For the past 23 years Southern California radio giant KROQhas held their Almost Acoustic Christmas charity concerts. This year I had just heard about it for the first time after hearing one of my favorite bands, Linkin Park, would be headlining the first day on December 8th, 2012. This event took place at the Gibson Amphitheater in Universal City, California. The bands for that day were: Linkin Park, Rise Against, Bush, Garbage, Slightly Stoopid, Awolnation, The Lumineers, Walk the Moon, The Gaslight Anthem, Two Door Cinema Club, and Youngblood Hawke.
The only band I was truly familiar with was Linkin Park so I will focus my review on them as well as other events throughout the night. Every band except for Linkin Park got a 1/2 hour set. The stage was a rotating stage in the form of a half-circle. So while one band was playing, the other side was being prepared for the next band. So once the current band finished, they left the stage and there was a 1 minute intermission, then the stage rotated and the next band started with the band ready to play and wasted no time.
During Bush’s performance, Gwen Stefani came out to sing “Gylcerine“ . Rise Against was one of the highlights of the night, they had the audience pumped up the whole time. Once Linkin Park came on, the whole place went berserk. They started with the first track off of their new album, Lost in the Echo. Throughout the night they did a good job of mixing it up with old and new songs. They played primarily singles from throughout their career such as “In The End”, “Numb”, “What I’ve Done”, “Breaking the Habit”, and “Waiting for the End”. The stage was a bit small so they weren’t able to move around as much as they usually do. Chester Bennington, the lead singer, sounded amazing as always and pulled off his screams perfectly. When they were finishing up with “Bleed It Out”, singer/rapper/guitarist Mike Shinoda, went out into the crowd and crowd-surfed for a bit and eventually made his way to the middle walkway on the floor and ended up a few feet from. I would’ve loved to get up close and personal with him but there was a wad of people surrounding him and if I had gotten in the way, I would’ve been turned into a tortilla for sure.
With me primarily being a metalhead, I felt out-of-place being at a show like this since the crowd consisted of people who look like they had no clue who the bands were or were just there to take up space. Regardless, I had fun seeing my favorite band for the 5th time.
With their new album “Hard Times & Nursery Rhymes” due out early next year, OC royalty Social Distortion made their national Television debut last night performing on Jimmy Kimmel Live. The band used the Bud Light concert stage to perform the lead single from “Machine Gun Blues” – the lead single from Hard Times as well as a modern day classic. Both clips are posted below (Well they were till Kimmel made them private).
21st Annual KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas Lineup Announced
The once groundbreaking Los Angeles radio powerhouse has unveiled the details for the 21st annual Almost Acoustic Christmas. For most music fans snobs, the lineup is very average to say the least. Thankfully, most fans of KROQ are not fans of music, so chances are the show will sell out faster than you can scream PAYOLA.
Pre-sales are later this week, but that does not matter as Gibson Amphitheatre will be filled with close and personal friends of KROQ as well as individuals with nothing better to do then listen to the radio and call KROQ in hopes of being lucky called #20. As anyone in Los Angeles knows, it’s very hard to actually buy a ticket for these shows.
The line up for the 2010 KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas is as follows:
I am not going to come out here and act as if I am a giant fan of the Vandals. I don’t even own a record of the band. I have however in my 16+ years of concert going had the pleasure to see the band live twice and allow me to say they sure as hell deliver upon the stage. That is enough for me to hopefully help them out in a nasty war that has consumed their lives over the past few years.
So today I learned from our good friends at KROQ that The Vandals are in a bit of trouble. It turns out some money hungry punks over at Daily Variety have had the band tangled in a lawsuit that is not only frivolous, but blocks the band’s first amendment rights. So what can you do?
First off, you can read The Vandals take by clicking here.
You can write to Daily Variety and ask them to drop the whole thing by clicking here.
Finally, you can attend a benefit show by The Vandals on Sept 10th, 2010 at the Glass House in Pomona, CA. You can purchase tickets ($20 plus service) by clicking here.
Black Pacific – featuring Jim Lindbergh from Pennywise
more to be announced
Ticket info is as follows:
General onsale at 10am on Saturday, June 26th.
2-day pass: $149.50
Single day ticket: $79.50
VIP Ticket (2-day only): $395.00 (VIP tickets include the following: Exclusive Monster Energy platform access with shaded, lounge seating, VIP parking and VIP entrance to venue, access to VIP food concessions, upgraded bar services (beer, spirits & wine), DJ spinning all day long, elevated viewing platforms, upgraded restroom facilities, and more.)
Rumor has it you can get some kind of camping four pack for $999.99. To be honest, for as much fan as I had at the 2009 version of this festival, I am not sure if I personally plan to head out. On paper, Sunday looks better than Saturday, but Fontucky (as many call it) is a far way away from Los Angeles, and I don’t know if I could deal with 50,000 low IQ’d individuals watching music on a NASCAR track.
