Live Blog: 23rd Annual KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas Night 2
That’s all, folks. We hope your holidays are as amazing as the last two days of Almost Acoustic Christmas. And if the world does end, at least you ended it in style.
“Feliz Navidad. We’re the Killers. Thank you for sticking around.” Well, hello there Killers. Strutting through the fully-lit crowd onto the stage like the rock stars you are and making the whole audience get on their feet immediately by playing probably your biggest hit, “Mr. Brightside.” Wearing all black and completely polished onstage, the Killers are what you would call ballers. Even if you saw one of them in real life and you didn’t know who he was, you’d know he’s a rock star. Even the way frontman Brandon Flowers plays a keyboard synth that has a lightning bolt on it is incredible. The band played hits like “Smile Like You Mean It,” “Spaceman,“Miss Atomic Bomb,” “Human,” “Somebody Told Me,” “Read My Mind,” “Runaways,” and “All These Things I’ve Done.”
Our own personal hero Jack White needs no introduction. No, literally, the man played his guitar through his introduction, causing the whole audience to start chanting “Jack White! Jack White!”
Next to us, a friend commented, “That’s great.” White has never and will never fit into an artistic box and that’s a huge part of what makes him such an amazing creative force. Through garage rock, country-blues, rockabilly, straight-forward rock ‘n roll, and even Insane Clown Posse, White has been an innovator and a voice to contend with. Everything White touches turns to, well, blue.
We’re gushing, but with insanely unparalleled guitar skills, gritty voice, and massive songwriting skills demonstrated onstage by an eclectic array of songs from his career like “Sixteen Saltines” from Blunderbuss, “Freedom At 21” from Blunderbuss, “Cut Like A Buffalo” by the Dead Weather, “Hotel Yorba” by the White Stripes, “We’re Going To Be Friends” by the White Stripes, and “Steady As She Goes” and “Top Yourself” by the Raconteurs.
“You alright LA? I’ll see you’re right where I left you,” White is the friendliest guy in the world, but onstage he barely talks, concentrating on the music. Tonight the guitar guru had his male band, playing his more masculine songs, which is sort of perfect for the many hard rock loving KROQ fans. Wearing one of his black henleys and blue sneakers, White’s lights were obviously only blue and behind him the Third Man Records symbol, three blue stripes, reminded the audience that White’s genius goes beyond music. He’s also a master of imagery and mystery.
“I keep my enemies even closer than my mirror ever gets to me,” sings White in his spaghetti western style collab tune with Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi called “Two Against One.” A little obscure for even the seasoned music listener. You see, Jack White doesn’t care if you know one of his songs. But because he’s so good at what he does, you’ll walk out of his shows wondering what it is and search it out, like before the internet era of music. Like the days when “Seven Nation Army” was released and made everyone who heard it turn their radio up.
Can we just request that Jack White never stops playing? Like, can he just play all his songs ever in one lifelong set that never ends. We’d buy tickets for that.
And the special guest is…Daft Punk! No, actually, it’s the amazing, impenetrable No Doubt, SoCal’s ska sweethearts who hustled for years before making mainstream success and becoming one of the biggest bands in the whole entire world. After Gwen Stefani’s appearance last night with her husband Gavin Rossdale of Bush on his song “Glycerine,” there were rumors that No Doubt would be the special guest tonight, but you never know for sure. You only hope, because as far as special guests go, No Doubt is the absolute perfect choice for a KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas. They are the epitome of a KROQ band. And, ummm, jealously eyeing Stefani’s abs, it’s clear that they really haven’t “changed since yesterday.” We might need to find Stefani roaming around Los Angeles and do whatever pilates class she’s doing, but like seven times a day.
To an unbridled roar of the crowd, the band started with one of their current singles, “Push and Shove” and reggae artist Busy Signal joined them before they did their classic “Sunday Morning” from 1995’s Tragic Kingdom. Drummer Adrian Young’s set was decked out with rasta-colored lights and part of their visuals during the set were behind-the-scenes with the band, like with their kids or Stefani wearing a robe and looking for some hairspray.
