Tonight in Harlem, artist Misha McGlown (aka Omo Misha) will host a tribute event for yet another rock icon who passed away recently (and unexpectedly), though one who wasn’t quite as universally beloved as David Bowie.
Scott Weiland fans have taken a real beating over the years. The frontman has been relentlessly assailed by critics, from his roles in Stone Temple Pilots (accused of being grunge poseurs, “a calculated, poor man’s Pearl Jam“) through Velvet Revolver (his performance in the band was widely regarded as painfully mediocre) and finally to Scott Weiland & The Wildabouts.
Then, there’s the issue of Weiland’s personal life: his entanglement in domestic disputes, drug addiction, and rehab. And Weiland’s stints in jail for possession and shoplifting didn’t help either. (Nor did that meth-addict Scott Weiland impersonator do much for his image, let’s be real.)
Still, loyal fan Misha McGlown managed to be understanding of Weiland’s troubles. “I know people who have been addicted to heroin and all kinds of drugs, but I’d never heard anyone talk about it so candidly as he did,” she said. “And from different perspectives– what he liked about it, why he did it, and the difficulties it caused in his life.”
She also admired Weiland’s reticence to fight back. “I never heard him say, in any interview, anything bad about the people who criticized him,” she pressed. “Obviously I didn’t know him personally, but I never saw anything that made me think, ‘This is an awful person.’”
But above all, she admired the musician’s commitment to his work. “He just continued to create and grow, throughout all that.”
When Misha, who is a painter as well as a curator, decided to paint a portrait of Scott Weiland, she’d “fallen off his trail” for a few years. “I looked him up and realized that he’d never stopped. He never stopped making music since the day he started, in the face of all this adversity. A lot of it, of course, he brought on himself with drug addiction and rehab and jail and being fired from bands and domestic issues– all this stuff! And it was highly publicized, and this was stuff he was highly criticized for.”
It’s always been cool for real music fans to hate on STP and Scott Weiland– as Pitchfork recalled in an obituary, Stephen Malkmus, the ’90s arbiter of cool, sang in “Range Life,” off Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (1994): “Stone Temple Pilots, they’re elegant bachelors / They’re foxy to me, are they foxy to you?”
But you know you’re really in trouble when even Rolling Stone– the very same magazine that gave the newest U2 album a perfect, five-star review (yes, Bono is still making money off regrettable music)– hates on you. The mag summed up Weiland’s performance on Blaster as: “a once-great rock frontman gets reduced to tiring self-parody.”
The relentless naysayers were a lot for any one person to handle– Weiland wrote in his memoir, Not Dead & Not For Sale, “Every time I try to catch up to my life, something stops me.” But Misha, who’s always been a fan of rock music, has remained true.
She reflected back on her favorite groups from the ’70s– the Isley Brothers, Grand Funk Railroad, Deep Purple, Cream. “Coming from Detroit, we listened to all kinds of music,” she recalled. “Music wasn’t separated by black and white– everything played on the record player– there was Motown, I didn’t know anybody who didn’t have a poster of Jimi Hendrix on their wall.”
Suddenly Misha’s face became distorted with painful memories. “Then, the ’80s happened, and rock took a strange turn.” Can you imagine? A whole decade lost to crap? “Then the ’90s came, and rock was back,” she said. For Misha, the ’70s-revival sound of Stone Temple Pilots embodied a return to a time when rock n’ roll was legit.
“That was a really formative time for my generation, as late teens and early adults,” she said. “To me, Scott Weiland is the embodiment of rock n’ roll for my generation. I think he was from a group of performers who really poured their hearts, and their souls, and their bodies– just every fiber of their being– into their art. I don’t know that I really see that with most performers coming up now.”
Sure, it’s easy to dismiss Stone Temple Pilots as stadium rock, mainstream alternative, or a band more concerned with commercial success than anything else. But think back to the ’90s, and you’d be lying if “Plush” didn’t immediately switch on in your head. (Indeed, even Pitchfork, of all places, included STP on their Top 200 songs of the ’90s list, and bestowed #175 on “Interstate Love Song.”)
Usually, people are pretty gracious and start to come around to other humans after they’ve kicked the bucket. And actually, many critics were gracious in their acknowledgement of Weiland’s pop genius, forgiving him for mistakes and citing his battles with addiction and coping with past abuses (including, Weiland claimed, being raped as a young kid). Even Billy Corgan, who acknowledged that he was a “competitor,” admitted he was a “fan” and called Weiland “one of the great voices of our generation.”
But not even after-life Weiland could catch a break completely. TMZ reported that along with Weiland’s body, police found a plethora of drugs, including Xanax on his tour bus at the band’s stop in Bloomington, Minnesota. It was later determined the cause of death was “accidental overdose” due to a combination of cocaine, MDA, and alcohol.
Almost immediately after Weiland’s death, his ex-wife penned an open letter for Rolling Stone in which she pleaded with his fans, “Don’t glorify this tragedy.” She described Weiland as a “paranoid man,” a stumbling, barely-aware drug addict, and alleged he was an absentee father, who only had “short encounters” with his two children, who were subsequently “replaced” by a new marriage. She even called Weiland’s last day on earth “the last day he could be propped up in front of a microphone for the financial benefit or enjoyment of others.” Ouch.
As a fan, Misha found the letter hugely disrespectful. “When he died, we didn’t even have a moment to process it,” she said. The letter contained “deeply personal information,” she argued, “that wasn’t stuff for people to know, and certainly not at this time.” This sense that Weiland’s memory hadn’t been properly respected, is partly what inspired Misha to host the tribute, “Do We All Just Hum Along?”
The portrait, which has become the centerpiece of the event, was painted long before Weiland’s death. It’s a striking one, with Weiland’s face cinematically filling up most of the frame. Bold colors and smooth brushstrokes emphasize his angular face. “It was really kind of eerie in a way, because I rarely paint people who are living,” Misha revealed. “Most of my subjects are from history, so the fact that he actually passed– it really kind of scared the shit out of me. I will never, I mean never, paint another living person.”
Misha admitted that she had a “really intense” reaction to Weiland’s death and had “no one to share it with.”
“My daughter was like, ‘What is wrong with you?! Why do you keep talking about this?’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know! I just can’t stop!’” Misha laughed, recalling that her daughter pleaded with her. “‘Can you just stop playing STP for one day?!’ And then we had this argument and I was like, ‘I’m not even playing STP, I haven’t played STP for two days! This is Velvet Revolver!’”
The memorial event will be held at MIST, an event space and cafe in Harlem, where Misha works as a curator and was given the task of casting her own art in the inaugural show under her tenure. Instead of spotlighting herself, Misha decided to host an event for her fallen idol.
The event, which takes place tonight, Jan. 12, from 7 pm to 10 pm, will spotlight the music and music videos of Weiland’s various projects, which will be screened in multiple locations throughout the venue. Tribute bands will be on hand, as will some special speakers, and Misha will create a new work of art with the help of party-goers who are asked to contribute a quote from their favorite Scott Weiland song
Immediately upon posting the event, Misha said she began “connecting with people all over the world who were experiencing the same sort of grief.” Contributions for the new painting began pouring in.
“I want it to be happy and celebratory, and I want people to be inundated with his music,” Misha said.
Do We All Just Hum Along is happening Tuesday, January 12 at MIST, 46 West 116th Street in Harlem, 7 pm to 10 pm, free and open to the public + drink specials.