2010 KROQ Weenie Roast
06/05/10 – Verizon Wireless Amp: Irvine, CA
Words/Photos/Videos by Reverend Justito/concertconfessions.com
No longer a Fiesta, the annual KROQ Weenie Roast returned to Irvine, California on the first Saturday in June 2010. The long lasting corporate rock radio festival is not only a celebration of Summer’s arrival, but a chance for the stations simple-minded fan base to act like complete and total douche-bags. Despite this fan-base of brainless burnouts, KROQ always puts together a top-notch line up of artists young and old. Blessed enough to score a center terrace seat inside the out-dated live nation venue once known as Irvine Meadows – I headed south in hopes that great music could not be overpowered by an obtuse audience.
I have to admit, I only saw Passion Pit in action for about 84 seconds. The rest of their set was spent trying to get into Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre. Trained guards in yellow winbreakers conducted long slow searches yet failed to stop 16,000+ from bringing booze, drugs and various sex toys into the Live Nation venue. With the Bud Light Side stage about 600 yards from the line, we could hear Passion Pit just fine. I feel I didn’t miss out on anything standing in line. I have to assume cheesy synth-dance grooves over vocals that sound as if a cat is being skinned look pretty boring at 2:30 in the afternoon. Really, the only time the music worked for me was when I was close enough to watch a female guard (keep in mind lines for searches are split into male/female) softly fondle the breasts of all patrons in her line. Blessed by the good Lord with man hands, her touch was soft, slowly feeling for “joints” and “other contraband.” I won’t lie, for a moment I was even jealous of her. No matter what I do in life, I have the feeling I will never enjoy my work as much as this woman does. The way she rubbed the female buttocks – lets just say you were not sneaking any credit cards or parking ticket past her. For me, I just had to remove my cap off my bottle of water and throw it away. As soon as my guard turned to feel up the next boy in line, I made a throwing motion into the trash can without even taking my top off. I know, it’s true I am a bad ass.
The first band that mattered at the Weenie Roast was the Gainesville, Florida four piece (five if you count the touring keyboardist) Against Me! I planned it perfectly as I found my spot just as they took to the stage. With a new record White Crosses releasing in less than 72 hours from their stepping upon the stage – Against Me! opened with a very a straight up pop sounding song that I can only assume is new. The next 25 minutes ended up being everything I expected from my second Against Me! show. A few new songs, a solid amount of material from their 2007 breakout record New Wave, and a dash of classics. The Bonnaroo veterans packed in as much as they could in the abbreviated time slot, often not stopping between songs. One highlight was the new records title track which flowed perfectly into the classic “Pints of Guinness Make You Strong.” With the exception of the keyboards which felt out of place – the band sounded tight. “White People for Peace”, “New Wave” and even their current single “I Was A Teenage Anarchist” sounded as if the band had been on the road for months. Of course the biggest ovation from the crowd came from the bands most known rock radio number – “Thrash Unreal.” The folks in the crowd who actually listen to the radio sang along to the bah bah bah chorus oblivious to the actual meaning of the lyrics. Having now seen these guys twice on the festival circuit, I really need to make it to a full on Against Me! show.
While you won’t find the Chicago based band on my ipod, I have never had any issue with Chevelle. I understand the comparisons to Tool and have enjoyed the bands string of rock radio hits over the past decade. In my two previous trips to the Verizon Wireless Side-Stage Festival Grounds (aka a parking lot about the size of two-three football fields) the side-by-side stages have been set up in what would be the end zone. It made logistical sense. So leave it to some genius to switch the format and set the stages up at about the 40 yard line. In doing this, there was far less room for fans, thus making it impossible to move around, let alone between stages. Because of this, I watched Chevelle from the other stage (thus no video) not wanting to miss a second of Deftones. Their 30 minute set was solid wall of hard rock. I only recognized their hits – “The Red” and “Send The Pain Below” – which of course got a large reaction from the crowd. The way I see it, I get to cross Chevelle off the list of bands I have never seen live – and they were the perfect warm up for Deftones.
Had it not been for winning tickets to their Jimmy Kimmel Live taping – this would have been lucky #13 for Deftones and I. Having never seen the band in the same venue twice – I assumed the Sacto rockers would be playing before STP on the main stage. Knowing that Deftones shows loose something in seated venues, I was fired up when I learned the band would be headlining the Bud Light side stage. As a Deftones fan, I was shocked to find comments like this on the KROQ.com website:
@Chris writes: MOVE DEFTONES TO MAIN STAGE NOW! LET DIRTY HEADS HEADLINE 2ND STAGE! THIS IS RIDICULOUS
@ME writes: the deftones are the only reason i’m going! why the hell are they going on at 4 and some sh!!!ty side stage!
