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Foo Fighters’ ‘Sonic Highways’ Premiere Breezes Through Windy City

Any documentary that opens with Buddy Guy talking about playing a button on a string has me hooked. Dave Grohl‘s exploration of how place influences music — or, as you may know it, HBO’s eight-episode documentary, ‘Sonic Highways’ — starts in Chicago, the birthplace of that special flavor of blues practiced by Guy and his mentor, Muddy Waters.

Grohl brings the Foo Fighters to the Windy City to record at mega producer Steve Albini’s studio with Butch Vig in the producer’s chair. Foo drummer Taylor Hawkins isn’t impressed by Chicago’s blues heritage — he’s all about Midwest legends Cheap Trick. Grohl notes that Rick Neilsen fused the blues and punk; “There’s something wonderfully Midwest about Cheap Trick,” he says.

Albini and the guys from Naked Raygun walk us through the early ’80s punk scene in Chicago —  the clashes with headbangers, the formation of Albini’s first band, Big Black.

Marshall Chess talks a bit about the origin of Chess Records, which may as well be a conversation about the origin of rock and roll. Chuck Berry was on Chess, Willie Dixon, Etta James, Muddy Waters. There are no Foo Fighters without Chess because there’s pretty much no rock and roll without Chess.

Grohl recalls a different Chicago origin story, though. On a family visit to Chicago, Grohl’s cousin,Tracey Bradford, introduces Nirvana’s future drummer to punk and takes him to his first show, Naked Raygun at the Cubby Bear. This wasn’t just his first punk show — it was his first show. “That night changed everything I knew about music,” Grohl says. And as we all know, you never forget your first.

Wax Trax, the legendary record store, gets a drive-by acknowledgement for their massive influence, and Nirvana fans get a behind the scenes look at ‘In Utero’ from Albini and Grohl. Quite a bit of time is expended on the eccentric Albini — his personality, business practices and contributions.

The episode closes with the Foo Fighters playing ‘Something From Nothing,’ a cut heavy on Cheap Trick’s melodic power pop and with a nice reference to Guy’s “button and string.” It’s a tasty cut, and it brings the episode full circle.

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If this is what we can expect from ‘Sonic Highways,’ consider it appointment television. You won’t want to miss this one. Get details on the series here.

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Next: Will the Foo Fighters Regret Playing That Crowdsourced Show In Virginia?

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