One of Los Angeles and Orange County’s most iconic and long-standing music festivals, Weenie Roast is not only known to Southern California residents as a celebration of the beginning of summer, but it’s also renowned for bringing together amazing musicians in an intimate festival-like setting.
While the mood is set impressively with the backyard/summer party vibe, the plentiful booze, the pretty rock girls, and the eclectic showing of interesting vendors, the real magic of Weenie Roast is in the music.
Perched like a faraway jewel on a hillside parking lot about a half mile away from the Verizon Wireless Main Stage, the Bud Light Side Stage is a novel idea incorporating two stages side-by-side with bands switching off so there is no changeover time.
Sweltering heat and the screaming, standing-only audience evoke an authentic festival energy–especially because many of the bands that play the side stage are these soon-to-be discovered treasures by much of the audience. As a music critic, the really interesting performances come from the smaller bands trying to carve out their sonic identities to fresh ears.
For those who hadn’t heard some of the Bud Light Side Stage bands before, such as a girl who exclaimed to her friend that she didn’t “know any of the bands, but was open-minded,” they were left with a strong showing of energetic, innovative performances.
YOUNG THE GIANT
The first show of the day was by Irvine’s own [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Young The Giant[/lastfm]. Indicative of the fact that they were playing in their hometown, friends and diehard fans in the audience were screaming out their old band name “Jakes” jokingly.
Despite their summery, sun-drenched California jangle, Kat Corbett had tweeted that the king of wry British melancholy, [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Morrissey[/lastfm], is a huge fan of these upcoming openers for[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”] Incubus[/lastfm]. Besides [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Prince[/lastfm], there really can’t be a better compliment than one from Moz.
Of course, Young The Giant played their hit song “My Body” to an uncontrollably happy crowd, but beyond their lively instrumentation, the highlight of their set is Sameer Gadhia’s performative ability.
Off stage, Gadhia seems humble and unassuming; on stage, he is transcendent, writhing around like a snake on fire. There is no doubt that the music speaks through Gadhia, transforming him into an almost mythological being.
FOSTER THE PEOPLE
It seemed that all the Bud Light Side Stage bands had channeled some primordial muse yesterday afternoon. This was partly due to the exuberant use of raw, primal drumming from most of the bands. After being woven into a hippie-esque trance by Young The Giant,[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”] Foster the People[/lastfm] came on stage bouncing, leaping, and pounding like a throbbing feral creature.
Another local band, Foster the People make psychedelic-tinged dance-pop that is served best by live performance. One reason why seeing Foster the People live is so necessary to truly appreciate them is their incredibly dynamic stage performance. I got close enough to try and start counting the amount of instruments on stage.
I saw what looked like three or four keyboards and a synthesizer, a floor tom and a set of drums, multiple percussion instruments, and bass and rhythm guitars.
Besides drummer Mark Pontius, all the other members, including lead singer Mark Foster, switch off their instruments, showing Foster the People’s incredible musical talent–even if Foster did inadvertently give away his hotel by talking about the furry convention.
THE AIRBORNE TOXIC EVENT
Unfortunately, one of the only female performers of the festival,[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”] Lykke Li[/lastfm], canceled because she was sick, but fortunately for the other bands, they got to play longer sets. Still another local Los Angeles band, the [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Airborne Toxic Event[/lastfm] was one of my favorite performances of the entire day.
For some reason, one common misconception with Airborne Toxic Event is that they are a twee, folk-influenced indie band when, in fact, they are modernized, intellectual punk rock.
Sometimes when you watch a band, there are pockets of space wherein the audience (and the musicians) begin to fall into a mindless drone of sound. Thanks to both the freewheeling instrumentation and Mikel Jollet’s phenomenal stage presence, the audience was never given a chance to fall into a musical stupor.
Jollett is nothing if not a rock star, engaging the audience with his passionate political rhetoric, talking about his time in Los Angeles, stage diving into the audience, and sincerely expressing his gratitude for being there. Yes, they played hits like “Changing,” but from my perspective, every song Airborne Toxic Event plays is a hit.
Last on the Bud Light Side Stage was a KROQ favorite, [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Neon Trees[/lastfm]. Decked out in their usual ’80s looking garb, lead singer Tyler Glenn was clad in a tight yellow leather jacket, black fingerless gloves with a purple stripe, and some awesome creepers which came off halfway during the show because, as Glenn tweeted, his “feet were burning.”
Neon Trees is one of those bands with such a tight live set, that it’s hard to find any fault in any of their performative aspects. The enthusiastic audience agreed; people were climbing trees to watch Neon Trees and everyone in the audience was loudly singing along to “Animal.”
FACE TO FACE
After those performances, it was time for the main stage experience. If you’ve never been to the Verizon Wireless Ampitheatre in Irvine, it has a similar set-up to the Hollywood Bowl only on a smaller scale. There is an orchestra/moshing pit in the very front, an orchestra section, the loge, and a lawn section at the very top.
The first band to go on was old school Southern California punk band, [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Face to Face[/lastfm] who just released their first album in nine years, Laugh Now, Laugh Later, last month. Much of Face to Face’s mainstream success can be attributed to their single “Disconnected” being played on KROQ in the ’90s.
