Photo by Mark Hefflinger
THE FOO FIGHTERS at Roswell Air Force Base, New Mexico, Sat., June 18 Ive always considered Roswell my Mecca, said Dave Grohl, performing inside the very hangar where, in 1947, Air Force personnel supposedly hid the remains of a UFO crash. In addition to calling his label Roswell Records and naming his band after the mysterious glowing balls nicknamed by WWII pilots lead Foo Fighter Grohl once made a cameo on The X-Files. So this Roswell concert was as much a pilgrimage for Grohl as for the several hundred radio-contest winners flown in from L.A., Seattle, Minneapolis and Newark. It was also a celebration marking the bands 10th anniversary and new electric/acoustic double album, In Your Honor. (Of course, a corporate sponsor was behind the stunt: RealNetworks, keen to promote its iTunes/Napster rival service, Rhapsody.) Seated next to me on the bus ride from parking lot B to LAX were Rachel Agent Mulder and Denise Judy, two 40-something friends from Redlands who won tickets to the show from KROQ. One reporter was seen frantically gulping down hooch as we neared security alcohol was forbidden on our journey, to the chagrin of all pilgrims, though my own precious mini-bottles would pass inspection without detection. (That same reporter would later allegedly sneak off to bang a member of the concerts promo team in a decommissioned TWA airliner on the Roswell tarmac only to lose a cell phone in the kerfuffle!) To spook-ify the otherwise quite ordinary Air Force hangar, WWII Navy fighter planes were wheeled in, along with some of the schlock you might see cruising Nevadas Extraterrestrial Highway 375: balsa-wood-and-foil UFOs, life-size aliennequins, and the obligatory dude hawking UFO T-shirts. At the mediocre BBQ-for-500 before the show, two local high school girls shared that they had known the right people to get in. A dot-com dude on crutches from Seattle said hed won passage online. Everyone I talked to said they liked the Foo Fighters, but there was no plurality of die-hard pilgrims. During their 90-minute set the Foos played mostly the polished, KROQ Metal Lite off the electric half of In Your Honor. Grohl popped serious neck veins on tunes like Best of You, the Bush-hating song the band played at the MTV Music Awards (in lieu of Nine Inch Nails more overtly anti-Bush The Hand That Feeds, censored by the network). While an acoustic mini-set might have been nice, Grohl did perform a pretty, subdued Everlong before jumping into the high-spirited crowd to rip a solo atop a folding chair. The big elephant in the hangar at this point was that I am no Foos fan, as much as I dig most every other record Grohl has played on. That said, the inventive invasion was well-executed (except for the no-beer thing) and not painfully cheesy, despite the corporate radio/major label promoters. When the head count for our return flight came up one short, abduction theories were winkingly floated, before the crew relayed with a snigger that the band would have one extra passenger on their Learjet back to L.A.
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Ozomatli: Not your older sister's rave band! Photo by Wild Don Lewis ELECTRIC DAISY CARNIVAL at the NOS Events Center, San Bernardino, Sat., June 25 In years past, the Electric Daisy Carnival has been a club kids delight, a giant electronic Woodstock: lots of free love and light sticks; a mini-lake with fountains; girls pairing underwear with fairy wings and 6-inch boots not to mention dance halls decorated for one trippy fluorescent prom. This year, organizers partnered with Spaceland to include an indie/dance-punk/hip-hop tent, where Louis XIVs lead vocalistguitarist Jason Hill proved hes a flat-out shredder, commanding the attention of every guitar geek in the room. Drummer Mark Maigaard, like Carla Azar from Autolux (who also performed), is another one to watch. The Donnas, VHS or Beta and Moving Units took turns onstage; winding up the night were L.A.s Ozomatli and Jurassic 5. Both acts had the audience sweating, jumping and waving their hands in the air . . . okay, like they just didnt care. Ozo call themselves style-mashers, bringing Latin rhythms with an underground hip-hop heart. While Cut Chemist wasnt in house, Nu-Mark stepped up alongside J5s four MCs (and a guy who did backflips) to bring an eclectic beat-thumping, ass-whoopin good time. Highlights of the mainstage included Junkie XL, who presented a mind-numbing set, laying out spiraling cuts that created a vibe somewhere between a chill-out room and sweaty dance floor. L.A. legends the Crystal Method followed to bring down the house: Scott Kirklands energy was insane as he sang/screamed along to samples ranging from R&B to Metallica, stood at the edge of stage dancing, threw water on the crowd (who probably needed it) and manned the decks with partner Ken Jordan. No matter how worn out the crowd might have been after six hours of dancing/rocking, TCM got every one back on their feet.
STONES THROW TOUR at the Vanguard, Fri., June 24 Stones Throw fans know damn well how to spirit marijuana past security, so it didnt take long at the indie hip-hop labels tour showcase before the smoke began to spread. The chilled-out vibe carried over into Medaphoars set, which featured Beat Junkie legend J.Rocc and Throw regular Dudley Perkins firing off rounds from Meds new album, Push Comes to Shove. Things picked up noticeably when Perkins claimed the spotlight, ambling through Flowers, his blunted ode to what else? pot. Spot the pattern? You couldnt miss it once J.Rocc and Throw founder Peanut Butter Wolf turned in chest-shattering DJ sets setting the table for Madlib, who emerged onstage with one simple question: Where my weedheads at? Anyone surprised by the query obviously didnt know Madlib too well. With every Madlib/Quasimoto effort including 2000s The Unseen and his latest, The Further Adventures of Lord Quas, the Oxnard-bred artist has built a productive career out of herbal appreciation. But lets not forget that Madlib is the nephew of trumpeter Jon Faddis, who played with Mingus and Dizzy, and son of soul man Otis Jackson Sr. In other words, hes got skills. Accordingly, Mad ran the gamut on Friday: He gave the Vanguard a taste of his bebop chops while manning a drum kit for a Yesterdays New Quintet jam with J.Rocc on the decks, imploring the crowd to study up on their John Coltrane and Miles Davis along the way. But he also exhibited his singular gift for rhyme, cycling through Quasimoto and Jaylib favorites like Bullyshit, The Red and more. In other words, Madlibs passionate investment in musical history is what ultimately mesmerized the Vanguard. And its also what sets him apart from hip-hops bling-hawkers, after all.