Foo Fighters frontman and former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl was never really known for bad judgment. With impeccable tastes in music, movies, and flannel shirts, Grohl was somebody who has (mostly) retained the same band members, played the same kind of music, and charged ahead in life with just the right amount of reckless abandon for years.
But that line was toed when the Foo Fighters arrived at the Big Day Out Festival in Queensland, Australia, in 2000. As he recalled in his recent memoir The Storyteller, Grohl had been having a bizarre trip, filled with psychic interpretations of his dreams and rival performances from Blink-182. Grohl felt at least a little inspired – or intimidated – by the sophomoric antics of Blink, so he devised a plan.
“As we prepared for the show, I came up with another ridiculous idea,” Grohl remembers. “I was going to drive my scooter onstage during our show and rev the engine like Rob Halford from Judas Priest had always done, though with a massive Harley-Davidson motorcycle, to pay tribute to the heavy metal god himself.”
When Grohl says scooter, he’s not joking: a 50cc engine motorbike was all he had to work with, and that’s where the comedy was set to come from. These were relatively easy going days for the Foo Fighters – they had just completed their acclaimed third album There Is Nothing Left to Lose, and this was before drummer Taylor Hawkins’ heroin overdose in 2001 cast a dark shadow over the recording of their follow up, One by One.
After the band’s performance, Grohl decided to make his way back to the hotel on the same scooter. It was on the way back that Grohl got stopped in a line of cars that turned out to be a sobriety checkpoint. Grohl never considered simply hopping off and calling a ride because, in his words, “It was a god-damned scooter. This thing was about as much of a motor vehicle as a riding lawnmower.”
Grohl also says that he didn’t feel drunk, despite having “a few tins of malted beverages and a few shots of whiskey” in his system. Grohl had no ID and had blown over the BAC limit. Grohl attempted a rock star name drop but was informed that he was under arrest instead. Cars drove by as Grohl was being arrested, offering their praise for the show as Grohl could only smile and feel like an idiot (or “a dunce”, as he put it in the book).
Grohl only wound up paying a small fine, but according to him, the real price to pay for the incident was a lifetime of ridicule. “Every time I hand an immigration officer my form, they flip a small switch under their desk that illuminates a red light, signalling their supervisor to come assist them. And every time I explain my crime to said supervisor, they laugh and say ‘Oh, right! I remember that!'”.