“The thing is, I need you to sing with me tonight. I have to have you sing with me tonight,” said Stefani sweetly before the band started “Underneath It All.” This band, out of all the band’s we’ve ever seen ever, and that’s a bold statement we know, has the least amount of worries about their audience singing along. If they just stopped playing completely, thousands of voices would be chiming in with their lyrics. For all you hardcore No Doubt fans out there, on top of “Push and Shove,” “Sunday Morning,” and “Underneath It All,” the band performed “Ex-Girlfriend,” “It’s My Life,” “Don’t Speak,” “Just A Girl” which she dedicated to all her “KROQ girls” and Stefani made the whole audience sing “I’m just a girl at…Acoustic Christmas.”
“Get your hands up in the air,” announced Stefani before the band played “Spiderwebs.” Yeah, sorry we’re not home right, oh wait, no we’re not. We’re watching No Doubt at Acoustic Christmas.
HELL YEAH NO DOUBT JUST CAME ONSTAGE WHOOOOOOO
Fun. What does the world fun mean? In the dictionary fun means playful, happy, liberated, exciting, childlike, and that’s exactly what the Brooklyn-based band, recently nominated for six Grammy Awards exudes.
From their quirky white, upright old-time piano to the campy facial expression on lead singer Nate Ruess’ face, the band is an exercise of fusion between the joyous storytelling construction of musical theatre and the empowered pop that has become so prevalent in today’s musical movements. In fact, the whole show is infused with a theatricality, even the lighting seems like it’s been set up by an expert old-school techie, with more exuberant songs like “One Foot” and “At Least I’m Not As Sad As I Used To Be” washed with pretty lights and the emotional beginning of “Carry On” greeted by a single spotlight shining on Ruess.
“How you holding up? Do you have your dancing shoes on?,” says Ruess. It seems like the young singer was born in a different era, in a pair of tap shoes, amongst the old entertainer greats, but with metal-inspired guitar grinding, showers of confetti, and belts that outrival classic rock heroes like Bruce Springsteen. In fact, fun. will probably be the classic rock band of the future. That’s pretty weird to think about when they are singing words like “tonight we are young,” but for decades to come generations of young people will be chanting the lyrics to “We Are Young” in bars, in cars, and maybe even in 2030’s version of Glee.
“t’s apparent that Ruess is living his dream–even if he is a robot. The Arizona-bred singer says that performing for KROQ is a fantasy that he’s always had and it’s a huge night for him.
“We’ll end it on a high note and you guys can get on with your amazing night,” before launching into their war cry positivity “Some Nights.”
We might be high off pumpkin-ginger-chocolate KROQ-shaped Christmas cookies right now (thank you to whomever invented these goddamn things), or we might just be tripping out on the magical, cinematic introduction of m83. Or, literally “Intro,” which featured the gorgeous vocals of their female keyboardist, and cascading celestial imagery behind them.
“Good evening, Los Angeles. This is our last show of the year, so let’s have fun,” said Gonzalez shyly. “Thanks to KROQ for the support.” The ambient shoegaze pop-rock artist then launched into “Reunion,” perfect for his reunion with the KROQ audience after their amazing Red Bull Sound Space performance. With their lush soundscapes and bewitching visuals, m83 is an otherworldly experience that sometimes can’t even be classified, or quantified in the same scope as other music. When they sing stuff like “We Own The Sky,” it’s quite impossible at some point, through a dream, a revelation, or a musical epiphany, Gonzalez actually did find a way to capture the sky through his music. Morgan Kibby’s soaring vocals are a testament to that. Gonzalez has really cherry-picked some of the best young musicians of today; percussionist Jordan Lawlor is a star unto himself and is inspiringly distracting. M83 also has some of the best visuals, all cosmically-charged and perfectly befitting his sound.