Yea I agree when they announced that the Deftones are playing I was like I’m not missing them but side stage?? Wtf?? Right?
So you see, I am not being harsh when I call KROQ fans brainless. Deftones for 45 minutes in the parking lot – how can one not be thrilled?
The band opened the set with “Rocket Skates.” Sadly the song never had a chance. For almost the entire song the crowd was unable to hear front man Chino Moreno’s vocals. So in the event you are looking for an instrumental version of “Rocket Skates” the 2010 KROQ Weenie Roast is for you. As soon as the mic issue was solved the band launched into the title track of their recently released record – Diamond Eyes. Even with fans packed in tight, two circle pits managed to form in front of the stage. Those pits calmed a bit with “Knife Party” but that break was short lived as they swelled even larger when the band busted out their first taste of radio success – “My Own Summer (Shove It).” Having seen the band in a similar setting at the San Francisco stop of the ’98 Vans Warped Tour, it felt right hearing so many songs from their 1997 release Around The Fur. The albums title track as well as “Lotion” are prime examples of what Deftones are all about. One of the biggest reactions the band received was from Fur’s biggest hit “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away).” While some fans grumbled over sound issues from guitarist Stephen Carpenter – most just went nuts over the chance to see the band in such an intimate setting. After playing their biggest hit “Change (In The House of Flies) the band closed their set with “Birthmark.” Having acted the previous night as if this was some sort of treat – I was hoping for “7 Words” or “Bored” when Moreno announced they would close with a song from Adrenaline. Regardless, there is a reason I have seen this band 14 times – they never disappoint. Looking forward to show 15 this fall with Mastodon & Alice in Chains.
The Dirty Heads
I decided after 90+ mins at the side stage I wanted to empty my bladder and grab a beer. Irvine Meadows (sorry, Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre) was once a ground breaking venue (as it is my understanding it is one of the first sheds in the country). However now it is out of date and in major need of renovation. Lines for food, drink and restrooms are borderline criminal. Men’s restrooms average 8 urinals and three stalls. With limited rest rooms, you can imagine how long these lines are. The lines for the women’s rest rooms are even worse. Live Nation saves a buck by allowing volunteers to man the beer booths (some of the profit off $13.00 cups of brew are donated to charity). Not even allowed to accept tips, the volunteers did their best to keep lines moving. However a major lack of volunteers and small work space resulted in me missing the up and coming band cover “Paint It Black” by the Rolling Stones as well as the rest of their set. Granted I don’t know a thing about The Dirty Heads minus their recent hit, I had hoped to catch a bit of their set just to give them a shot. Perhaps next time?!?!?!?!
Cage The Elephant
I admit, I have lost touch with rock radio since I got an ipod. However, Cage The Elephant is one of the bands that has really stuck out to me on the rare occasions my ears have been tickled by KROQ over the past couple of years. Having recently picked up their self-titled album, I was excited to see the band who shares a home state with Wild Turkey Bourbon. Sadly, I missed their first two songs in lines for not only beer as well as entrance to the Terrace section. While solid, I am not sure if Cage is ready for prime time. I realize it’s no easy task to rock such a large space in the sunlight, but the bands rowdy sound felt as if it would fit more into a club or theatre vs. a large scale amphitheatre. Despite this – the band did an outstanding job rocking songs like “In One Ear”, “Back Against The Wall” and “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked” and I expect big things to come.
As the rotating stage allowed Cage The Elephant to exit and Spoon to enter, I decided to go stand in line for the bathroom again. Having seen Spoon twice before, I knew I was not missing out on anything. To me, they are musically un-original and come off like self-righteous dickwads. I hear folks blow them like they are the second coming of Coldplay Christ – yet no one can explain what makes them so fantastic. So yeah, they came, they played, they sucked and won the “Reverend Justito’s Worst Band Of The Festival” award. This is a pretty amazing accomplishment, considering my hate for a certain band further sharing the bill.
My first trip to the Weenie Roast was in 2007. With “Lazy Eye” just breaking the charts – Silversun Pickups stole the show. This was rather amazing considering they played the side stage. I fell in love with their record Carnavas over the following months, but the bands follow up Swoon left a lot to be desired in my heart. The band opened the set with the slow building “Growing Old Is Getting Old.” While the setlist was not really what I was hoping for (all but one song was from Swoon) the Silverlake four piece did not disappoint. Songs like “The Royal We” warmed the crowd who were chilled by the marine layer that had taken over the once warm day. In our section, we had some very loud and flamboyant gay men who when not requesting for bassist Nikki Monninger to expose her tatas; insisted on screamed for the band to play “Substitution” even well after it has been played. With a loud idiots behind me and so-so setlist I struggled for the first 2/3rd of the set. I needed it to be so much more – I needed to connect. Thankfully the last two songs that made me fall in love with Silversun Pickups all over again. Granted they were the bands biggest hits “Panic Switch” and “Lazy Eye” Silversun Pickups always wins over the crowd over in the end. In fact – it is physically fucking impossible to see Silversun and not rock your ass off. For the first time all day, the band got fans in the seated section to get off their backsides and move. Both songs were huge distorted monsters that unlike friends/former tour mates Cage The Elephant managed to fill the cavernous venue. If it was not for a miracle at Berkeley’s Greek Theatre – there is no doubt I would be watching this band headline the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles on August 6th.