Suffice to say, the incredibly influential pop-punk band were a great energy boost for those whom had traipsed down the hill to fill up the main stage area. The current line-up of Face to Face still has the same playful punk rock vibrance as their earlier days.
A DAY TO REMEMBER
Admittedly, I don’t know very much about [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]A Day To Remember[/lastfm]’s music beyond what I’ve heard on the radio, but I learned a few things about them last night: a) A Day To Remember’s fans are crazy (in a good way), b) vocalist Jeremy McKinnon has one of the most impressive hardcore screams we’ve ever heard and c) toilet paper as crowd streamers is always a good idea.
The Florida-originating band might be classified as metalcore, but their music retains a strong sense of pop-punk sentiments that keep A Day To Remember from becoming too extemporaneously vicious and maintaining a level of interesting intensity.
CAGE THE ELEPHANT
Right after A Day To Remember was one of my favorite live bands to watch,[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”] Cage the Elephant[/lastfm]. The boys from Bowling Green, Kentucky really know how to grunge it up ’90s-era Sonic Youth-style, but not in a way that is overly druggy and moody. Lead singer, Matt Shultz, is just a jittery, volcanic bundle of performative dynamite.
Wearing a vintage Lakers tee with what looked like Weenie Roast veteran, Shaquille O’Neal, Shultz flopped across the stage singing Cage The Elephant’s eclectic songs, most notably “Shake Me Down” and “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked.”
Shultz’ limbs really do flop like a sort of broken down doll, the same way his voice has that àpropos treble quiver while he sings “Shake Me Down.” It may seem like Shultz is chaotic on stage or that he is ready to fall over at any moment, the singer is surprisingly controlled.
Twice he jumped into the audience, the second time standing on the hands of audience members while singing away, completely at ease and balancing like a circus performer on people’s palms. Shultz really is one of the most amazing modern-day performers.
After Cage the Elephant, KROQ Weenie Roast veterans,[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”] Bad Religion[/lastfm], played and jokingly called themselves the “KROQ house band” while offering their services for KROQ Bar Mitvahs.
If there was any truth to that statement, I’m positive many people in that audience would have taken them up on that offer. Playing old favorites like “21st Century Digital Boy,” Bad Religion brought a whole new wave of fans rushing down the stairs to their seats in jackets with Bad Religion patches.
Bad Religion might not necessarily be the KROQ house band, but they are definitely a band that represents decades worth of music and ideologies for many Angelenos.
Out of the fire of Bad Religion came the anti-thesis of the Southern California hardcore punk scene–the cool garage rock-inspired New York cats, [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]The Strokes[/lastfm]. Despite the temperate Los Angeles weather, The Strokes came out wearing their East Coast leathers, with lead singer Julian Casablancas also wearing neon green high top sneakers.
One of the things I instantly noticed about The Strokes and their massive appeal (especially with the ladies) is their nostalgia factor. Just like Bad Religion before them, The Strokes are one of those iconic bands that represent the origin of a specific time in music. For Bad Religion, it was the beginning of brash, ballsy punk rock; for the Strokes, it was the infamous garage rock revival that shaped both music and fashion for the first half of the aughts.
Although the Stokes were calm, collected, and not very talkative on stage, their super-tight, tear-inducing sound made up for the lack of audience interaction. Really, their instrumentation is so flawless it sounds exactly like the recorded music. And for almost every other band, that is nearly impossible.
Except for the next band,[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”] Rise Against.[/lastfm] Thanks to the vegetarian lifestyle of Rise Against, our catering tent had fantastic veggie burgers, and for that, I am eternally grateful. It seems that most of Rise Against’s fans are incredibly grateful for their existence.
Much like the Bad Religion fans, there was a whole new wave of people coming to watch Rise Against, all diehards that knew every single one of the words to their songs.
And the surprise guest was: [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]FOO FIGHTERS[/lastfm]. Yes, that deserves all capital letters. There were hints here and there of Foo Fighters being the surprise act because Dave Grohl was walking around with his adorable daughter, but Haley Williams of [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Paramore[/lastfm] was also walking around looking cute in a vintage [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Discount[/lastfm] shirt ([lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Alison Mosshart [/lastfm]from [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Dead Weather[/lastfm]’s first band when she was a teenager.)
Writing a review for the Foo Fighters is like telling everyone that breathing is awesome; it’s a known fact. Foo Fighters played all their hits songs like “Rope,” “Everlong,” and “My Hero.” Dave Grohl is the quintessential definition of a rock star; drummer Taylor Hawkins is a beast behind his set. Pat Smear’s perpetual tiny grin while playing his guitar makes us happy to be alive.
Basically, the Foo Fighters ruled.
But with [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Linkin Park[/lastfm] closing down the show, the night was hardly over. Here is a story about how hardcore and dedicated Linkin Park fans are: the whole entire show, from Face to Face to the end, there was a young girl in a purple Linkin Park hoodie sitting by herself and playing games on her phone for hours while all the rest of the bands played.
When Linkin Park went on, the girl finally went wild. This teenage girl had sat there for hours waiting for the sight and sound explosion that is a Linkin Park show.
Of all the things I had seen during the Weenie Roast, this young girl’s admirable dedication to her favorite band was the most moving.
So, that’s our recap of the shows at Weenie Roast. What about you? Were you there? Did you watch it on KROQ.com? What did you think?