For the final season at Irvine Meadows, the KROQ crew assembled in Irvine for their summertime kickoff in what was a bittersweet parting for the Weenie Roast and Irvine Meadows. Home to the annual shindig since 1993 (with the exception of 2000), the grounds lay claim to some of KROQ’s most memorable shows and boast an archive of performances that read like a Hall of Fame listing of KROQ alum.
For the last go-round, we pooled a healthy mix of fresh faces and seasoned veterans in what was one hell of a farewell. For those who missed it or those that just may not remember it, it’s important to reiterate some of the highlights.
DJ Jeremiah Red
Now it’s hard for us to conceal our bias here but the man behind Roq N Beats had the tough task of quickly ratcheting up the energy in the early afternoon and definitely rose to the task. As the gates unlocked and the throngs of KROQ loyal rolled in and up the hill to the Bud Light Party Stage, Red’s infectious blend of KROQ favorites laced with big room EDM boom gave ticketholders an immediate license to let loose. Capping off his stage time, Red provided the first highlight of the afternoon as the final song of his set turned into a collective headbang as Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” reminded everyone in attendance that rock is far from dead.
There were literally thousands of selfies happening at Weenie Roast. However, the bar was set incredibly high very early in the afternoon as this innovator took crowd surfing to all new levels. As a few inflatables caromed back and forth over the fans soaking in Bear Hands (who were blistering by the way… highly recommended if you dig bands like Bloc Party, Editors, Foals, and The Maccabees), our thrillseeker here climbed into one of them for what was surely an epic snap.
Nothing But Thieves
The quartet from Essex rolled into their first Weenie Roast with the kind of buzz that prompted loads of people to make sure they got a spot early to catch the band’s set. What few knew was their afternoon set was part of their debut US tour. Supporting their self-titled debut, tunes like “Wake Up Call” and the single “Tripswitch” channeled the likes of Muse and The Killers, walking a fine balance of rousing rock accented with real melody. Playing to the audience, Nothing But Thieves flexed savvy song selection and performed a rendition of The Pixies “Where Is My Mind?” that sealed a solid first impression.
Basking in the Southern California sun, Graham made sure to point out that the crowd was wearing “too much clothing” before diving into a lively and at times, powerfully positive 30-minute set. Tunes like “Take The World By Storm” worked as audio inhibition. The sun was shining, the beer was flowing, and the horns were blowing. Asserting a real ability to tell a story in song, Graham conversed with the fans about the passing of his father, the unwavering dedication of his mother, and just how that worked into his music. Of course, the sentiment of Graham’s hit, “7 Years” resonated best, as the crowd visibility connected with the song’s fundamentally human timeline.
The Entire Lawn Section
While Irvine Meadows does have it’s natural charm, if you have ever made the trek to the lawn section, you know the incline is no joke. Once at the peak, the view is incredible, but you definitely have to catch your breath before you can have it taken away again. However, the entire section has developed a well-earned rep for being the liveliest corner of the entire venue. The dedicated fans deal with the stage distance, the daytime heat, nighttime chill, and still manage to make their voices heard from the first to the last song. The term cheap seats give the section an undeserved negative connotation. The lawn has always been the party and Saturday was no different.
Some music journalists made the mistake of reducing all of their coverage of Garbage to one headline about Shirley Manson falling offstage. The rest of us fans would’ve likely focused on the fact that not only did Shirley tumble and own it (she would take the crowd to perform the rest “Special”) but she also acknowledged that the band has been at this for twenty-two years. There just isn’t much of anything that looks, sounds, and feels that good after two decades, but the catalog of Garbage is an enduring one, with tunes like “#1 Crush,” “I Think I’m Paranoid,” and “Push It” all ringing just as relevant now as they were in 98. Debuting “Empty” off of the upcoming Strange Little Birds and using the Weenie Roast as the unofficial kickoff to their own world tour, Garbage is far from the complacent legacy act. They continue to churn out important tunes and obviously reached a new generation of fans, while giving their day-1’s a real reason to swoon.
As the sun set on the last Weenie Roast in Irvine, the Lumineers held court over the capacity amphitheater and needed nothing but their instruments to command the crowd. Of course cuts like “Ophelia “ and “Ho Hey” were familiar favorites that prompted the floor to singalong. However, the coup d ‘etat was the band’s rendition of “Stubborn Love,” a sweet serenade that marked the official transition from day to night and functioned as sort of a fond farewell to the last afternoon in the Meadows. Sans lighting cues, confetti canons, and stage theatrics, the Lumineers needed only a song to put on a spectacle.
Panic! At the Disco
“Bohemian Rhapsody” from Queen is one of the most beloved songs in the lexicon of pop culture and rock music. It is also one of the most inconceivable to cover. Urie and the guys in Panic not only nail the jam, they have made it their own. Panic was a pure party from the very beginning but the take on the Freddie Mercury classic caused the amphitheater to explode with energy. If there was a single song of the night that best summarized Weenie Roast 2016, THIS was it.
In what was an honest, unfiltered moment of connection with the crowd, our own Stryker cited Mike Ness and Social Distortion’s “Story Of My Life” in saying, “…the pool hall I loved as a kid is now a Seven-Eleven.” The correlation conveyed the sobering reality of Irvine Meadows going away to make room for condominiums. Stryker opted to spin that fact with glowing optimism. Stryker explained that on this, his 18th Weenie Roast, he felt not only lucky to be a part of the event and it’s history, but knew the closing chapter would segue into something bigger and better. Also honoring Prince, Lemmy, David Bowie, and Scott Weiland, the candid moment drove home a sense of pride throughout the venue. If you were holding a ticket and within an earshot, you understood that this was more than a concert…
Blink-182’s Surprise Set
The trio of Mark, Travis, and Matt Skiba crashed the party in an unannounced appearance and the house went insane. “Sh*t yeah! We’re Blink-182 f**kers!” Hoppus exclaimed as the threesome tore threw a blistering set of Blink’s best. Running through a dozen tunes that included, “First Date,” “Dumpweed,” and “Dammit” as well as the live debut of “Bored to Death,” the rock show became real for a packed house of multi-generational fans. Unlike other unannounced appearances, Blink could’ve easily come out, rolled through a few hits and walked off triumphant, but Blink performed a pretty comprehensive set still laced with their brand of humor and accented with all the energy of a small club show.
Weenie Roast was dealt a swift blow as the show approached the finale. The crowd watched with the rest of us as Flea took to the stage with the other members of The Red Hot Chili Peppers and our KROQ Joqs to announce that Anthony Kiedis was en route to a hospital in the back of an ambulance. The Peppers would not be able to perform this evening. If anything could halt the party, surely this.
Rivers and the guys had the tough task of closing the show on the spot. In addition, Weezer had to fight through the blanket of disappointment and concern that was now tangible from the pit to the lawn. Strapping on the signature cardigan, Cuomo and Weezer pieced together a greatest hits-type set that resurrected the Roast. Performing a catalog spanning collection of singles, the band would wrap their encore with a boisterous version of “Say It Ain’t So” that proved almost poetic. For one last time, the Weenie Roast would come together in unison to sing at the top of their lungs and the Weezer classic was as appropriate swan song if ever there was one.