“There’s a magic inside. Just waiting to burst out. The world is a goldmine, that will melt away tomorrow, “ warns or celebrates m83. Either way, the audience is viscerally reminded of the enchanting beauty of this world and to be grateful for this sublime moment, much like Tyler Glenn from Neon Trees mentioned earlier. This energy is channeled most brilliant in m83’s radio hit “Midnight City,” which took people’s souls by storm because it perfectly captured that energy of driving through a city in the dark, only the neon signs to guide you, and that feeling of oneness with the world around you. A oneness that m83’s audience felt in full force tonight.
“Los Angeles, how the hell are you doing this holiday season,” screamed Tyler Glenn from Neon Trees, wailing with his Freddie Mercury-esque voice for the apropos “Moving In The Dark.” Clad in a spiked leather jacket, Glenn might be the most performatively-talented rock star of this generation, both rehearsed and organic; pop star polish without the generic haze over his eyes. When he sings about the “animal inside of you,” Glenn prowls across the stage like an animal. Neon Trees heavily-influenced New Wave revivalism is popular for a reason. It’s fun and with what seems like natural effort, Glenn can make a crowd of thousands, fans or not, sing-a-long.
“Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, all that good stuff,” said Glenn, ripping off his spiked leather jacket to show a black-and-gold lame shirt. He prompted the audience to say “hello” to KROQ and that the next song is a love song for all the “mad crazy idiot people who mess everything up” before going into “Mad Love.” Before going into “Trust,” Glenn stripped off another layer, revealing a black tank top with a smiling gold lame skull, perfect for the devilish lyrics of the song–and Glenn’s cute little finger devil horns to accompany the lyrics. While kneeling on the ground (and before doing what looked like a pretty epic aerobics routine), Glenn screeched, “If you are not up and moving your asses, you are dead.”
“I’m thinking about just ending it all tonight. I say screw December 21st.” Glenn has a point. Because with the amazing line-up tonight (and the secret guest, shhh, don’t tell), it’s probably one of the best line-ups ever in the history of KROQ’s Almost Acoustic Christmas. Neon Trees doesn’t just give us “Lessons In Love (All Day, All Night),” but lessons in how to have gratitude for this awesome concert.
“Ladies and gentleman, I wish you,” said Glenn, going off topic a little, “My bandmates wish you…let me tell you in 2013, it’s our year, i don’t want you to take any sh*t in 2013…we beat the Mayan calendar.” Not so fast. You might wanna backtrack, the Mayan calendar doesn’t end for a few more days. But who really cares? “Everybody Talks,” but the only true moment is now. A sentiment that we think Glenn would appreciate.
Passion Pit is one of the most loved, but understated bands out right now. Tonight, Michael Angelakos wandered onstage with a rumpled button-up, a skinny tie that had seen better days, and a few days of scruff. Angelakos looks like an English graduate student, but when he begins to sing his voice shimmers sweetly over the crowd on gossamer wings of glory. It’s that juxtaposition that makes Passion Pit’s sound even more beautiful. Like Passion Pit says, we all have problems and we all have something to say.
Passion Pit knows how to reel the audience in with their transcendent sound, but also knows how to excite them immediately with hits like “Take A Walk,” “The Reeling,” and “Carried Away.” For a little downtempo interlude, Angelakos crooned on the glossy R&B jam “Constant Conversations,” which we personally think is the best produced song on their album Gossamer and indicative of the future of musical hybridization. It helps that when they perform, the band is constantly awash with gorgeous color.
Midway through the set, Passion Pit stopped and started a song twice and then said “f**k it, it’s not working” before going to their most popular song “Sleepyhead.” When Angelakos announced that, the audience didn’t care about the sonic mistake; the roared happily to hear his cotton-candy falsetto. Like Angelakos says in the song, “everything is going to the beat.” On the verge of a dance craze in the pit, the audience was more than happy to go with the flow.
