Music

A Very Sad And Confused Review Of 3 Doors Down At Trump’s Inauguration

"It was well-attended, sure. But a packed funeral is hardly a comfort to the dead."

For the inauguration of a president who openly refers to himself as a “ratings machine”, the celebrations in Washington D.C. last week left a lot to be desired.

Most of those who braved the cold to see the inauguration parade spent hours lined along Pennsylvania Avenue just to catch a glimpse of the passing limos, missing what was likely the most exciting spectacle of the week: a group of anarchists smashing windows and punching neo-Nazis.

The day before Trump gave his dark inauguration address, however, one band stood up to be counted, breaking through the dreary formalities to deliver a truly memorable performance — for all the wrong reasons.

Make America Grunge Again

On Thursday night, Trump’s true believers gathered at the Lincoln Memorial for the ‘Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration’. The event had a folk festival vibe, with families and old folks perched along the grassy hills that line the monument’s iconic Reflecting Pool. They lapped up the country music superstars on the bill and sang along to a steady procession of songs about the greatness of the US of A, the army of the US of A, and the drinking of whiskey in the US of A.

While these sing-alongs went down a treat with the (often elderly) crowd it was the melancholy, dejected and abjectly torpid wallowing of 2000’s “post-grunge” shakers 3 Doors Down that provided the real fascination.

This was not a trainwreck. If you gathered people around a locomotive hurtling off the rails they’d at least pay attention. It would be gruesome, sure, but no one would look away. Unlike this gig.

This show was more like watching a wounded cruise liner slowly subside into the ocean. All passengers had already disembarked bar the captain and his crew who, for reasons that defied sound logic, clung to the sinking vessel. You felt sorry for them but couldn’t help but wonder why Brad Arnold and his band refused to simply abandon ship.

3 Doors Down’s earworm ‘Kryptonite’ propelled them to global fame 17 years ago (yeah, it really was that long ago) and they’ve been on a steady decline since then, cranking out place-holding singles while watching record sales head southward.

They probably had to do it but the band opened with a serious faux pas, choosing a song from their 2016 album ‘Us and the Night’ to get off the mark. It was bad — a fact many people were only learning for the first time since nobody had been aware it existed until now.

As the band got stuck into their overdriven guitar lines, poppy hooks, and borderline emo lyrics, the audience simply turned away. Where I was standing, people appeared almost not to notice that a band was on stage at all.

Those who did were little moved. One young man near me started rocking from side to side in a half-serious effort to dance that was quickly suppressed by the sheer nothingness of the music. At one point a woman got excited at what appeared to be the opening riff of ‘Kryptonite’, only to realise it was a suspiciously similar guitar line in a different song. She went back to her business. This was supposed to be the big name headliner who were instead being treated by the audience like the third string warm-up band.

Arnold, a milquetoast and sad-eyed front man, looked constantly on the verge of gently weeping as he paced around the memorial’s impressive landing. He was playing the musical eulogy for his own band. It was well-attended, sure. But a packed funeral is hardly a comfort to the dead.

With his 2011-era Justin Bieber haircut, Arnold looked like a future version of the pop superstar sent back in time to deliver a ghostly warning to his younger self. Best to burn the candle at both ends and go out in a reckless flame of glory than find yourself on stage at a gig like this. Did you ever see Kurt Cobain perform for Donald Trump? Exactly.

Cameras caught the soon-to-be President singing enthusiastically at one point:

At others moments he and his entourage seemed frankly insulted:

Behind the band, Lincoln looked down — stern and appalled. The stony president surely would have bailed if not for the fact he was fixed to the ground.

lincoln

“I didn’t fight for this” – Abraham Lincoln, probably.

You’d think playing a gig like this would lead to mockery of the band, but so sub-mediocre was the performance and their general recent form, the appearance actually became a weapon in the hand of those looking to lay beat-downs on Trump.

‘Kryptonite’ Is Still A Banger

Two tracks in and the gig had turned a corner. It was now so sad it was actually very fun to watch.

To give the boys their dues, ‘Kryptonite’ is and always will be a hit, and it very briefly revived the show. Arnold improbably reached the blasting high note that precedes the chorus. Throughout the rest of the show his voice meandered badly off course.

Unfortunately even this undeniable belter was met with only middling enthusiasm. As the song’s catchy riff dawned, you could hear a thousand surprised voices rise in unison as people turned to their friends to exclaim, “I know this song!”. By the end of the first chorus, however, they had returned to their conversations.

“God bless you my friends and God bless America!” Arnold concluded. Even this, virtually the same cry that inspired cheers when issued by the country musicians, fell relatively flat in my section of the crowd.

The true shame of the night was that the performance was not a Hillary Clinton concert. This would have left Donald Trump free to tweet about it and unleash his one true talent: the ability to utterly denigrate. What would he have said? During his bid to become the Republican candidate for President, Trump dubbed rival Jeb Bush “low energy”. That savage slur would have worked here too, but better yet his trademark Twitter insult: “sad”.

What Now For 3 Doors Down?

Perhaps 3 Doors Down will capitalise on this experience and find a new audience among ultra-patriots and Trump lovers, having earned the ridicule of the liberal media those people so detest.

More likely, the performance will kill off any nostalgia the public still clings to. The best case scenario for 3 Doors Down prior to last week would have been some kind of ‘Only ’90s Kids Will Remember’ revival pushed along by the ironic inclinations of the internet. Even Nickelback do okay out of being truly loathed — at least people are talking about them.

For 3 Doors Down the future looks far worse. “Love me when I’m gone,” their second song for the night implored. The audience’s consternation called back: you already are, and nobody does.

Max Chalmers is an Australian freelance journalist writing from the US.