I have no shame in proclaiming that I LOVE Paramore. I own all three of the bands albums and have never had the opportunity to catch the group live. The 2010 KROQ Weenie Roast was my chance to do just that. With a buzz in the air from the final two Silversun Pickup songs the young band hit the stage like the Toronto Blue Jays are currently hitting baseballs. The did a wonderful job by packing their time slot with hit after hit. Early on – energetic front-woman Hayley Williams lead the band through older numbers like “That’s What You Get” and “Pressure.” I have always cried foul when fans of “pop/dance” music defend lip syncing because of lack of breath from gaudy dance numbers. Williams is much like a pinball bashing across the stage all while nailing her massive vocals. I’m always amazes me when huge vocals come out of tiny people, which only adds to Williams allure. Equally amazing, yet often overlooked is the bands guitarist Josh Farro. Part of what won me over to these young pups was their love for one of my favorite bands – Failure. This kid has a great ear for melody rich gnarling distortion that just makes the hair on my back rise in delight. On a totally unrelated note – I would be doing a disservice if I did not mention the pot-bellied Latina sitting next to me. For most of the show, she was reading Twilight on her Kindle. When Paramore played “Decode” from the Twilight Soundtrack – the gal put her Kindle down and rocked out. By the time the band was on to “Brick By Boring Brick” the gal had returned to her electronic-book which held her focus the rest of the night. I won’t lie, I was sad when Williams announced they would be playing their last song. Paramore are a great live band with tight musicianship and raw power. They know how to play up to the crowd, which of course meant they saved their biggest hit “Misery Business” for last. Once again giving 110% the bands confirmed something I already knew – Paramore is something special.
I don’t own DEVO records. I know a few songs, “Whip It” being the obvious favorite. I know a lot of folks act as if DEVO is some huge important band. I suppose they are if keyboards wet your whistle. I know they wear plastic hats. I know I once ran into Mark Mothersbaugh when I was eating breakfast with my mother-in-law. I have nothing against DEVO, so the chance to see them for a few minutes at a festival didn’t bother me. I don’t think I will be going out and buying any DEVO records, but they were cool. I always love that feeling at an all-day show when light loses the battle to dark while a band plays on stage. I felt excited watching strange video images as the post-punk/new wave band originally from Akron Ohio did their thing. I headed for the restroom during their last song. I am glad I got to see DEVO for the simple fact it gives me hipster bragging rights. I still don’t get it.
How is it 2010 and the three headliners of the KROQ Weenie Roast were all major players in the heroin haze known as the nineteen nineties? The one who OD’d, the one who should have OD’d and the one who couldn’t OD no matter how hard they tried.
I hate Courtney Love. I hate her music even more. Terrible songs, terrible vocals, terrible, terrible terrible. My original plan was to post not one, but two reviews from Jay Porks instead of talking crap on the living breathing trash dumpster. Then something changed as I paid a third visit to the filthy restroom (I have a small bladder and stayed hydrated – sue me). I couldn’t believe my ears, the nasty puss filled scab was opening with “Sympathy For The Devil” by The Rolling Stones. Not only was it the second Stones cover I heard while in line, I actually was bummed I was not inside the venue. After watching a crystal meth tweaker piss into a trash can, I made it back to my seat around the time “Malibu” was finishing up. As Love lead her hired hands through more songs, I noticed something. While no Hole song will ever sound good, she has assembled a group of top notch musicians who manage to keep the music focused and on course. From what I have seen of Hole back in the day, the crazed front-woman often lead her pack into disaster. In 2010, someone in her camp has figured out that with a really solid backing band – she can sound halfway decent. In fact, and it pains me to say it I actually cracked a smile or two. The bitch has fabulous stage banter. Who else introduces a Leonard Cohen cover with a discussion on personal douching habits? I can’t believe I am going to admit this, but I found myself rocking out a bit to “Miss World.” After bashing the lame requests of the crowd, Courtney obliged and performed “Doll Parts” but only after making fun of the song. I even forgave Courtney for lying last night. In dedicating an Alex Chilton cover to Kevin Weatherly, she thanked the program director for playing her records from Faith No More to the terrible (her words not mine) solo record she put out a few years ago. Regardless, not only did I survive a Hole show, they were better than Spoon. I never thought I would say that in a million years.
