I ventured to Irvine, California Saturday to see what the buzz surrounding the KROQ Annual Weenie Roast was all about and stepped outside of LA to catch a concert for the first time since Coachella. After making the traffic-infested trek on a day that finally felt like summer, I entered a world of fohawks and tank tops as Orange County gathered to support an unorthodox variety of artists featured on KROQ Radio. I arrived at the venue shortly after it opened at 2:00pm as Young the Giant warmed up a decent-sized crowd and opened the show on one of two Bud Light side stages.
Only about thirty percent of the eventual capacity crowd was fortunate enough to see every act on the side stage, which offered a much more diverse and attractive lineup than the punk-dominated main stage. As a 28 year old dude, I was a bit put off by the crowd of fans consisting mostly of Orange county kids who swiped their parents credit card. But Young the Giant worked with what they had and impressed with songs like My Body and Cough syrup. This wasn’t an easy show to open, and they did more than their fair share to set the tone. But it was evident within the first hour that this was no Almost Acoustic Christmas, nor any talent-packed festival for that matter.
Foster the People was hands down the best act of the day, and with Lykke Li cancelling they got to showcase the majority of their recently released debut Torches. They opened up with Warrant and did what they could to energize a crowd which lacked fans from their steadily growing Indie Electronic Dance demographic. The band traded off instruments and Mark Foster danced and jammed like a wild man, although few audience members embraced the vibe besides myself and a handful of others. He traded off between guitar, keyboard, and occasional drumming as the rest of the bad showcased their diversity with songs like Don’t Stop, Houdini, and I Would do Anything for You. Unfortunately the only song the entire crowd got into was their single, the catchy but overplayed Pumped up Kicks which doesn’t hold a candle to the majority of the tracks on the album. The crowd clapped and sang along as Foster performed a respectable variation and slowed it down to switch it up. They closed with Helena Beat, and Foster showed the small gathering that he’s a performer with unquestionable stage presence that came to play. If you’re not a fan already, get on board.
Unfortunately the very-talented Swedish vixen Lykke Li cancelled due to laryngitis and Airborne Toxic Event opened their set strong with the catchy, radio friendly Changing. The rest of their set didn’t live up to their opener, but they proved that they have talent and are worth paying attention to at a festival but probably not as a headliner.
Neon Trees closed the side stage before the focus shifted to the much larger pavilion which hosted mosh pits, and a number of drunken underage sun-soaked zombies wandering aimlessly in search of a different decade. Tyler Glenn did his best to impersonate Anothony Kiedis (to no avail) as he exaggerated pretty much everything he did. He tries a little too hard to be a rock star and should get back into whatever mode he was in when he wrote Animal because it’s the only song that really explodes. This was one of the catchiest songs of the year, but I wouldn’t expect greatness from them. The set was mediocre at best.
As the sun bore down on the day a strange mixture of festival participants herded up the hill to enter the pavilion. Face to Face kicked off at 5:15 and a fan base consisting of people far too young to know much about them acted like they did and started moshing and yelling almost instantaneously. They closed the half hour set with a bang and celebrated the overwhelming punk following. A Day to Remember followed them and kids begin head banging as lead Singer Jeremy McKinnon hurled blood curdling screams to the surprising pleasure of the majority of people filtering onto the lawn and into their pavilion seats. I breathed a sigh of relief as they announced that they would be returning to Warped Tour, popped two Tylenol, and prepared to attempt to enjoy the rest of the show.
Cage the Elephant probably would have worked out better on the Bud Light Side Stage, as they shifted musical style and fit in like a crooked, misshaped piece to a jigsaw puzzle. Thankfully lead singer Matt Schultz game out dressed in pants unlike he did at Coachella where he weirded out the audience by parading around in a red dress. Ain’t no Rest for the Wicked pleased the minority fan base and offered a bit of relief from the noise bellowing throughout The Verizon Amphitheatre during most sets. Shake Me Down is by far their best song and separates itself from the rest of their catalog and they did the best with what they had to work with in enthusing the crowd. For a band that isn’t the most talented emerging force, they raise the bar on stage…as long as they’re not in drag.
