“My Bad Habits aren’t my title. My strengths and my talent are my title” -Layne Staley
Every year fans, friends and family gather together to pay tribute to a man whose music continues to touch the souls of all generations. He is Layne Staley, the former front-man of Alice in Chains and Mad Season. He lost his long battle with drugs 17 years ago; but is still widely recognized for his deep penetrating, soul-wrenching vocals, much like an angry angel. For the past several years, the tribute has been hosted by Jar of Flies, the Seattle based Alice in Chains/Mad Season tribute band.
I must admit, something was different this year. Once the announcement was made on who the main attractions would be, the excitement was palpable. Brendan Maier of the band Chout and Gary Allen and guitarist Robert Ray both of Grind (Alice in Chains Tribute Band in South Carolina), were named the headliners of the tribute concert. Having met Gary 7 years ago, I knew that his contribution would be well received. Brendan, from Chicago, had been in the Alice in Chains tribute band “Facelift” and has been described as sounding the closest to Layne than anyone else. I had met Brendan through social media a few years back and knew what he could bring to the tribute. This celebration held on Thursday, August 22 (Layne’s Birthday) and Saturday, August 24, was something to witness, with fans from all across the world, including Spain, Israel, Chile, and the United Kingdom. This was something like witnessing your first Alice in Chains concert (with Layne of course).
This is my overview of the two nights we paid tribute to Layne.
“Dissident” performed by Washed in Black (Tribute to Pearl Jam)
Next Outshined (Tribute to Soundgarden and Temple of the Dog) played their set.
“Say Hello to Heaven” performed by Outshined (Tribute to Soundgarden and Temple of the Dog)
Prior to Gary, Robert and Brendan going on stage, I had asked them if they wanted to meet Nancy McCallum, Layne’s mom. At first, I believe there was some hesitation, mainly due to being slightly nervous due to their debut on stage. Nonetheless, I asked a member of Washed in Black if they could bring Nancy to the green room (I was just out of a cast, so I couldn’t go). A few minutes later, Nancy came in, introductions made, and before long it was time for Jar of Flies to take to the stage. Gary Allen and Robert Ray were up first to perform the first five songs. Gary was at home on stage very interactive with the fans cheering him on, including his wife Sarah.
“Brother” performed by Gary Allen, Robert Ray, and Jar of Flies (The Ultimate AIC Experience)
Brendan followed with the audience anxiously waiting to hear him in person; most have only heard him through YouTube. I was among those elated to hear him, as were all of my fellow “Layniacs” from social media. I closed my eyes and listened; I became entranced with Brendan’s voice.
“Down in a Hole” performed by Brendan Maier and Jar of Flies (The Ultimate AIC Experience)
At the end of the acoustic night, the feelings among the remaining show-goers summed up to a deep hunger for more.
Saturday, August 24th was the main tribute night at the Crocodile with 3 more guest singers added to the ticket; John Evans from TwasmonauT, Jeff Druzianich of Two Zero Six and Blaine Hammond of HairStorm. Each artist brings their own charisma and temperament to the stage.
Blaine Hammond was the first performer up. Confident and commanding, Blaine opened up with “We Die Young”. Unfortunately, due to the ever-changing venue lighting, the video was too dark. However, I can attest that Blaine knocked every song off of the stage with predatory ease.
John Evans is among Seattle’s finest performers, and certainly one of my favorites. This was John’s 3rd time as a guest at the Layne tributes. “Sunshine” from Alice in Chains’ debut album “Facelift”, suited John’s vocal set with ease. I should also mention that John and Blaine both used the same vocal instructor, who was also one of Layne’s, the late Maestro David P. Kyle.
John also performed “Confusion”, a song that is seldom sung by Alice in Chains.
“Sunshine” performed by John Evans and Jar of Flies (The Ultimate AIC Experience)
Jeff Druzianich followed Evans with “Got Me Wrong”. Druzianich was content singing to the sold-out Crocodile. Even mentioning Layne Staley Day (see bottom of the article) which riled up the fellow song-seekers. His new band Two Zero Six will be one for all Seattleites to check out.
“Got Me Wrong” performed by Jeff Druzianich and Jar of Flies (The Ultimate AIC Experience)
Gary Allen and Robert Ray of Grind (Alice in Chains Tribute Band from S. Carolina) rounded out the first set. Allen has fronted Grind for a number of years now. I saw Gary perform with the tribute band 7 years ago at the first Mike Starr Memorial. Gary and Robert positioned themselves right square in the middle of the stage, with Gary starting off with “No Excuses”. Gary easily engaged with the many in the audience, with them reciprocating back. This is what I love about Gary the most. The time I spent interacting with him and Robert, I personally see why this tribute band has a very large following.
