KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas (Night 1)
Saturday, Dec. 12
For nearly four decades, KROQ has prided itself on playing cutting edge, non-mainstream music. In many cases over the years, the station has served as tastemaker, helping rock bands across different genres, from new wave to grunge, go on to big time success.
Unlike many rock stations, KROQ's formula is built on changing with the times. When they've taken calculated risks with their programming and the bookings at their two signature events, the Weenie Roast and Almost Acoustic Christmas, history has generally been kind to them. The nu-metal years notwithstanding, when KROQ has gone out of their fans’ comfort zone and booked a band like dance music collective like The Prodigy, those groups have often proven to be more rocking than the rock bands themselves.
Still, the lineup at this year's Almost Acoustic Christmas left many fans scratching their heads. How could they anchor the first night’s lineup around a mainstream rising electro-pop starlet like Halsey, an aging alumnus like Weezer, and a British house duo in the form of Disclosure?
Over the past few years, music listener’s appetites for what constitutes rock music have changed. With the rising influence of hip-hop and dance music, many rock bands have gradually shifted away from three chords and the truth to implement new electronic elements that would have been unthinkable only a decade ago.
No band at this year's AAC was a better example of this than Twenty One Pilots. In years past, Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun would have been scoffed at by traditional KROQ listeners. But in 2015, they were the main attraction for younger fans. Their sound may not be “rock” in the traditional guitars/bass/drums mold, but their high-voltage performance was full of rock star moves, which included Dun playing drums while being held up by the crowd and Joseph leaping offstage and delivering vocals from 25 rows back in the crowd.
Usually, these antics would be associated with an up-and-coming rock powerhouse, not a duo that uses pre-programmed sounds behind live drumming, singing and rapping. But these days, what is rock music and what rocks are not always the same thing. It makes sense that KROQ, seeing the trends, is progressive enough to welcome artists beyond the traditional rock sphere.
Even with electronic acts like Twenty One Pilots and Halsey setting the stage, Disclosure was always going to be a risky KROQ headliner. But for the fans who stayed, it was a risk worth taking. The building was half empty by the time the duo closed out the night following Weezer, and many rockists could be heard grumbling about them without sticking around to give Guy and Howard Lawrence a listen. But for fans familiar with the duo, the set, heavy on thumping beats and explosive singles, was the most rocking of the night.