Josh Freese on Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert: “I wanted to sweat all over the same drums he was sweating over every night”

Josh Freese
(Image credit: Timothy Norris/Getty Images)

Josh Freese has taken to social media to share a heartfelt account of the Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert, which took place at Wembley Stadium, London on 3 September.

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The prolific session drummer put in multiple performances across the six-hour long set, starting by joining Wolfgang Van Halen (guitar), Justin Hawkins of The Darkness (vocals) and Dave Grohl on bass for two Van Halen covers (On Fire and Hot For Teacher). 

Freese - sat behind Taylor Hawkins’ own Bright Pink Gretsch USA Custom kit - and the band nailed the songs, with Hot For Teacher’s famous double-pedal intro becoming an early highlight. 

He returned later in the show for the set of Foo Fighters songs, once again playing Taylor’s kit, but this time living-up to his reputation for being a drumming chameleon while honouring his friend. 

First up was an emotional Times like These, where Dave Grohl had to fight his way through the tears to reach the song’s climax. The heartbreaking performance was followed by live favourite, All My life, where Freese played a powerfully faithful version that echoed Hawkins’ original to a tee.

But with a couple of days to reflect, Freese has posted on Instagram to share his initial thoughts on the concert, alongside an anecdote of how he came to play Taylor’s kit for his performances, revealing that he was given the option to fly his own kit over, but instead wanted to play Taylor’s. 

“Without hesitation” he writes “I said ‘Taylor’s drums need to be up there and I want to play on his exact setup. I want THAT energy to be up there on THAT stage.

“I want to sweat all over the same drums he was sweating all over every night…don’t change a thing.” He goes on to note that aside from his own sticks and double bass drum pedal required for the Hot For Teacher intro, the rest of the kit was Taylor’s.

He adds that he even placed his cymbals high in tribute to Taylor, saying “Even that goddamn crash cymbal WAY too high, that was hard for me to hit (AND I lowered it a little! Fuck, what the hell was he doing!!?”.

In the same post, Freese talks about how he and Taylor - who featured in the video for the song Heavy Metal Car Collection from Freese's 20-second songs lockdown project, Just a Minute - bonded over both being from Orange County, referencing the 714 area code on his t-shirt during the performances. “Taylor and I both grew up in Orange County…30 mins away from one another but whenever we were in a group full of musicians (usually far away from home somewhere) we’d joke that we were the only 2 guys from O.C. in the room. 

“We always had that funny little bond and he’d always remind me that he was tired of hearing about ‘that other guy from O.C. who was already making records and touring’ when he was a teenager. I’d then ask him if he wanted to trade bank accounts with me. LOL! Fuck man, the whole thing sucks. He would have loved that show more than anyone.” You can read the full post below.

The Wembley Taylor Hawkins Tribute concert was the first of two events hosted by Foo Fighters and an all-star cast of musicians to honour Taylor Hawkins. The second event takes place on 27 September at LA’s Kia Forum

The LA concert will feature many of the same performers as the London event, as well as Brad Wilk, Krist Novoselic, Alanis Morrisette, Pat Wilson, Joan Jett, Nikki Sixx, Gene Simmons and more.


Stuart Williams

I'm a freelance member of the MusicRadar team, specialising in drum news, interviews and reviews. I formerly edited Rhythm and Total Guitar here in the UK and have been playing drums for more than 25 years (my arms are very tired). When I'm not working on the site, I can be found on my electronic kit at home, or gigging and depping in function bands and the odd original project.