Depeche Mode Secret Warmup Show Recapped

March 16, 2023, SIR Studios, Hollywood (L-to-R: Martin Gore, Attosa Tavallai, Peter Gordeno)

Depeche Mode played a surprise warmup show for a small handful of people in Hollywood on March 16th. Among the lucky attendees was Attosa Tavallai — Founding member of the Facebook fan group Depeche Mode Collective, A2SAfm AMP DJ, a musician for electro-rock band Former Human Beings, and lifelong Depeche Mode megafan. Attosa offered to share her experience of winning and attending this special event with Home.

“Be careful, if you cross the white line, you die,” Dave Gahan joked with a cheeky smile as we approached him, standing on the stage of one of the rehearsal rooms at SIR Studios. He was referring to the white line made of masking tape on the floor in front of us, the line this lady repeatedly and sternly told us not to cross as she ushered us into the room. When I say us, I mean 6 of us fans and 40 music industry people. How did I get so lucky to be front row center at such an intimate event?

Just the day prior, I woke up early to listen to KROQ because rumour had it they were giving away a ticket to this incredible secret Depeche Mode show. I thought they’d just ask for caller number 101 or have someone prove they’re a big fan by showing their typical Violator rose tattoo. Not this time. This was a game called “10 Depeche Mode Songs Under 10 Seconds.” They basically played super short Depeche Mode song bites in a 7-second clip, then we had to call in and name the songs in the right order. After several failed attempts by callers, I was the one who got them all right. Oh, there were tears for many. Happy tears for me.

Rewind back to the day of the show. My girlfriend Katy and I were standing outside SIR, patiently waiting for the doors to open. We looked across the street and saw there was a shop called Memento Mori. It almost seemed fake, as if someone printed a big sign and put it there so it could be part of our day. If that wasn’t too much, we then saw Martin Gore and Peter Gordeno walking out of the store’s doors, jaywalking right over to where my girlfriend and I we were standing. Fangirling out doesn’t even explain what was happening. 

I decided to just go for it and ask Martin if he remembered me, the “Phillpott So Hott” girl from an afterparty he invited me to 20 years prior at his Counterfeit 2 solo tour.  He and Peter immediately burst out in laughter and said yes, both seemingly happy to see me. We had a nice chat about that night and Mr. Phillpott, took some photos together, and they went on inside to set up. (If you want to know about Phillpott and myself, just google “Depeche Mode Attosa Philpott So Hot”)

Not too long after, we were taken to the entryway of the studio, where they promptly take all our phones and smartwatches and place them into Yondr bags. Of course, we were all bummed out because we’d love to have footage, but there was a sense of feeling it would be our beautiful little secret this way. Who would ever forget this performance anyway?

In the beautiful antiquey, velvety, slightly musty lounge, we are all anxious, standing nearby a door that Daniel “The Brat” Barassi hinted to stand near, where the boys probably were. It became apparent by the distant sound of drums and synths that it was indeed where the boys were already rehearsing their set. Every time the door was opened by Kessler or someone assisting, we could hear the sounds of songs that were not familiar to us. Way too muffled when the door was closed, but a delightful five-second hint. We loved it when people would hold the door open for someone else because the hint would be twice as long. I think I could make out My Cosmos Is Mine at some point, but it could’ve been that it was in my head from playing it 30 times that morning.

When they let us through the door, it felt like we were part of a huge levee break. Katy, Liz, Tumara, and I were in the front of the line so we headed straight for that sweet spot of front row center. Looking down at that masking tape made us all look at each other and chuckle, as if any of us would violate any rule by rushing the little stage. Dave was laughing at it too, which was the cause of the initial joke about not crossing the white line.

On the stage, the boys were all smiling and chatting to each other. Dave was wearing a black tee with relaxed slacks, gorgeous black boots. Martin was sporting his black Innocence Project tee and cargo pants. Gordeno and Eigner were both sporting black tees and jeans. They looked so well-rested and gorgeous, all of them. However, at this point, it sinks in that there are four people up there, not five. Even though the stage was minuscule in comparison, there was a big gaping hole indicating that Fletch was truly gone. I could hear some chatter behind me about it too. The boys smiling at each other and at us helped us get through this, but the hollow feeling lingered on and off throughout the whole set. Such an emotional rollercoaster.

