Photo by Mark Hefflinger
THE FOO FIGHTERS
at Roswell Air Force Base, New Mexico, Sat., June 18
“I’ve 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 band’s 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 concert’s 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
Nevada’s “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 he’d 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.
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 kid’s 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 XIV’s lead vocalist–guitarist Jason Hill proved he’s 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
didn’t care. Ozo call themselves “style-mashers,” bringing Latin rhythms with
an underground hip-hop heart. While Cut Chemist wasn’t in house, Nu-Mark stepped
up alongside J5’s 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 Kirkland’s 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
didn’t take long at the indie hip-hop label’s tour showcase before the smoke
began to spread. The chilled-out vibe carried over into Medaphoar’s set, which
featured Beat Junkie legend J.Rocc and ’Throw regular Dudley Perkins firing
off rounds from Med’s 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 couldn’t 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 didn’t know Madlib too well. With every Madlib/Quasimoto effort —
including 2000’s 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 let’s 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, he’s 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 Yesterday’s 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, Madlib’s passionate investment in musical history is what
ultimately mesmerized the Vanguard. And it’s also what sets him apart from hip-hop’s
bling-hawkers, after all.