“No Excuses” performed by Gary Allen, Robert Ray, and Jar of Flies (The Ultimate AIC Experience)
During the intermission, Nancy, Layne Staley’s mom, sang “Wake Up” with Layne singing through the speakers. Nancy said that she had always wanted to sing with him. I applaud her for her continued dedication to bring awareness to drug addiction. Her presence at the tributes is important for those that come from many places high and low, just for the slightest opportunity to meet her. Meeting the mother of the greatest singer of our time is something you never forget. A portion of the proceeds from the tribute was donated to the Layne Staley fund through THS Therapeutic Health Services. Helping those suffering from addiction get a fighting chance for a clean life. You can donate to THS Therapeutic Health Services through the Layne Staley Memorial Fund, click the link here: THS Layne Staley Fund or go to http://www.layne-staley.com for more information. “Drugs are not the way to the light. They won’t lead to a fairy-tale life; they lead to suffering.” ~ Layne Staley
“Wake Up” performed by Nancy McCallum, Layne Staley, and Mad Season
The second set was kicked off with Brendan Maier of Chout, along with Jake Carden of Ten Miles Wide (guitar) setting the stage on fire with “Them Bones”. By the middle of “Love Hate Love”, Brendan lost the shirt he was wearing. The song ended with Kyyle Cort and Jake Carden playing off of one another like a contest for the best on-stage moves. It was a sight not to miss from backstage. You can see it in our video below
“LOVE•HATE•LOVE” performed by Brendan Maier and Jar of Flies (The Ultimate AIC Experience)
On a side note, in most of the pictures you see of Brendan, he is proudly holding a can of Seattle based – “Rainier Beer”, at least he makes the beer look good. His new favorite Seattle pass time.
Midway through the second set, Brendan sang “What the Hell Have I” with Jar of Flies playing proudly alongside.
“What the Hell Have I” performed by Brendan Maier and Jar of Flies (The Ultimate AIC Experience)
Towards the end of the tribute, the next song I was completely enthralled with; “Real Thing”. Brendan perfected every high, low and middle of it. I waited to see if every epic sound would be matched against Layne’s and it was. I felt very proud of Brendan at this moment. I knew this song was his favorite in executing. I felt compelled to tell him at the end of the night that he should come back, knowing at this point he became a Seattle favorite.
“Real Thing” performed by Brendan Maier and Jar of Flies (The Ultimate AIC Experience)
Each year the Layne Staley tribute brings something different to the event. Whether it be the venue, the guest singers or whatever you take away from it. To me, it’s the best time of the year. I get to see my friends, Nancy, and celebrate the life and legacy of a man that was also wise beyond his years. Even though Layne suffered from drug addiction, he was an advocate against it. If you take anything away from the tributes, you can help others that still battle drug addiction; please consider donating by clicking on this link: THS Layne Staley Fund
One of the “unofficial events” held on Friday, August 23rd at the Hard Rock Café. This was a night to celebrate Seattle music. Here are some of the notable performances from the night.
“Bleed the Freak” performed by Brendan Maier and Jar of Flies (The Ultimate AIC Experience)
“Aneurysm” performed by Nevermind (Tribute to Nirvana)
Outshined (Tribute to Soundgarden/Temple of the Dog) performed “Right Turn” with Brendan Maier, Keven Hoffman, and Kyyle Cort all sharing leading vocals. Note, this is the first time this song has been performed since the 2012 tribute.
“State of Love and Trust” performed by Washed in Black (Tribute to Pearl Jam)
All of the events were something to be remembered and looked upon with love. Nothing was better than seeing smiles on the faces of all who attended. Each event was a success with the main tribute night being sold out. I asked quite a few of the band members to share their feelings about this year’s celebration of life for Layne Staley. It’s quite clear that Layne has affected each and every participant of this year’s tribute weekend.
Steve McKeever: Lead Singer, Washed in Black (Tribute to Pearl Jam)
“Performing at the Layne Staley Tribute this year was amazing. Opening up Thursday night at the Nectar Lounge was great as we had the opportunity to warm up the crowd and then hang out and enjoy the rest of the performances. It was awesome to see Jar of Flies back in action and sounding better than ever with Gary Allen and Brendan Maier upfront. Friday nights’ show was really special too as we got to close out the night after two stellar performances from Nevermind and Outshined. The energy in the room was incredible and the room was packed ‘til the last call with music fans from all over the world.
It’s always special reuniting with the people who travel to experience the annual Layne Staley tribute. These are die-hard fans of the music of that era and their appreciation for our tributes is truly humbling. Getting to know Layne Staley’s mom, Nancy, over the past few years has also been one of the highlights for me. She’s the best kind of people and helps to make these events feel more like a family reunion than anything else.
Saturday’s main event at the Crocodile was stellar. Washed in Black had the night off and it was great to just be able to relax and listen to the music that I love masterfully recreated. Jar of Flies was on point! Guest singers, Blaine Hammond, John Evans, Jeff Druzianich and Gary Allen all brought their A-game and the influence Layne had on each of them was evident. Everything culminated to perfection with Brendan Maier closing out the night on the last 15 or so songs, and Jake Carden on guitar just filled out the sound even more. It was perfect. Can’t wait until next year.”
Daryl Williams: Drums, Jar of Flies (The Ultimate AIC Experience)
“This year’s tributes, for me, has been another affirmation of the undying and growing appreciation that Seattleites and people from around the world share for the music of Alice In Chains, Mad Season, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Mother Love Bone, etc. Since the late 80s until the foreseeable future, the artistic world will forever be changed by the audio and visual expressions that came from the grunge era and the “behind the scenes” antics that was the genesis of this era.
