Live Blog: 23rd Annual KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas Night 1
And the proverbial cherry on top goes to the consistently-good Linkin Park, who started off their show tonight with an Illuminati-esque upside-down triangle on fire as their primary visuals and a multi-platform stage as the band performed the emotional “Lost In The Echo.” The whole crowd got to their feet when the opening notes of “Faint” started with people passionately chanting “Don’t turn your back on me. I won’t be ignored.”
After a vicious guitar riff, Linkin Park got the audience even more riled up with a lively version of “Papercut.”
“Happy f**king holidays!,” said Chester in between songs. “I know every band that’s playing tonight. They did a great job.” Even though he launches into “Given Up,” it’s clear the band hasn’t given up, especially when the multi-talented Mike Shinoda rips into a creepy, sexy guitar background as Chester screams “what is wrong with me?” From the perspective of the ecstatic audience, nothing. After that, the visuals start to get even more trippy, the band coming through as colorful blurs, the screen behind them pixilating and vibrating. One of the best things about a Linkin Park show is their music, yes, but their visuals are fabulous compliments to cinematic songs like “New Divide.”
After that room scorcher, Mike broke it down, saying “Listen, before the show we were back there talking to a bunch of people who played different roles in the history of the band when we were coming up in LA” He went on to say that they talked to people that were there for them before day one and gave them a “quick shout-out.” Mike then continued to give KROQ a sincere thank you and dedicated the next song, “Lies Greed And Misery,” to those who have a copy of their new record Living Things. When the band performed, “Waiting For The End,” is was clear that the audience didn’t want the show to end, so the audience was thrilled when the band went on the perform “Breaking The Habit,” “Castle of Glass” which they dedicated to all the service people who have fought for us, “Numb,” and an evocative version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman” before going into “What I’ve Done.”
Chicago-based political punk-rockers are old favorites at KROQ shows, but that doesn’t mean they can’t bring the rock as voracious as the last time. The driving band started their set on a mission to bring the house down with “Help Is On The Way” and “Ready To Fall.”
Before breaking into “Re-Education (Through Labor),” Tim McIlrath gave a shout out to SoCal’s infamous current punk rock scene.
“This goes out to the punk rock scene in Los Angeles,” said the rocker. “Wiithout which we wouldn’t be here today, because the punk rock scene that was born in Los Angeles, well, it gave us all a little bit of re-education.”
Then before singing “Prayer Of The Refugee,” Rise Against gave a little shout out to their “friends in the Gaslight Anthem,” another band that’s paving the way for the resurgence of powerful punk rock. Out of all the bands of the night, the audience was the most excited for Rise Against, dancing bodies vibrating the building.
“Tonight is our last stop on the train of 2012,” says Tim before asking the audience to sing-a-long to a song. “You don’t even have to know the words; you don’t even have to know who we are.” It’s a good trick that Tim employs to get the audience to sing the hyperpolitical “Make It Stop” and absorb the deep lyrics. It made newcomers even more receptive when the house lights dropped and sang popular radio hit “Satellite.”
“Without you there is no us,” said McIlrath, after wishing the audience a “great f**king night.” “That makes you our savior.”
“Breathe in, breathe out.” Let’s forget about these Christmas trees and take our hats off to always-favorites, Bush, always burning of course, burning bright through the night, burning the house down, and burning a hole into our hearts with their perfect ‘90s-rock tunes. After christening the crowd with “Machinehead,” Bush slathered the crowd with some feel-good “Chemicals Between Us.”
Sincerely humble as usual, Gavin Rossdale said that he doesn’t have the time, but he could go on forever about his debt of gratitude of KROQ, mentioning that the reception to one of their latest songs, “The Sound Of Winter,” was incredible. They launched into the song–which could easily fit into their older catalog. It’s a perfect combination of Bush’s growth and their ‘90s rock roots and, like Gavin said, was a crowd-pleaser. Pun intended: they’ve really been able to “hang on” to themselves.