It didn’t take long for the boys to exchange a few words and go straight into the first song, Ghosts Again. I somehow knew this would be the first thing we’d hear. Though I was not familiar with this as a live performance in front of me, it was as familiar and comfortable as any of the classics. The most striking thing straight away was realizing I could hear Dave’s vocals straight from his mouth to my ears, rather than hearing him through speakers, sans reverb. It was that kind of super-close living room feel, and it was stunning. Dave’s movements were a bit subdued at this point, and I started to wonder if it was going to stay this way with such a tiny crowd.

I Feel You comes on next. We see Dave starting to warm up in movement and Martin’s head starting to bob. Familiar songs brought back familiar feelings to the stage. Peter walked forward and was handed a bass guitar, commencing A Pain That I’m Used To. Someone behind us complained that it was the Jacques Lu Cont Mix, but how else would Dave shake his bottom? And shake it he did. He started getting incredibly playful during this song, pointing at me and winking. No complaints here, except that they had my iPhone locked in a Yondr bag out front and I could not capture this moment to cherish forever. 

Peter moved back to his synths and the beautiful baseline to World In My Eyes began. To me, it felt like a breath of fresh air, being one of my favourite songs off my favourite album, Violator. Though the crowd was tiny, there were quite a few screams alongside my own. Thoughts that this might be tied to a tribute to Fletch during the actual tour did occur, as this was his favorite song. Dave quickly flashed the WIME eyes with his two hands, and we promptly flashed ours back to him. He smiled really big and continued to dance around. His comfort with us started to show as he began to caress his mic stand and then grab himself. He laughed really hard after doing it, possibly due to the fact that the room was filled with mostly industry people and a handful of true fans.

Dave walked around a bit, then pulled up a stool to sit on. We all started looking at each other, wondering if perhaps they were about to perform an acoustic song. Suddenly we heard the sample of the ignition of Dave’s old Porsche, so we knew it was Stripped. Wrong was up next. Dave mostly sang this song in a more serious demeanor with his eyes closed. Martin’s belting of the words “too long” was absolutely lovely with his perfect vibrato, so sharp that it was complimenting Dave’s superior vocals. What a dream team. After Wrong ended, Dave laughed and said, “There’s a lot of words in that song, isn’t there?” The crowd roared. 

The twinkling beginning of John the Revelator fired up and the crowd went wild. This was not a huge surprise of a tune choice to me due to the fact that Dave added it to all his most recent Soulsavers sets. Dave strutted around the stage with his hands tucked into his armpits, doing his chicken dance and some usual Elvis moves, really having fun. His body was now covered in sweat, so when he turned around to wiggle his bottom, you could see straight through his drenched shirt his beautiful back tattoo. Getting even more playful, Dave walked up to the front of the stage in front of us and began thrusting his pelvis at us, the small group of fangirls, front and center. The ratio of fans to industry types was even more obvious as you heard just a handful of high-pitched screams. Talk about a private show.

They aptly wrapped up the day with Enjoy the Silence. Dave walked over to Peter, covering his mouth and whispering things into his ear, both of them laughing. It was so nice to see them in the light of naughty, happy, young guys. They really got into this song as Christian Eigner led into the breakdown with the drums. The drum setup didn’t look as massive as it does on the stadium stages, but he was still beating on them with such gusto. The sound didn’t really come off the same as it usually does either, like a big rock concert. It had more of a subdued electronic kit sound, which was pleasing to a fan like myself who enjoys the pre-live drum days. Again, this place was the size of my living room, so the change in reverb played a big part.

ETS ends and we gave them an extra loud round of applause, knowing it was probably over, yet still hoping for more. Dave walked to the front of the stage and said very calmly, “Okay, people, that’s it. No encore. Goodbye.” We all laughed as they waved goodbye at us as we blew kisses. We got ushered out of the room, all smiles. As if our day could not get better, they kindly handed us each a Memento Mori album art flat, signed by Dave and Martin in silver marker. It was such a nice parting gift, but seeing there were only two signatures brought back the pain of missing Fletch.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience. Martin had a ton of guitar swap-outs with the guitar tech, shifting from the famously vibrant green Gretsch to the sparkly First Act Star Guitar and others, but it was hard for me to keep track of what got switched when. As Dave hinted about pulling out old classics on this tour in recent interviews, I was a bit bummed that didn’t happen. A part of me was also sad we could only hear what sounded like muffled bits of the rest of the new album, nothing in full. However, I also want to be with all my Devotee friends when the sounds first hit our ears. This is our band, and I love experiencing them all together, so I hope this write-up served as a way for you to be by my side at this phenomenal secret show. 

Attosa Tavallai

Commemorative record flat poster from secret warmup show. (Photos, Attosa Tavallai)