Welcome Back, Almost Acoustic Christmas: After three years away, KROQ’s annual Almost Acoustic Christmas returned on Saturday night. In fact, the 2019 event was at the Honda Center so it actually returned to the Forum, now the Kia Forum, after four years.
As it was before so it is again, and the good people at KROQ yet again assembled a killer bill that ran the gamut of alternative music. From old to new school punk, emo, metal-flavored rock, alt-rap and more, Almost Acoustic Christmas 2022 had pretty much all listeners of the storied local radio station covered.
And it matters, but only just. It aways feels like the AAC crowd would show up to party regardless of who’s on the bill. There might be mumblings about one band or another — we heard some people in the men’s room yelling to anyone that would listen that Yungblud is a poser — but for the most part, AAC is a celebration of music and the holidays, and it’s a joyful experience.
Talking of joyful experiences, Wet Leg opened the show with glorious aplomb. The Isle of Wight band has exploded in stature this past year and, while the arena was still some way from full at 6 p.m., the many that were there gave the Brits a rapturous reception. Tunes like “Chaise Longue” were the perfect way to get the party started.
The Interrupters are Almost Acoustic Christmas veterans at this point, and the L.A. punks know how to work this crowd. “Take Back the Power” and “Title Holder” was an awesome one-two punch of no-holds-barred ska-punk energy to get things going, and the crowd responded in kind. “Raised By Wolves” was another highlight or another triumphant AAC set.
Italian band Måneskin found fame when they won the Eurovision Song Contest with the song “Zitti E Buoni,” and they performed that here. But there’s more to these nutcases, as the opening “Kool Kids” and the cover of the Four Seasons’ “Beggin'” proves. A manic combo of punk, old school rock & roll, nu-metal and alt-rap, there’s much to love.
Yungblud, no matter what those random bathroom lurkers said, entertained the masses. With a broad Yorkshire (north of England) accent, he makes a point of speaking directly to the youth of today with songs like “Parents” (“parents ain’t always right”). If some of the guitar riffs in his songs sound slightly familiar (cofNirvanaPixiescof), that’s offset by his ability to connect with the kids. And anyway, he doesn’t give a shit what anyone thinks. Good job.
Jimmy Eat World is another band that has played a lot of these shows, and like the Interrupters, they know just what they’re doing. The set pulled heavily from the Bleed American album, with tunes like “A Praise Chorus,” “Sweetness” and “The Middle” still able to get a room of this size singing like a choir. The cover of Wham’s “Last Christmas” was the cherry on the cake.
Death Cab for Cutie was also received enthusiastically, though for us they fell flat on Saturday. Maybe it was because Jimmy Eat World were so good. The closing “Soul Meets Body” injected some energy but it was too late by then. Again though, we seemed to be in the minority with the crowd well into it.
On the other hand, Social Distortion was the best band of the night by a distance. Mike Ness’ crew had saved the show just be being there, as they were a late replacement for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (who dropped out due to illness). SoCal punk classics such as “Ball and Chain” and “Reach for the Sky” had the floor circle-pitting like crazy, as did the cover of “Ring of Fire.” Another cover, Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game,” was majestic, and Social D left us wanting much more. These guys played the first every AAC 30 years ago, and the fact that they can drop in last minute and blow everyone else away speaks volumes. It’s almost not fair.
So you have to feel sorry for the Black Keys, who thought they were following the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and had to follow Social D instead. They did their best though, and blues garage rock tunes like “Howlin’ For You” had the crowd dancing. Songs from latest album Dropout Boogie such as “Wild Child” were great additions to a fun set.
The Imagine Dragons headlined, which meant that we could miss the traffic and go home, blasting the Interrupters, Jimmy Eat World and obviously Social D down the 405.
Welcome Back, Almost Acoustic Christmas: Find KROQ here.
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