight Club listening parties tonight at shops nationwide, including Tunes in Hoboken. The events will feature a preview of In Times New Roman and prizes for fans.
The band is touring Europe for the next few weeks but will play an area show on Aug. 12 at Forest Hills Stadium in (fittingly) Queens. The four friends from Voorhees, though, are not planning a Forest Hills reunion. They now have children of their own and other responsibilities curtailing their concert-going. Each of their lives has drastically changed in the wake of events including a cancer diagnosis, the loss of a parent and the overdose death of a close friend.
“The show was the perfect start to the last summer where we were just free and did not have any worries or responsibilities,” said Urban, 30. “It was the first major thing we did as a group of friends that we now have as a special memory.”
Urban, Reisig and Connor spent the summer of 2013 working at Morey’s Piers in Wildwood and making music with their band, Little Sister, named for a QOTSA song.
“We were saving up to record our album and when we were off work, we would be practicing in my mom’s basement and writing songs,” said Urban, who works at an auto auction salvage yard. “That whole summer was all about music and hanging out with my brothers.”
Just a year after the Vintage Vinyl show, Reisig was diagnosed with leukemia. Although his cancer is in remission, he was hospitalized for two months at the beginning of COVID for a pulmonary condition, forcing him to drop out of law school at Rutgers-Camden. At one point, he was placed on life support and could not communicate. His mother played music for him that she thought he enjoyed.
“I had tubes down my throat and my mom didn’t know what I listened to, so she kept playing AC/DC,” said Reisig, 30. “I couldn’t speak and I just wanted to smack her. ‘Please do not play “Highway to Hell” again.’ ”
Once he was able to talk, he asked to hear the QOTSA song “I Appear Missing” on repeat. The Like Clockwork track chronicles frontman Josh Homme’s time in the hospital recovering from a deadly infection after knee surgery.
“That song was motivating for me,” said Reisig, who is planning to pursue a paralegal certificate now that his health has improved. “It helped me through a really scary time where I thought I might not make it.”
Even before Reisig got sick, “I Appear Missing” resonated with him. He wore a homemade shirt emblazoned with the song’s lyrics to the Vintage Vinyl show. He said it’s bittersweet to reflect on that perfect June day a decade ago.
“I never think about it because it doesn’t feel like it actually happened but I’m talking about it now and I’m getting all teary-eyed and whimsical,” said Reisig, whose daughter, Marigold “Goldie” Reisig was born in February. “I can’t quite explain the magic behind what happened. The roadies were just ridiculously nice to us. One of them gave me a Vic Firth shirt that I still wear to bed half the time.”
In Times New Roman is the eighth album by QOTSA, a band with a rotating lineup that singer-guitarist Homme founded after his former group, Kyuss, broke up in 1995. No two albums sound alike as Homme and company have been joined by an array of guest musicians including Dave Grohl, Elton John, Trent Reznor and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top. Their 2013 appearance at Vintage Vinyl was their second show at the shop. They also played the strip mall record store in 2000 while touring with their major label debut, Rated R.
Delivering a mix of riff-driven anthems, dreamy space jams, goth-like balladry and the stray feel-good hit, QOTSA has carved out a career going against the rock grain and creating new music that is just as experimental as their early work. Like Clockwork and its successor, Villains, propelled the band from theaters to arenas. In 2017, they headlined Madison Square Garden.
“Queens doesn’t sound like anybody else,” said Urban. “I’m putting them up there with my Top 5 favorite artists. They’re in that category with Elliott Smith and the Beatles.”
The friends convinced Rothstein’s parents to let Connor’s 14-year-old brother, Mitchell, skip school so he could join them on their trip to Vintage Vinyl. They arrived midday, anticipating a line outside, but were surprised to find a nearly empty shop. While the four were browsing the store shelves, the band’s crew began loading in the instruments and speakers. They spontaneously asked the roadies if they needed assistance and soon found themselves put to work.
“I think they thought it was funny that a child wanted to help them,” said Mitchell, who was himself a musician. He played drums in his high school marching band and now mentors percussionists with the West Deptford Eagle Marching Band.
The four were wearing homemade QOTSA T-shirts for the occasion. They had purchased a pack of white Hanes shirts and wrote on them with magic markers. Reisig went with “I Appear Missing,” as noted above. Urban opted to create a shirt asking Homme to say his name. (He did). Mitchell wrote “Born to Hula,” the title of a song from Rated R, and cut up the bottom to resemble a Hawaiian skirt. Connor’s shirt had an unprintable line from the song, “Broken Box.” They each put numbers on the backs of the shirts, a la sports jerseys.
“One of the techs commented on our shirts in a slightly joking or mocking way,” said Connor, 30, who played in a band called Nonfiction and worked as a TV/film production assistant in Philly before deciding last year to put his creative pursuits on pause and take a job at an animal shelter in Voorhees.
“It was so silly,” said Connor. “Cody, Chris and I were all 20, 21 years old, definitely at the age where geeking out over a band isn’t sweet anymore. But Mitchell was so young that they liked this kid who was so excited and played drums himself.”
Amery Smith, a former member of Suicidal Tendencies who toured with Queens in 2013 as a drum tech, took Mitchell under his wing and let the teen play the band’s drums during a soundcheck.
“When I think about that whole experience, the thing that sticks with me most is the relationship that I had with the drum tech,” said Mitchell, 24, a pet groomer by day who moonlights as a drummer with community theater pit orchestras and works as a battery tech with the West Deptford marching band.
“Teaching marching band, it’s always cool when a kid comes into my drum line and already has this fascination with it,” said Mitchell. “That’s probably what it was like for the drum tech meeting me at the show. I was already fascinated with the drums. I wonder if I reached out to him, if he would remember. I feel what happened at Vintage Vinyl is not something that happens every day.”
Mitchell made sure Reisig, the drummer from Little Sister, also had a chance to sit behind the kit.
“I think they let Mitchell soundcheck the drums because he’s this cute little kid,” said Reisig. “He’s also the sweetest kid ever. He told the drum tech that I also would love to play the drums, too, so I got to go up and play the band’s drums. I never would have been able to do triplets on (Queens member) Jon Theodore’s drums if Mitchell didn’t go out of his way to make sure I could.”
The roadies cleared out an ad-hoc VIP section against the stage for the friends. They were close enough for Homme to read their shirts during the one-hour set, which leaned heavily on Like Clockwork but also featured older faves like “Monsters in the Parasol,” “Burn the Witch” and “Little Sister.”
Between songs, Homme addressed Mitchell from the stage, asking his age and pretending to hit on him. Because the QOTSA frontman is known for profane stage patter, Mitchell was not shocked by the comment. He laughed it off and did not think too deeply about it. The episode impacted his older brother, however. Connor turned away from QOTSA and towards emo and local music that did not glamorize the big rock star persona.
After the last song, the band hosted a meet-and-greet with attendees, signing photos, shirts and even a woman’s jeans. The friends were too busy helping the roadies to join in the autograph session but they got the ultimate fan perk: an invitation to have pizza with the band before they departed on the tour bus. As the rockers were leaving, they shook hands with each of the friends. A member of the crew took group photos that have been lost to time.
“I guess it was free labor but we never looked at it like that,” said Urban. “They were just letting us interact with the band and be a part of the show. The roadies genuinely cared and wanted us to experience everything with them.”
Here is a video of the 2013 Vintage Vinyl show in which the four friends can be seen right in front of the stage:
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