Stone Temple Pilots
STP was the main factor in buying tickets for this years event. While the solid support was there – Stone Temple Pilots are in a league of their own – not to mention they just have a sound that works for summer time outdoors. Great riffs, great grooves – when these four come together magic happens. It’s that rare spark that separates the legends from the greats and STP’s spark is big and bright. Taking the stage moments past 9pm the band opened with a triple shot of modern rock classics. From the opening notes of “Vasoline” I knew it was going to be an amazing set. “Wicked Garden” has always been my favorite STP radio staple, so having this in the two hole simply increased my already high level of excitement. In fine Weenie Roast fashion it was around the third song “Crackerman” that lug-nut fans began a giant bon-fire upon the lawn. The foul smell of burning pizza boxes and beer cups choked the amphitheatre as the DeLeo brothers played their trademark interlocking grooves.
The band used their Weenie Roast appearance to bust out some songs from their just released self-titled album. While not a bad song “Hickory Dichotomy” didn’t seem to fit as well into the hard rocking set as lets say “Between The Lines.” Front-man Scott Weiland played a trick on the crowd introducing another new song only to launch into “Plush.” While a majority of the sets songs came from the bands first two albums; a big highlight was “Tumble In The Rough” a song the band admits they have neglected over the years.
It was clear the audience wanted hits – and the band delivered. “Big Empty” (dedicated to The Big Easy) “Interstate Love Song” and “Sex Type Things” were all highlights. With everyone on their feet, the band left for a brief break before returning for a two song encore. Screaming into his Megaphone – Weiland lead the band into a nasty version of “Dead and Bloated” before closing with another winner from the Tiny Music…Songs From The Vatican Giftshop album – “Trippin’ On A Hole In A Paper Heart.” From the deep emotion and slight struggle in Weiland’s voice to the soaring solos of Dean DeLeo, it was the perfect ending to a wonderful day of music.
Sublime w/ Rome
Long before Bradley Nowell was found dead in a shitty San Francisco hotel room, I was making fun of his crappy band. When he passed, I laughed at my friends over their loss (I admit – I was a brain-dead 16 year old). When I heard that the living members of Sublime had reunited with a new singer, I grew angry. Look, I may not be a fan of Sublime, but if I know anything I know that it’s Bradley’s music. Just because some pudgie Ewok looking thing gets good playing those songs alone in his bedroom does not mean you have to piss all over your legacy. Sadly for Bradley’s family the two other guys who were in Sublime have. Now, I realize many fans believe it pays tribute to the music – however it’s anything but. The reason Blind Melon and The Doors failed with their new front men is because their bands had lost their voice – their souls. What happened to Long Beach Dub All-Stars? It might not be the profitable way to honor the music, but it’s the correct way. Walking the long path back to the car, I could hear the crowd singing along to opening number “Date Rape” drowning out the band in the process. If you want a Sublime w/ Rome review – once again I suggest you click here, because you are not getting one from me. For as wonderful as the intent of the KROQ Weenie Roast is, the fans themselves cause the event to fail. People don’t come to enjoy music, they come to get wasted and party with their friends. It’s the reason they cry when Deftones are added to the side stage and the reason they quickly forget their legend for a cheap knock off of the original. Perhaps as a music-snob I am too harsh on casual music fans, but it’s only because I love music so much and it breaks my heart to drown in a sea of disrespect.
This weekend I am heading out to the 2010 KROQ Weenie Roast. In honor of seeing wonderful artists including Against Me!, Stone Temple Pilots, Deftones and that cute ginger kid who just flashed her boobies on Twitter, I figured I would share some photos from my first trip to the KROQ Weenie Roast back in 2007 (long before I was regularly writing concert reviews). I hope you enjoy – and of course you can expect full coverage of the 2010 event here early next week.
USELESS KEYS 01/08/10
The Viper Room – West Hollywood, CA
Words/Photos/Video by Reverend Justito
Often times in Los Angeles, music fans blow off opening acts and only show up for the main event. On the second Friday of 2010, I did the exact opposite. Last summer when I walked in on USELESS KEYS’ set closer at The Roxy, I was so impressed I promised myself I would seek them out again. Not one to break a promise, the Los Angeles-based band’s set at the Viper Room fit perfectly into my schedule on a warm winter night.
For 25 minutes, the band backed up what I had assumed after hearing that one song last summer. USELESS KEYS have created a massive sound that would make noise/fuzz/shoe gaze rock forefathers like My Bloody Valentine, Failure and Jawbox proud. Huge walls of rich, melodic distortion penetrate your senses via a three-guitar attack which has left my ears ringing a day later (keep in mind I wore earplugs). Leading the invasion of gnarling guitar goodness is lead axe-man Michael Regilio. With four others creating a dense sonic backdrop, Regilio is the type of player who can pinpoint the perfect pockets of time that need to be sent into overdrive and executes with a perfect mix of simplicity and creativity.
