Backstage with Shaun White and Bad Things
Rock on, Shaun! The most decorated snowboarder in Winter X Games history, Shaun White also plays lead guitar in the band Bad Things. Here's a peek backstage at the band's Dec. 30 show with the Flaming Lips at the Warfield in San Francisco. White lives the glam life of a 15-time X Games gold medalist with signature lines of clothing and his own gum. But not so when Bad Things is on tour. "In the beginning, I'd see news reports that were like, 'Shaun White, carrying his own amp? No roadies? Where's the tour bus?'" White says. "We've stepped it up for big shows like this, but it's still bare minimum. We're our own roadies."
The Green Mile
The band's first live show wasn't at a major concert venue like the Warfield; it was in front of friends and family at the headquarters of Shaun White Enterprises in Los Angeles. Here in San Francisco, the band members have their own dressing room and two techs hired to help them load in and out and prep their guitars. "It's been a slow build," White says.
How do you get to Carnegie Hall? You know the punch line: practice, practice, practice! It's how White became a two-time Olympic gold medalist and why, more than a decade after winning a yellow Fender Stratocaster in a halfpipe contest, he's playing the Warfield. Thirty minutes until showtime, and White won't stop practicing until he's onstage.
"I hope the title of this story is, 'Shaun White Learns To Rent A Car,'" Bad Things guitarist Anthony Sanudo jokes after White tells the story of how he rented his first car -- ever -- two weeks earlier in Breckenridge, Colorado. "There was always someone there, my parents, my brother, my team manager," says White, 28. "It was my first solo mission." Even this day, his older sister, Kari, is in town to watch the band play. And the members of the band, including Sanudo, whom White has known since elementary school, are fast becoming members of his extended clan.
The calm before
"I do get nervous before a show," White says. "We have a pre-show thing we do. We group together and say some positive things. That's the moment to go, 'Whatever happens, we're in Romania or San Francisco playing for thousands of people. This is incredible. Hopefully we'll make some fans. But whatever happens, be thankful for what you're doing right now.' That's my moment of clarity before we play."
"The first song I learned was 'Seven Nation Army.' It's one string, minus a couple chords here and there. And it's arguably one of the best White Stripes songs. I was like, Oh my god, this is one string. What was keeping me at my level of playing from creating that? I realized it isn't about how technical the song is; it's about how cool it is and what it sounds like and what emotion is in it. That's what drew me toward music. It isn't about winning. It isn't about how technical of a musician you are. It's about making music and putting it out there."
Unlike the bands it's toured with -- Lips definitely included -- Bad Things comes play-ready, with no stage to build or decorations to hang. Not so with the Lips, whose wild stage build-outs are the stuff of legend.
Although Bad Things opened at 8 p.m., more than two hours before the Lips took the stage, the venue was packed and rocking during the band's set. "You might not know who we are, but we're Bad Things and we're glad to be here," lead singer Davis LeDuke said at the front of the 30-minute set. "Hopefully you like what you hear." Judging from the crowd's response, they did.
The hot list
White met Lips lead singer Wayne Coyne in Aspen, Colorado, one year ago when the Lips played a New Year's Eve show at Belly Up Aspen. They became friends, and when Coyne was in L.A. this fall, he stopped by White's house. "He was like, 'We're doing this show on New Year's. You should play it,'" White says. "Three days later, he actually called and followed through. And now here we are."
Sign of the times
Coyne commissioned posters to commemorate the two-night show and asked the members of the bands to sign each poster before they went on sale in the lobby. When White knelt down to take his turn cramping his autograph hand, Coyne grabbed his phone to snap a memento. "I'm being such a fan right now," Coyne said.