“We’re Passion Pit, we’ll see you soon,” said Angelakos awkwardly but adorably after the song, closing the set with the elated chants of “higher and higher, higher and higher” from the crowd as they sang “Little Secrets.”
We love Grouplove, like a lot, like we want to be a part of this band, and maybe in our most delusional moments we are. Which we think is sort of the point of the fun-loving indie rockers Grouplove. And whatever band do you know starts their set with “Monster” by Kanye West, donning neon glow-in-the-dark tape on their face and clothing, and accompanied by blinking lights that would send even a non epileptic into a frenzy. Nothing only do these grungey little cuties makes us want to get up and shake our booties, although he could never keep up with Hannah, they make us want to spend each moment of our lives in a positivity-fueled psychedelic tizzy. Are they the happiest band in the world? Maybe not, but artistically they seem to be the most open. On a side note: can we please have Christian’s flannel?
After doing “Itchin’ on a Photograph,” they performed a brand new song which showed a more complex, dirty ‘90s version of themselves.
“It feels so good to be home in this city, my favorite city in the world,” said guitarist Andrew Wessen before he sang spun. While we were commenting that we wanted drummer Ryan Rabin’s amazing winky eye tank top, we noticed he had left a kiss mark on his cheek. Coincidentally, the drummer got out of his stool to say that it was an honor to perform at this year’s acoustic Christmas and the performed the moody, drum-laden scorcher “Slow.”
When the band performed their radio hit “Tongue-Tied,” (topped off with a little Whitney Houston’s “Dance With Somebody,” the audience stood up audience stood up and danced along, trying to match the energy of the band. While we all imagine we want to be a part of Grouplove, it’s hard to imagine ever being able to keep up with them. Although, we’re sure they wouldn’t mind if you started your own version of Grouplove. Because “it’s the colors you have, no need to be sad. It really ain’t that bad.”
Hang tight kids, we’ll be back with Grouplove soon. And let’s give another shout-out to Of Monsters and Men who was super professional!
For those yearning from something sweet, a little twee and tea-soaked, and of the shimmying-feet variety, Icelandic six-piece chamber pop group Of Monsters and Men are a perfect mixture of semi-acoustic songwriting earnestness and bombastic, playful melodies. And you can’t really go wrong with a squeezebox manhandled by a hot, talented girl.
Dressed in their finest holiday attire, including a bowtie, one of the best things that Of Monsters and Men has going for them is their ability to play, whether it’s on a big stage or small, as if they are comfortably placed in a cozy studio on a mountainside. There’s no fear with this band. When they performed songs like “Dirty Paws,” “Mountain Sound,” and “King and Lionheart,” as if everyone in the audience was their best friend.
While the band was trying to perform one of their wistful ballads “Lake House,” a in-house radio came over the loudspeaker interrupting the music. One of the voices asked another to bring something to the stage and another replied to the effect of “blah blah blah motherf**ker.” Unphased, Of Monsters and Men just paused, apologized for something that obviously had nothing to do with them (how sweet), and said they were going to start again.
The audience was empathetic cheering them on. During round two, the band incited the audience to clap along and it seemed almost fateful that after that technological snafu, the whole audience was riveted to the somewhat shy band and on their side for the rest of the set. Never did a trumpet sound so vindicated, especially as it lead the band into their radio hit “Little Talks.” Unfortunately, the band had sound continuous sound trouble with the walkie-talkie noise continuing, with apparently somebody grabbing “vodka from the green room.” When they sang the hey, it sounded like shrieking.
“Somebody’s playing tricks on me my dear,” sings the band in that song. Not very nice ones, but ones the band took in stride. When they sang “don’t listen to a word I say, the screams all sound the same,” it was like they were singing about the screams across the loudspeaker that interrupted their near perfect show.
To judge Alex Clare on just “Too Close,” is to do the amazing British musician a disservice. Although his album is partially produced by Diplo, the eclectic singer-songwriter is all bittersweet blues, funky feeling, and beautiful soul with a voice as resonant as Donny Hathaway’s. If you haven’t checked out The Lateness of the Hour, it’s time you do so.