While Regilio leads the charge of guitars, the band naturally focuses around front man/guitarist Michael Bauer. The lengthy lefty hovers over the microphone stand as his soft haunting vocals perfectly compliment the intense wall of sound being created simultaneously. Bauer does a remarkable job of creating melodies that are dark and moody at one moment, only to be light and poppy the next. “Down Threw” is a perfect example of this, with gloomy verses reminiscent of Tripping Daisy and a his and hers chorus between Bauer and Bassist Guylaine Vivarat.
Vivarat is indeed the secret weapon. When not anchoring the ship with drummer Rory Modica, she is plucking out warm and melodic runs up the high end of her four strings. These brief journeys, much like Regilio’s, find that perfect pocket that sets USELESS KEYS apart from the countless hipster bands whose verse-chorus-verse format becomes stale by the second or third verse.
The club began to fill as the group made their magic upon the tiny stage. It didn’t matter if you were a frat boy, hipster, overweight Taco Bell addict in a Mastodon T-shirt or hard working/influential local disc jockey; USELESS KEYS gave you no choice but to be totally drawn in by their hypnotizing noisefuzzspaceshoegazepoprock songs. I know for a fact I was not the only one disappointed when the journey came to a close all too soon with the well crafted “White Noise”. I finished my beer and returned to my car, off to the next best thing on a Friday night, grateful that I was able to start 2010 with a fresh and solid performance. With a FREE month long residency at The Echo every Monday in February, and a debut E.P. on the horizon, 2010 is off to a solid start for USELESS KEYS.
Why waste time with a long introduction about the Fairplex at Pomona (you know, where they race ponies) lets just get to the f’n music!
Street Sweeper Social Club:
Chances are I would not have shown up to this festival till much later in the day if it was not for SSSC opening up the cavernous main stage. As someone who spent their formative years (musically speaking) in the 1990’s I was not about to miss a chance to see Tom Morello live in person (having not seen him perform since the 90’s). Not knowing anything about his new project (which features Boots Riley from The Coup), I was blown away by their oh so brief opening set. Decked out in matching military jackets, the five piece outfit blazed through a handful of songs from their debut record. When not having us take “The Oath” the politically charged band (strike that, as was repeated through the entire set by Riley, they are not a band, but a Social Club) was pumping out high energy rap meets funk meets MC5 jams like “Fight! Smash! Win” and “100 Little Curses”. Perhaps the biggest crowd pleaser was their cover of MIA’s “Paper Planes” which became an all out assault against the current bank bail out by our Government. Morello was going crazy the entire set, making his guitar produce noises that NO ONE has been able to replicate in 20 years. I was so impressed, as soon as the Social Club closed with “Nobody Moves til We Say Go” I was off to the merch tent to pick up the album.
I was curious about this six piece crunk rock outfit hailing from my old home town. I have heard a few of their hits on the radio (and have seen plenty of graffiti left around the streets of LA bearing their name) and it’s not really my thing I suppose. However, I went in with open ears was somewhat surprised with their 30+ minute set in the muggy Pomona heat. Songs like “No. 5” and “Undead” got the mainly white male crowd excited. I think my highlight was a song called “California”, that was still hard hitting, but had the alt/pop sensibilities of Weezer. The collective closed their set with the hit “Everywhere I Go” which managed to get a small pit going at the front of the stage. Personally, I don’t think I would rush to a merch booth to buy a record by this act, but they were somewhat enjoyable. I am glad I went in with an open mind, and wouldn’t be opposed to seeing them again somewhere down the road.
Atreyu was terrible. I mean they were truly terrible. We lasted 1 ½ songs, before running for some shade (where sadly we could still hear them). Seriously, the fact that these complete tools have a career at all is shocking. I am sure the corn in the dookie that I left in the port-a-potty could could better songs. I now understand why their front man was booooed at the 2009 Golden Gods Awards. Perhaps the biggest crime of these complete and total waste of sperm is their name. They are not worthy of having such a cool band name, and I urge Congress to act quickly to strip them of it. Hell, lets just have Congress drop a bomb on their tour bus.
All I know is that Atmosphere has a great buzz around them (part of that buzz was actually featured here by our man BeeZnutZ a few months back) and they were set to close the Monster Energy Drink Side Stage at 4:20. Seemed like the logical place to be for someone like myself. Just before 4:20, the Minneapolis hip hop duo (featuring rapper Slug and DJ Ant) took to the tiny stage and figured they could start early and sneak an extra song in. I couldn’t tell you a single song title excpet “Shoulda Known” but they were really good. I have to assume the organic hip hop act would work better in a small club, this was a great taste for me into the infinite possibilities this act. Plus he got the crowd to chant make dinner dinner so that was pretty cool. I need to explore these guys deeper for sure. We cut out about 2/3rds into their set to get a good spot at the main stage.