We’ve been to so many Bush shows, that as this point we know that when people are wooing and no one is singing, Gavin is either a) running through the crowd getting fondled, b) taking his shirt off, or c) both. Which is exactly what Gavin did right before he launched into “Everything Zen.” At this point, with the success of his life, he doesn’t have to think if is everything is zen. He should just know so. And we hoped he discovered that there’s plenty of sex in violence and Elvis is dead.
“When we had this idea of redoing Bush was at Epicenter and this is a full circle,” confessed Gavin, “that we’ve been on this journey that’s really going to continue as long as we have support…This is a real special night. Whenever I play London or Los Angeles, it’s a hometown show. And if I see you around the neighborhood, come say hello. I’m pretty friendly.” We’re suyre a lot of people will take you up on that offer, Mr. Rossdale.
Especially after the sexy rendition of “Glycerine” you just belted out with, wait for it, your amazing wife Gwen Stefani. And they kissed at the end. Hot hot hot. That’s like ho ho ho but better.
Shirley Manson is an undeniable uberbabe and the fact that she’s a rock ‘n roll veteran is even more empowering for women, especially when there is a lack of mainstream female rock goddesses these days. The fiery frontwoman more than makes us for that with her style and notoriously punchy humor and her bandmates aren’t far behind her with their polished, ‘90s rock.
Strapped into what looked like black leather high-waisted shorts, Catwoman-worthy boots, and a slinky red braid that whipped back and forth while she prowled the stage, Shirley started the set off with three classic Garbage songs, “Push It,” “I Think I’m Paranoid,” and “Stupid Girl.”
After strutting through those three songs, Garbage brought their quintessential sexy-buzzy layered rock guitars out with “Control,” black and white images of bones, Hitchcockian birds, and barely-clad body builders spookily shimmering behind them, an amazing avant-garde delirium of music and imagery. Next the band launched into controversial new track, “I Hate Love.” During the song, Shirley grabbed a red-glittery sign from the audience emblazoned with the words “In Garbage We Trust.”
Then Garbage launched into their song, “I’m Only Happy When It Rains,” letting the audience sing most of the lyrics. Old-school fans and new fans alike know this as the sexed-up grunge anthem of brooding babes everywhere. “Pour your misery down on me, Santa.” sings Shirley seductively, and we’re wondering what exactly constitutes misery. Some illicit we’re sure.
One of our favorite parts of the set was when Shirley mashed-up M.I.A’s “Bad Girls,” Peaches’ “Fuck The Pain Away,” and Marianne Faithfull’s “Why Dya Do It.” Such an awesome nod to strong women in music. Complete with a “Hark The Herald Angel’s Sing” at the end, Shirley can be the not-so-angelic icon on the top of our tree anytime.
Hey kids. Now it’s time to get a little stupid. With their laid-back psych-reggae punk ganja-smoking chill-out vibe, Slightly Stoopid is the perfect come down after the methamphetamine jolt of AWOLNATION. Surprisingly the air has been pretty clear all night, but after the band broke into their song “Don’t Stop” from Top Of The World, the atmosphere got a little hazy. From Ocean Beach, California, the eclectic locals formed in 1995 and were signed by Bradley Nowell from Sublime to his label Skunk Records, so their history is pretty deeply-entrenched in SoCal culture.
Slightly Stoopid is on their hometurf, so to speak, and when they play it feels like you are at home, chilling with some friends. They even brought their friend Marshall Goodman out to funk it out to “Top Of The World.” When Slightly Stoopid played “Ska Diddy” we were more than slightly sad we couldn’t get out on the dance floor and break it down. Then when they played the bluesy jam “Hold Onto The One,” and their new track “The Rolling Stone,” we couldn’t but stop writing and dance a little where we were. With bands that have influences in blues, reggae, and dub, there’s always that fear that they won’t appeal to the younger crowd, but Slightly Stoopid seems to have all generations of music listeners on tap, from 80-year-old blues lovers with their slinky guitar riffs and 18-year-old stoners with the energy-laden hip-hop inspired ska tunes.