Bad Religion continues to puzzle me as they consistently reach a certain punk demographic that ranges across decades. They fit the theme of the afternoon and played songs I’d first heard fifteen years ago as kids who were barely born at the time paraded around and moshed accordingly. After a forty minute set, they passed the baton back to true Alternative Rock as The Strokes took the stage. Julian Casablancas looked like he’d spent the past month in a buffet line but he showcased his untouchable voice as the band played songs off the recent Angles including Under the Cover of Darkness, which may come to be one of the best Strokes songs of all time. The chemistry of the band looked a bit off, but they sounded great and Julian took it in stride as his microphone died mid-song toward the end of the set. He switched it out before playing familiar and enjoyable hits like Last Night and You Only Live Once. They play what they want to play, and when it comes down to it they’re hands down one of the best bands around today.
Rise Against took the stage next, and I was interested to see what they’re like live since they somehow booked a show with Muse and Rage Against the Machine at the LA Colisseum in August. I wasn’t sure if they fit the genre or could compete with a power-packed duo that really lacked a need for any other act to cheapen their respective talents. After seeing Rise Against live, I’m still a bit skeptical but they didn’t disappoint and it seemed like they were playing to a mass of fans which helped to liven up a dimming Amphitheater. Front man Tim McIlrath has a voice with soul and range that would work with any band and as some people gave way to fatigue others embraced the sudden surge and jammed uncontrollably. They played the longest set of the night to an exhausted crowd and rumors began to swirl about an unsuspected drop in from Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters.
As McIirath thanked the crowd, the stage rotated to reveal the next band as it had all day. And alas, Dave Grohl appeared with a shit-eating grin on his face. “SURPRISE!” he screamed, and without hesitation he shared how excited the Foo Fighters were to be playing a show they hadn’t played in years. Their new album hasn’t skipped a beat in a successful career that has now existed over fifteen years. He’s like the Dirk Nowitzki of Rock N Roll, not respected nearly enough for what he’s done and has played his heart out for his fans time and time again. He really is one of the most talented musicians of our generation, and he showcased it with songs like Learn to Fly, Best of You, My Hero and Monkey Wrench.
You really forget how many hits the Foos have and how good they are until they surprisingly pop in and play for an hour but apologize for not playing for three. They jammed out on the best of their catalog and cram songs into their hour time slot, and Dave Grohl looks like age is catching up with him but doesn’t act like it. He scatters sentences with f bombs intended to fire up the crowd then shifts back to talking about his family and playing for his daughter. He said that he rented an RV, cooked out weenies, and embraced the experience by acting like one of the fans. When a lot of people who have his status are arrogant assholes, it’s refreshing to see someone so down to Earth and straight-up normal. He and the boys close with their greatest hit that is guaranteed to impact future generations, Everlong, and they promise everyone they’ll see them again soon.
Linkin Park attempts to carry on after an unmatchable performance. It’s like throwing a preliminary bout after the Heavyweight Championship and they do what they can to play for a crowd drunk on fatigue and beer. People are sloppy at this point and some noticeably pass out, pull the trigger, and throw beer over railings without being caught under the safety of nightfall. The place is an absolute mess and certain people make their ways toward the exits after seeing a Hall of Fame headliner and trickle out before seeing the band initially intended to spearhead the show. Linkin Park plays hits that spread out across age groups and musical preferences and do their best to lift the anchor that the Foo Fighters left on the show. They belt out their best, and end the night for a satisfied and dehydrated crowd headed to a parking lot of chaos.
The day was about a 35/65 split of time I’d want to spend enjoying music and time I’d rather spend at the beach. The punk scene doesn’t intrigue me as it became evident that this show was a Venn diagram between kids ages 14-20 and fans of punk and hardcore music. Foster the People showcased their undeniable talent and promised an inevitable rise to popularity and The Strokes were the Strokes. The Foo Fighters saved a show that would have ranged between poor and mediocre, and with a few battle scars and a shirt drenched by flying beers I drove home. That is, after removing a trash bag left in the front seat of my jeep, probably by some nice, sober Orange County kid.