Wow, where do I start on this one? I won’t lie, when Wolfmother first came on the scene I somewhat dug it, checked out their record. But as I got deeper into them, I was turned off by how it just lacked a certain something. By the time Mike Patton was all over You Tube ranting about how unoriginal this Australian outfit was, well lets just say I was drinking his Kool-Aid and hoping off the Wolfmother bandwagon. Knowing how front man Andrew “temper tantrum” Stockdale had fired the entire band, I went into their dinner time set with an open mind, but didn’t expect much. I think it was about three minutes into their opening song “Dimension” when my mind was made up. Wolfmother is a bad joke and truly generic, boring and un-stimulating. The band played with no feeling at all. Stockdale had to repeatedly ask their drummer (who sported a full on Mexi-mullet) to speed up, which sadly he was too fat and out of shape to do. The band seemed to mix (dare I say) classic Wolfmother with songs from their upcoming “Cosmic Egg” record. One new song, “California Dream” was basically Kasabian on their worst day trying to be Fu Manchu, while another new song “New Moon Rising” sounded like Black Sabbath being fronted by a goat. I don’t know how anyone could have taken it seriously. The band even struggled on their biggest hit – “Woman” with a very sloppy middle section that featured Stockdale running around stage like a four year old who was sent to his room without supper. “Mind’s Eye” was an even bigger train wreck than “Woman” if you can imagine that. Stockdale further grew upset by the lack of response from the crowd. I guess no one told him that a field of sunburnt dope smokers are not going to waste their energy clapping for a band whose bass player appears equally burnt (no joke, I think he gave up at one point). I have to assume that this may very well be the end of Wolfmother in the states. Face it: you’re an untalented cry baby who indulged himself by playing pathetic new material to close instead of a crowd favorite like “Joker and the Thief”. The stop watch has counted down 14 minutes; make the most of it while it lasts.
Alice in Chains:
Now this is what I was truly looking forward too. I have been a huge fan of Alice in Chains for over 15 years now. However, I was too young to catch them live the first time around, and sadly Lane was a waste of flesh and bones by the time I started going to concerts on a regular basis. You can only imagine my excitement to see them at this festival. I thought my brain was going to explode when the band opened their set with “Rain When I Die”. It’s amazing how similar to Lane, yet distinct new front man William DuVall sounds. The man can belt it out, and has a great stage presence. We were on bassist Mike Inez’s side of the stage, as he dropped bomb and bomb in classic Chains hits like “Man In The Box” and “Them Bones”. The band played two new songs (sorry, I didn’t catch the titles) and both were very solid (and better presented than Wolfmother). However it was the classics that got people moving (including the first full blown pit of the afternoon). The group closed with the one-two punch of “Would?” and “Rooster” . Despite being covered in sweat from the sun all day, I found myself having goose bumps during the last number. Both axe slinger Jerry Cantrell and DuVall sounded so good together on the vocals of what I guess would be AIC’s biggest hit. Perhaps the crowd (at near capacity) singing along the melody rich opening lyrics added a bit to my bumps. As a life long fan, the 45 minute set was much too short for me, but also truly magical. In fact it was a dream come true and my personal highlight from Epicenter 09.
A funny thing happened as the sun set behind the grand stand of the Fairplex @ Pomona. As roadies set the stage for the only North American appearance of Linkin Park in 2009, the douche bags came out in alarming numbers. While I don’t go out of my way to listen to Linkin Park, I have nothing against them. However, you can not turn on rock radio in Southern California without hearing at least one Linkin Park song an hour. They are the Depeche Mode of heavy metal. Catchy Pop songs with neat lil computer riffs and large Metallica-esque power chords. While I prefer something with a little more thought behind it, this music is the perfect backdrop for simple minded douche bags in Affliction shirts who enjoy beating the snot out of each other after spending $100 on 10 cups filled full of delicious Rocky Mountain Goodness. This is exactly what happened during the LP’s set. The band played hit after hit after hit to the delight of the simple minded masses. “Somewhere I Belong”, “Faint”, “Crawling” and “What I’ve Done”, you know, all the songs you and I are sick and tired of despite no longer listening to terrestrial radio. I know that sounds a tad mean, but with the mix of earlier mentioned D-bags I found myself having more fun throwing trash at various tweekers who used a safety barrier to stand upon to enrich their view, and selfishly blocking the view of thousands behind them. Musically there were two highlights for me. The first was “Numb” which happens to be my favorite Linkin Park song. As with all the other songs, the band played it to perfection, never missing a beat as DJ/band dictator worked hard on his laptop. The other highlight was “Breaking The Habit”. Towards the end of this one, the PA suddenly went silent. While the band didn’t realize this at first, the crowd sure did. Yet instead of getting hostile, the sweaty blob of humanity sang along with the band, turning it into a rather special moment. The band eventually noticed, and managed to start back up where they left off as soon as the PA was restored. A very pro move, showing that despite not being on tour all year, this band is very tight and play together very well. For as special as this moment was, it was short lived as lead singer Chester Bennington used Epicenter 09 as the perfect chance to commit suicide.