Cue something totally, brain-scorchingly different in Aaron Bruno’s solo endeavour AWOLNATION. With the swagger of James Brown and some funky backbeats, Bruno is totally weird, wild, and wonderful; a unique artist that brought everyone to their feet immediately. Bruno blends electronic music, alt-rock disco, and some groovy, funky jams into an intense melange of sound, his voice bouncing from falsetto to gritty rock god status.
“I would normally say we’re from Los Angeles, California, but we’re from here,” says Bruno before he rips into the bombastic “Not Your Fault.” Behind him a synth ping-ponged buzzily like a video game, while there was a heavy dub rhythm.
Some bands wear their influences on their sleeve, but Bruno is all over the place; in a good way. Just when you think his sound is going to deviate on to a certain path, Bruno pulls out a vicious metal scream or the guitars bounce into something classic rock or the synth brings a slick disco whirr. Bruno’s songwriting might be a perfect hybrid of every genre to this point.
“We came here to lose our minds tonight, ladies and gentleman,” announced Bruno with celestial-sounding whoors behind him before breaking into “Kill Your Heroes.” “This could be the night of your life. This could be the night of my life.”
“I get the sense this whole place wants to erupt. Especially on the dance floor. I can feel it.” That is no freakin’ lie. Bruno isn’t afraid to state the obvious or peacock across the stage like he is the next great contribution to rock. And, he might not be wrong actually. The audience was electrified, enchanted, and just totally ready to get funked up.
“So what do you guys wanna do now?,” asks Bruno before playing the deliciously creeptacular “Sail.” The song has a kind of Marilyn Manson-esque quality minus the goth pompacity and it’s clear when the audience knows all the words to the song, this is what young listeners are gravitating too. Something druggy, something dark, something electro, something amazing that fuses everything they are currently listening to. Something so completely them that they don’t mind humoring the lead singer and doing the Wave.
Before Denver-based folk-rock trio Lumineers came onstage, Kat Corbett announced that the acoustic Americana band was recently nominated for a coveted Best New Artist Grammy. If you just take their music based on their infectious “Ho Hey,” you won’t get a full sonic understanding of the blues and gospel inspired band who sounds like they rolled off a hay truck and into a dark, dank Deep South bar. After their tongue-in-cheek tune “Classy Girls,” with the lyrics about a classy girl who doesn’t kiss in bars, the Lumineers jingle-jangled with their sweetly dark bluesy confession “I Ain’t Nobody’s Problem.” Their old-timey performance style, calling out the talent of the keyboardist or Wesley Schultz’s entreaties of “c’mon sing it,” show why the band was also nominated for “Best Americana Album.”
Despite efforts to lump them in with classic indie-pop, the Lumineers are more like a funkier Mumford and Sons or a more modern Old Crow Medicine Show.
Schultz, with his saintly visage and gorgeous country rasp, looks angelic, but in his lyrics there is more of a sinner than a saint, and a broody, plaintive romanticism, especially when he sang “Flowers In Your Hair.”
After an interesting pause, the Lumineers blasted into their radio-hit “Ho Hey,” a song that they confessed was sort of an accident and an unexpected single. The easy-to-chant lyrics incited the whole audience to sing-a-long and when Schultz prompted the audience to scream, they did. “I don’t know where I went wrong, but I can write a song,” sings Schultz in the song, but it’s also pretty clear he can play up to an audience.
The mid-set insertion of the song was perfect way to grab the attention of people in the audience who might only know “Ho Hey.”
In fact, their other songs, like the provocative “The Big Parade” and the ‘20s-inspired “Flapper Girl,” have these amazing thoughtful, literate lyrics that are perfectly highlighted by their sparse, earnest instrumentation and cinematic shouts and cheers.
