KROQ-FM's annual Almost Acoustic Christmas this year featured some of our favorite bands from the 90s, the decade in which we learned to play guitar just so we could jam the songs in some crappy all-ages venue. Revisiting Alice In Chains, Sublime and 311 reminded us why we liked them in the first place.
It's been awhile since the Chad Sexton, P-Nut, SA Martinez, Nick Hexum tribal floor-tom solo days of old, but on night two, that childhood recklessness all came flooding back ... Only to flash back to the present when Muse came knocking at the door. "I like the Muse", my mother texted from the crowd with her friends, "I know these songs from Twilight!"
From the photo pit, the stage lights hit the screaming "Oh-my-God" faces fanning themselves to keep from passing out. A flash mob of 13-year-old girls and security guards seemed to be head butting each other. The mob pushed through other screaming fans, creatively inching closer. Muse proceeded to play all the songs everyone loves, and managed to sound exactly as they would on a studio album -- save, of course, the real-live squealers and lip sync-ers bouncing around in the crowd (instead of in their cars or showers).
Night one of the two-day festival was primarily the southern California indigenous pop-punk night with bands like AFI, Rise Against, Alice In Chains, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Three Days Grace, Anberlin, and Dead By Sunrise. Surprise guest Sublime happened upon the crowd between Thirty Seconds to Mars and Alice In Chains, and were revealed in candles at a pop-up vigil for our old friend, Bradley Nowell. Rome Ramirez has only gotten better as the Bradley stand-in, the boy's got some huge Vans to fill. The young Ramirez was only a twinkle when the band formed in '86. He has improved a lot since we last saw him at his first show with the band at the Cypress Hill Smokeout (Oct '09). There, he jumped on stage as a a quivery 21-year-old, but has since developed confidence, and at the do-or-die KROQ show, he kicked ass.
Night two delivered a great (yet confused) line-up, including Slightly Stoopid, Phoenix, the Bravery, Metric, Cage the Elephant, and White Rabbits. Most bands got a 30 minute set, and the number of times I heard people say, "Who is Slightly Stoopid?" and "Fuck I missed White Rabbits" made one thing clear: White Rabbits and Slightly Stoopid should have switched places on the bill. And in a more perfect world, Phoenix, Metric and The Bravery would have come after, as they also had no business preceding Stoopid. However, each four of those bands had a bit too brief of a set, and probably would have snapped neurons with bigger/longer sets like 311 or Muse, had they had the chance.
When you're going to an Acoustic Christmas show, expect them always to move fast, and on-time. KROQ always runs a very tight and efficient mechanical Christmas, placing each band on the hidden side of the rotating stage for a smooth segue way between performances.
For a cold opening to a half-full Gibson Amphitheater, White Rabbits cranked out their hits, projected out on the big screen. They're a bit of a newcomer on the scene. "I would have liked to have played more songs... we were forced to play just the hits," said frontman Stephen Patterson backstage. Guitarist Gregory Roberts added that any show on that big of a screen is a good one. The Rabbits are indie blog faves, and share management with Radiohead, Other Lives, Hatcham Social and Local Natives.
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Vampire Weekend, another favorite of my mom's, swiveled out onstage just after Cage the Elephant finished walking on the heads of fans. The former jammed their uppitty "Cape Cod Kwassa-Kwassa" business-school-undergrad tunes, a little superficial but extremely danceable. However abbreviated each set was, it's a high compliment to each band that they're entrusted to deliver a high-energy crowd-ready performance in a half hour to collectively keep fans pumped and happy for the full eight. Acoustic Christmas is really a sped-up music showcase of radio-hit faves where people want to sing along like they would in their car or shower. They're all bands that make young girls wet their pants, and the older generation pee in them.