Dead By Sunrise:
We were treated to a very large promotional blitz for Bennington’s new project all day. Street teamers covered the venue with glossy promo posters, while a small place circled the venue for hours dragging a banner that read “Who Is Dead By Sunrise?” Towards the end of LP’s set, the band left, and roadies quickly brought out some synthesizers and drum sets. Chester returned and mentioned how he would be debuting some new songs with his new band (featuring Ryan Shuck and Amir Derakh formerly of Orgy) and wanted to know what we thought. I think he found out as the entire crowd sent a thunderous collective boo towards the stage after the first song. Simply saying thank you, the band launched into the next song, which somehow managed to be worse than the first one. It was at this time when trash was thrown upon stage, middle fingers were raised and the crowd quickly grew upset. It was clear by the third and final song that this little promo stunt had gone horribly wrong. Shuck (who is now a fat bloated old man still trying to act like he’s a cool hip 21) threw a temper tantrum that would have made Wolfmother proud, throwing his guitar and once again coming to the shocking realization that no one gives two craps about his piss poor techno guitar rock sound. As chants for Tool came from the crowd, the musicians quickly left the stage with their tails between their legs. Hell, it may be the first time in history that a drummer threw sticks into the crowd only to have the person who caught them throw them back. Atreyu owes these guys a gift basket of cookies or something, as it saved them from being the worst band all day. Thankfully, Linkin Park came back out (with Chester seemed to be holding back tears) to play the Transformers 2 song, another nameless hit that sounds like all the other hits before finally closing with “One Step Closer”.
I am a huge fan of Tool, and along with Alice In Chains, they were the reason I purchased a ticket for this festival. Having seen Tool four times over the years, I knew exactly what I was in for – a skull fucking sensory overload of massive proportions. However, despite playing a very similar set list as the 10,000 Days tour, this set a unique twist. Mr. Maynard James Keenan was “kicked in the balls by God” or so he said, and was on crutches with a bad leg. After the band opened with a skull crushing version of “Jambi” a very chatty Keenan shared how he had hurt himself, and how he should be praised for even showing up, as lesser pretentious singers such as HIMSELF would have cancelled the gig. He mentioned how he knew it was important for the audience to “get drunk and run into each other” and he didn’t want to let em down. Despite Keenan’s numerous apologies for his lack luster performance, I thought he and the rest of the band sounded fine. Hits like “46 & 2” and “Stinkfist” kept the crowd happy while crazy images created by guitarist Adam Jones were projected upon giant video screens. “Schism” caught me off guard as it had a really fast middle bridge section, almost more punk rock than prog. It was during this song that a large fire made from a days worth of trash and or various promo material broke out on the large infield, prompting Keenan to encourage the crowd to “Stop, Drop and Roll.” My personal highlight was the intense ode to acid and aliens that is “Rosetta Stoned”. I must be honest, instead of the normal lighting fast verses, I think Keenan was just making lyrics up. I have no clue what he said, but I must assume it was inspired by any and all pain killers the wine enthusiast was on because of the bad leg. Perhaps the highlight for the massive audience was the title track to the Aenima record. With Keenan opening the song by saying “Nothing Personal”, the Bill Hicks inspired song attack on collective home of Los Angeles was perhaps the loudest sing along of the night. Honestly, despite playing for 90 minutes and going well past curfew, the Tool set was not nearly long enough for me (I think Linkin Park actually had a longer set). Despite aches and pain from standing for hours, I wanted so much more, but sadly that was not to be. I truly figured the band would close with “Lateralus”, but thankfully we got to end with the recent modern rock radio hit “Vicarious”. As drummer Danny Carey (in full Kobe Bryant uniform) pounded out the final notes, we began the long walk back to our car, satisfied knowing that we got to not only witness Tool during one of their down times, but were able to witness a wonderful day of music.
In closing, the 2009 Epicenter Festival was a massive success. Sure, all the bands may not have been pleasing on the ears, but it was a great day, with a great vibe. Kudos to the event producers for putting on a truly fan friendly festival with hardly any flaws. I truly hope this new festival continues to grow and that 2010 is even better than this year.