It sounded simple enough. A well timed, if somewhat out of place, gig during the Sundance Film Festival; a chance to play songs she loved that never became hits; an opportunity to debut her upcoming fashion line.
But nothing involving Courtney Love is simple. The woman is a bonafide, badass rock star, a sun around which a solar system of crazy revolves, and by the end of the night, Love would be pantsless, threatening a restraining order against a screaming woman who called her the cruelest person on earth.
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Love's Jan. 21 show in Park City, Utah, was announced 12 hours before she went on stage. It was her first official solo performance since her 2010 tour with Hole, the band she formerly fronted.
It was also the first concert at the refurbished Star Bar, a rock 'n roll dive on Park City's Main Street that re-opened under new management one week ago. Its walls are lined with old-timey portraits of Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and, right above the steps heading down to the entrance, Love's former husband, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. But on Monday night, the bathroom doors still smelled like cedar, and the bar's hard plastic glasses were unscratched. It was a rock bar through which few had rolled.
Love's management said she had five minutes to do an interview before a sound check with her band at 5:45 p.m. At 5:40, she wasn't there. Word on the street (literally – this came from a man on the sidewalk, and was later verified by a publicist) was that Dave Grohl, the former Nirvana drummer who debuted the documentary "Sound City" at Sundance, would be next door at the bar Cisero's during Love's performance. Grohl is, by Love's own account, her enemy. The two have been embroiled in legal battles over rights to Nirvana royalties for years, and last year Love accused Grohl of hitting on her 19-year-old daughter, Frances-Bean Cobain. (Grohl's publicist and Cobain denied Love's claims, and Love later apologized.)
Outside the Star Bar, owner Bill Johnson wondered if Love and Grohl would cross paths and brawl. "That would be great press for me, huh?" he laughed.
With or without Love, soundcheck had to start. Micko Larkin, Love's guitar player, screamed into the mic: "Check. CHECK. ARRRAAAUUUGH." To the left of the stage, a man wearing a wool coat and beanie slept, face up, on a couch. A woman named Caroline Egan introduced herself as Love's "friend, one of the few she has left," and paced the length of the bar, calling and texting Love and her manager, Rob Hoffman. She suggested talking to Love's sister -- really, her half-sister, but more on that later -- Nicole Jon Carroll, who was texting on a sofa a few feet from the stage, seemingly impervious to the guttural screams.
Carroll is the founder of Stand for Courage, a charity that works with celebrities to publicly recognize young people who do good things. She said she was really excited to see Love perform. I asked her what else Love was working on. "Oh, you know, Courtney is always doing a lot of things," she said.
Egan returned to say Love and Hoffman were two minutes away. It was 6 p.m. She pulled me to the door. "When you talk to Courtney, don't mention Stand for Courage," she said. "She doesn't want Nicole using her to get publicity."