The house light went dark and Clare started with a James Bond-worthy entrance, lights of green and red washing out his face, spotlights swimming through the crowd, his voice the only beacon as he sung the gorgeous “Relax My Beloved.”
The strictly-Jewish Clare reminded the crowd that it’s also Hannukkah before doing his melodic, deep-seated crooner “Hummingbird” and the frenetic, hip-swayer “Treading Water.” Mixing it up from his jazzy interludes, Clare did a soul-infused dubstep version of Prince’s “When Doves Cry,” adding a whole new dynamic to the classic song. When Prince sang his version, there was an air of cool insouciance about the whole affair, but Clare’s plaintive voice gives the song more intimacy. After doing “Where Is The Heart,” Clare asked the audience if they were “ready to jump around like nutters” to his Jamaican reggae-infused dance tune “Up All Night” that got the whole pit skankin’ and groovin’.
After comments around me that “Up All Night” was the best song yet, Clare dropped the beat and got even heavier. Swathed in rich colors of red, the band continued to do a funky, dub version of the song complete with exaggerated snare drum, what sounded like cracklin’ thunderstorms in the background, and a bouncing siren wail. Feeding off the drums of that song, Clare went into internationally-famous genre-hopping masterpiece, “Too Close.” Just a quick observation, what’s that bobble head hand combo motion that people do to dubstep? Like their maneuvering a puppet. It needs a name, because virtually 80% of the audience was doing it while they chanted along to “Too Close.” We got one of the biggest ending ovations out of all the bands that performed so far.
Night Two started with a bang. Literally. Imagine Dragons came onto stage with an unprecedented amount of energy for an opening bang, wielding their giant taiko style drum and with the imagery for their current album Night Visions behind them. “Merry Christmas,” screamed the band before their first song “Round and Round.” Blazing bright red, Imagine Dragons then went into their volcanic, libidinous “Radioactive,” a rabble-rousing swoonfest of drums, vicious guitar riffs from the uber-talented Wayne Sermon, and literal shirt ripping from lead singer Dan Reynolds. Gradually, over the course of the set, Dan’s t-shirt became as defaced as sordid, drunken night with a cat.
With unbounding energy, the alt-rock new wave revivalists, lead the audience into a sing-a-long with “Tiptoe” inciting them to sing “nobody else can take me higher” almost like a war call to the rest of the bands that night. “I gotta say it’s so beautiful looking out. There’s all these lights, I don’t know if you can see them.” Reynolds was talking about the sea of blinking bracelets, that’s made the audience looks like pulsating constellations, a whole cosmos of new fans being born that night.
Reynolds noted that by the industry’s terms, they are young band, but when the performed their amazingly-vibrant, almost African-style “Rocks,” they sounded like seasoned musical superstars. Only their awestruck demeanour and constant energy belied their youth. Pausing to take a couple deep breaths, Reynolds smiled shyly noting, “We’re trying to give you as much as we can in the time that we have, so we’re a little out of breath. So let’s go.”
The timing was perfect for their radio-hit “It’s Time,” which brought the audience up to their feet and chanting along. Many people compare Imagine Dragons to the Killers, but their sound has a more primal, eclectic, like Walk The Moon before them, they channel Adam Ant, The Creatures, and even a more powerful rock version of Vampire Weekend.
Ending the set with their “Nothing Left To Say,” it’s true. There’s nothing left to say about Imagine Dragons. We’re calling it; they are the next big thing.
Were you naughty or nice at last night’s KROQ’s Almost Acoustic Christmas? We were very, very naughty. Check out the full recap here.
But we’re back again for more. Because when it comes to rock ‘n roll, we can’t stop, won’t stop. And that’s why you love is. As Imagine Dragons says, “Don’t you understand? I’m never changing who I am.”