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Sixteen years and still no rain

More than a decade after the overdose of their first singer, Blind Melon returns with a new vocalist – then fires him

I’ve probably listened to Blind Melon’s 1992 hit “No Rain” more times than any other song, and that’s including “Semi-Charmed Life” and “Stairway to Heaven.” My fondness for the tune – perhaps equally well-known for its melody as it is for the video, which follows a girl dancing around town in a bumblebee outfit while the band plays in a field – started in middle school, culminating with a performance at my grade eight talent show. I fucked up the end of the solo, but nobody noticed.

Even by then, I’d discovered Blind Melon a few years too late – in 1995, singer Shannon Hoon passed away after snorting one too many eight balls. In hindsight, “No Rain” might have foreshadowed his fate. Throughout the video, his jittery mannerisms suggest a dabbling in the drugs that eventually took him, not to mention the not-so-hopeful opening verse, “All I can say, is that my life is pretty plain/ and I like watchin’ the puddles gather rain.” The band never found a replacement, and broke up in 1999, never to be heard from again (except in the form of less successful side projects).

Well, maybe not. In 2002, they released a Classic Masters collection, followed by a Best Of CD/DVD three years later. This is especially impressive considering they only put out two proper studio albums, plus a compilation of covers and B-sides.

And then, in some kind of weird sci-fi scenario where you’re suddenly a university student at the same time that your favourite band is still playing live, Blind Melon regrouped with an otherwise unknown dude named Travis Warren. Guitarist Chris Torn and bassist Brad Smith were producing some songs for Warren, who evidently was also a big fan of Blind Melon and the Mark Wahlberg epic Rock Star. Oh, and Warren happened to sing just like Hoon, with the same soulfully pained ability to reach notes most men would only attempt with falsetto.

After gaining momentum with a few small tours, in the spring Blind Melon excitedly released For My Friends, their first album in 12 years. It’s actually pretty good – though, to be honest, had the band played their cancelled show tonight in Montreal, I only would’ve gone to hear the old stuff. So what happened to the show? Well, two weeks ago, Warren – who turns out to be a bit of an asshole – got fired.

In all their liner notes, the band includes the line, “Written and performed by Blind Melon as one” – but as they explain in a heated blog post from November 6, Warren never quite understood the whole “as one” idea. The band goes on to say that over the past two years, Warren complained of being overworked and underpaid, threatened to quit several times, and, most recently, flaked out on a doctor’s appointment the band had set up to help him with his recurring throat problems. The last straw came after he went completely AWOL for two weeks.

Fortunately, they’re not taking this latest vocal upset as badly as they did in 1995, and they’ve already begun searching for a new singer. They’ve also made it clear that they’re not interested in “clones, drones, jokers, clowns, or drama queens.”

I definitely won’t envy whoever gets the job, as they’ll always be under Hoon’s shadow. The late singer continues to have a huge presence in the Blind Melon world, with fans continually posting eulogies on their message board, always calling Shannon by his first name.

And don’t forget about that bumblebee. She’s back, but instead of being a young girl finding solace in the music of some talented hippies, she’s a sultry cartoon vixen smoking a cigarette at the top of the band’s MySpace page. I really hope somebody changes that; it’s just not tasteful.