It’s clear that the Lumineers are either a) don’t know what stars they are or are b) profoundly humble, because before breaking into the heartbreakingly beautiful “Stubborn Love,” Schultz confessed, “We’re thankful to be here and thanks for giving us a chance. We don’t know if we exactly fit into this line-up, but thanks for giving us an open ear. We appreciate it.”
And then he milked the audience in with true genius artistry, asking them to sing-a-long and then making them “get on their feet” and stand up and dance. Nothing woos new fans better than feeling like they are a part of the artistic process.
Everything is illuminated for Lumineers, whether they admit to it or not. They are incredibly worthy of their two Grammy noms.
Want to see an exclusive interview with the Lumineers from earlier today? Click here!
With one of the biggest applauses of the evening, it was clear who some of night’s favorites were with the audience. After an unparalleled performance at this year’s Weenie Roast, it was hard to imagine that Onio-natives, Walk The Moon, could get even livelier with their performance.
But when they came onstage with their own fun, freewheeling brand of the empowered pop that Youngblood Hawke delivered at the beginning of the evening, their song “Tightrope” seemed more like a whole circus than the narrow path of a tightrope. With people standing in their seats dancing, adeptly went into the sensual medium tempo hip-swayer, “Lisa Baby,” crooning lyrics like “when my baby is a mess, my baby is a dancing queen.”
Considering that we found out earlier in the day that Walk The Moon were leaving that night for another show in Florida, the band was totally present, engaged with the audience when they sang tunes like “Next In Line” and “Quesadilla,” sweat dripping down their faces.
Getting into the Christmas spirit, the band played a little moody electric riff of holiday classic “Carol of the Bells” before “Shiver Shiver.” With their heavy synth sound mixed with almost tribal drums in “Anna Sun,” Walk The Moon conjure up a little eccentric, artsy funk a la Paul Simon, but also the quirky sex appeal of Adam Ant. Before going into their radio hit and stripping off a layer, Nicholas Petricca thanked the crowd, telling them, “We see you. We see all of you; way back and up here in the front. Thank you so much for hanging out.”
Click here for Walk The Moon’s amazing interview from earlier this evening!
American-style punk-infused Jersey-boys the Gaslight Anthem came onstage to the piercing sound of shrieks and some atmospheric guitars. After the sweat-inducing dance party that was Two Door Cinema Club, the Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Fallon crooned raspily with his uncannily Springsteen-esque voice for a medium-paced ballad called “Mae.”
Wearing black, painted with tattoos, and with the exact amount of attractive scruff, it’s clear to see from their driving guitar riffs and masculine, straight-ahead drumming that Gaslight Anthem fare well with the ladies, but also the bar brawl bros looking for something to snap their necks to. Lead singer Fallon, with his sexy accent and snow-white smile made sure that the girls in the crowd were clear that they’re in love with the “illusion” of his “cranky,” fine self. “The actual thing will sit on your couch and eat your food,” said Fallon with a coy smile.
Something tells us not many of the women in the audience would mind with a face like that and voice that rivals his pretty boy looks.
After singing “Handwritten,” the Gaslight Anthem sang their radio-hit “Colt 45” then the Americana-laced “The 59 Sound” followed by their Replacements-esque “Here Comes My Man.” Gaslight Anthem sound like a band you’d have heard twenty, even thirty years ago. They sound like a band of the present with all their eclectic influences. And with their undeniable charisma and infectious, emotional “driving through the night” choruses, the Gaslight Anthem are a band for the future that can transcend all genres and appeal to most rock lovers. It’s easy to tell that Gaslight Anthem are just passionate rockers who’ve been through the small club circuit, but were always just too big, too bright of stars to fit in and fight on in those cramped circumstances.
Their arena-ready sound is juxtaposed by their tight musicianship. When they performed “American Slang,” inducing the crowd into clapping, it seemed like their own personal anthem and a veritable invitation for Gaslight Anthem lovers to get the band’s name tattooed on the inside of their arm.