This year showcased many musical talents but most especially the vocal talents of several individuals from around the United States. All of these performers gave their heart and soul to show their appreciation and gratitude for the music and the creators thereof. My deepest thanks go to everyone else that traveled hundreds of miles to be a part of the festivities.
I personally would like to also give a public thank you for everyone involved in organizing these yearly events. I would especially like to share my excitement about a younger generation still admiring the voice of collective rebellion that seemed to saturate grunge rock attitude. Thank you I am deeply humbled to be a part of Seattle and its musical history. Peace, love, rock n roll!”
Keven Hoffman: Lead Singer, Outshined (Tribute to Soundgarden and Temple of the Dog)
Performing at this year’s memorial shows was a privilege and an honor. And Brendan Maier is a talented young man. Getting to sing with him all three nights was so much fun and truly an honor. As always, it was a joy and a blessing to see all of the wonderful people who travel back to Seattle for this event every year. So many people have become dear friends over the years through this event and the mutual love for this music and the legacy of Layne Staley. I’m blessed to have been a part of the celebration again this year.
Dan Nunn: Bass, Washed in Black (Tribute to Pearl Jam)
Music, musicians, friends, and fans. What I like most about being a musician and involved in the “scene” is the people I get to meet and associate with on a regular basis. The Layne Staley Tribute Weekend stands out a little in magnitude being 3 days and so many people involved. Musicians, for the most part, are some of the most accepting and open people you will know. Perfect? Of course not, no such thing. But spend some time with them and with the people who come out regularly to support and it’s hard to come up with another word other than “family”.
Gary Allen & Robert Ray: Lead Singer and Guitar, Grind (Tribute to AIC)
“Having traveled the country since 2011 with Grind: An Alice In Chains Tribute, it was an honor to represent the many thousands of fellow Layne Staley fans that we have remembered with over the years during the annual weekend of tribute shows in Seattle and we very much appreciated the warm welcome that we received. We especially wish to thank Nancy Layne McCallum and JT Phillips for extending the invitation.”
Lee Bruso: Bass/Backing Vocals, Jar of Flies (The Ultimate AIC Experience)
“I’ll keep this short. We had a great weekend, with a phenomenal response from the crowds. I love each one of these guys and I couldn’t ask to associated with a better group of people. In addition to that, all of our guests were an absolute joy to meet and perform with.
As far as Brendan goes, the guy has an amazing talent, and he’s so extremely humble about it. I haven’t met many at his age, with his skill, that has been able to conduct themselves as such. Then again, he is a fellow Midwest boy too. We tend to be a fairly laid-back breed. It was a pleasure to have his energy along with us, and he killed it every time.”
Kyyle Cort: Rhythm Guitar/Backing Vocals, Jar of Flies (The Ultimate AIC Experience)
“Both of the tribute shows this year were extra special to me. The acoustic night at Nectar included a great vibe and setting. It was an intimate unplugged show where we had the chance to play deep tracks for the super-fans like us who celebrate Layne’s entire catalog. It also gave us an extra chance to perform these songs with our out-of-town guests that would also join us on Saturday the 24th. It was a phenomenal experience to share an evening at The Crocodile honoring the life, music, and memory of Layne Staley with these people and such a love-filled audience. The effect he still has on our lives was very tangible.”
Also, important to mention this year: Dee Behm from England started a petition many months ago to make “Layne Staley” Day become a reality. With hard work, many signatures, Seattle City Mayor Jenny Durkan officially signed the proclamation on August 21, 2019, making Layne’s birthday, August 22, 2019 “Layne Staley” Day. Thank you for your hard work, Dee. Dee is on Instagram @lslwproject
I would also like to say thank you to JT Phillips who has continued to put the yearly tributes together. This year was extra special for me. To have a friend of mine (Brendan Maier) perform that I knew could blow everyone away was the highlight for me. Thanks to all who attended; it will be very hard to top this year, but I know whatever is planned for 2020, will be another year to celebrate the ongoing legacy of Layne Thomas Staley. For me, it brings another year that I quit using. Like many others, Layne’s voice helped me through the loss of my husband and my dad. His voice also brought me to the tributes and attending regularly since 2012.
Also a shout out to our friend, Cain Hollowbone for his beautiful vision in creating the tribute poster once again this year.
Thanks to Kurt Clark of NeHi Stripes Musiczine Seattle for capturing all of the substantial photos and videos all 3 nights. Your contribution is well noticed and very much appreciated. Special thanks to Karen Mason Blair for her donations to the silent auction and for letting us use her pictures for this article. Also, thanks to Alison Braun Photography for use of her newly released photo of Layne.
Photos from all 3 nights are available for purchase. Please comment if you’re interested. A portion of the proceeds will be donated towards the Layne Staley fund thru THS. Copyright 2019 NeHi Stripes Musiczine Seattle
I’d like to personally thank, Anna Millette, Ron Shockley, and Sarah Foster