Gaslight Anthem rocked the house! Click here to see their interview as well!
Without uttering a world, Ireland’s Two Door Cinema Club came onto stage mysteriously, their named emblazoned on the screen behind them. With a minimalist stage set-up, the band often likened to artists like Postal Service and Phoenix, color their soundscape in a totally different way. Belting out their sexy dance-driven radio hit “Sleep Alone” right out of the gate, the group set the a high-energy precedent for the rest of their set. Despite their wintry, literate post-punk jangle, Two Door Cinema Club imbue their sound with a natural warmth that overshadows their straight-forward performance antics.
Thanking the audience for coming down so early, the boys kept the chit-chat brief, launching into their stylish rhythms, juxtaposed cadences, and frenzied dance breakdowns performing songs like “Undercover Martyn,” “Do You Want It All?,” “Sun,” “I Can Talk,” “Something Good Can Work” and “Next Year.”
At several points through the performance, girls screamed “I love you towards the stage,” their voices echoing into the buzzing darkness. If we weren’t writing, our preferred placement would be in the pit, dancing/drooling over singer Alex Trimble’s rich vibrato-laden voice that slips into your soul and through your body like a hot toddy, both intoxicating and comforting. When he sings the lyrics “I’ll be home for next year, darling,” part of you feels as if he’s singing that lyric directly to you. We do hope Two Door Cinema Club comes back next year. Maybe we can work something good out.
When Los Angeles-natives Youngblood Hawke sing about their “restless hearts,” in “Stars (Hold On),” they could easily be alluding to the heart racing rhythm their self-described “drum heavy” set creates. Recorded, the band makes you feel ecstatic with the plaintive, empowered pop cry of their song “We Come Running,” and live the feeling is even more visceral. Their guitars are a lot more driving and intense than one would imagine, all with the background of their electro-indie anthems and their colorful, youthful energy that summons up a brand new era of rock bands that aren’t trying to be too cool. Youngblood Hawke is all about positivity. And that, in turn, is what makes them so cool.
Only months ago, Youngblood Hawke were considered a freshly-plucked local band, but their recent touring with Passion Pit has definitely rubbed off. Their live show is a lot more layered and grand. An almost-breathless Sam Martin puts his multi-tasking/cardiovascular skills to the test, bouncing around the stage a flurry of lush curls and psychedelic florals. When the band breaks out into their hit song, “We Come Running,” the audience earnestly takes the place of the West Los Angeles Children’s Choir that the band used on their debut album. “Let’s party a little bit,” says Martin, bounding into songs like”Rootless,” “Danny Boy” and “Forever.”
“F**king Happy Holidays,” he continues. “Let’s spread the spirit.” Which is exactly what Youngblood Hawke did tonight and what we predict they’ll do their whole career–fill the world with their beautiful, positive energy through their maxed-out pop parables.
The house is already pretty full and Sluggo just announced Los Angeles sweethearts Youngblood Hawke. Sam is looking psychedelic sexy in a neon multi-colored floral shirt. Everyone is “feelin’ groovy.”
‘Twas the first night of the 23rd Annual KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas and all through the Gibson Amphitheatre, not a creature was stirring, well, no one except a horde of ecstatic KROQ listeners pounding down the gates trying to get in. Now the seats are starting to fill up, the upside down Christmas trees decking the stage are lit, some of our awesome past performances are on the screen, and the bands are soundchecked.
It was just practice, but the audience is in for a treat! Award for the most polite soundcheck we’ve ever seen goes to Youngblood Hawke. They are definitely getting a check in the “nice” category.
Youngblood Hawke are up first tonight, followed by some of our favorite Irish lads Two Door Cinema Club. Check back here for live blogging the whole night! And, ummm, don’t mess with Santa’s little helpers below. Unless you are cruisin’ for a Christmas bruisin’.