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On August 22nd, I had the honor of being a part of the first annual Epicenter 09’ music festival, a new idea from Rock on the Range creators, Right Arm Entertainment. KROQ helped put the whole thing together for a 14 artist spread on two separate stages.

Monster Energy provided an intriguing VIP section in the middle of the grounds, and also had their banners all over their own smaller stage. Let me say first that the Monster Energy VIP area was one of the swankier VIP sections that I’ve seen at shows, as it was right in the middle of the action, and not tucked away somewhere, where people couldn’t see how hard you were ballin’.

Before we made our way to the main stage to start the night off, we worked our way through the back tunnels to the hollowed temple that was Building 9. It was here that Dan Huse (the amazing photographer that came along to Rock the Bells) and I set up camp, among the dressing rooms of performers of the evening.

There’s a certain magic that happens when you have that simple press lanyard hanging from your neck. I had many of those moments throughout the day. For instance, I happened to run into American Idol’s Randy Jackson, who was there with his family, promoting the band he’s managing, Paper Tongues. Later on, while checking my phone, overheard a lithe and hip young man asking for directions to the VIP entrance that Dan and I had early entered through. After a minute or two of conversation whilst showing him where to go, he revealed he was none other than Aidan Nemeth, rhythm guitarist of Wolfmother.

It’s amazing how you can recognize music so clearly, but sometimes not know who faces are associated with it. In fact we talked about that notion, and he (I think) agreed with me. After that, he introduced his guests in tow, Lucy Griffin (a rising actress/ of Fired Up fame) and Emily Belgard (lead singer of rock band Prohibition Rose). After hanging out for a bit, Dan and I headed to the grounds to get some work done. Clearly we had a lot of ground to cover in just one day, so I’ll give you our highlights.

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Aesop Rock always rocks the mic, and he also reminds me of Jimmy Fallon every time I see him, which I can’t decide if that fact is endearing or scary. I call dibs on the credit if they ever do a sketch together by the way. His set was quick and fun, and even better, was followed by Atmosphere. I love the funny inspirational words Slug always gives the crowd; this time it being to “mind our fuckin’ manners” while in Pomona. I hoped that he would give me my favorite tracks, Godlovesugly, Puppets and Dreamer. Sadly, dreamer was left out, but I’ll hope for better next time.

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As far as our main stage endeavors go, we watched Boots Riley and Tom Morello’s new outfit, Street Sweeper Social Club rock the crowd clad in their quite commanding military jackets. I feel like this is a great clash of two music greats, set to the backdrop of a band proclaimed to make music for the revolution. It’s hard not to compare Rage Against the Machine and SSSC, and that’s ok. Just let it happen, because I don’t feel like the overall message is that different. I think that the African American crowd will get a kick out of the combo, and might even lead to us delving into those forbidden culture waters of Rage’s rock music, albeit several years late.

Later in the evening as it began to cool, I made my way into the Monster VIP section, where I met up with DJ D-Wrek (of Nick Cannon’s Wild N’ Out fame), who happens to be a friend of SSSC guitarist Carl Restivo; who also joined us while watching the main stage. After chatting about jeans and other nonsense, we watched Wolfmother perform on the main stage, to which I was taken by surprise. I knew these guys were good performers, but I figured the recent change in lineup may have been unrefined. Turns out these guys have been hitting the rehearsals hard, giving me and other fans a throwback feeling to the 70’s and beyond.

Next up was the new Alice in Chains. Seven years after the death of the original lead singer Layne Staley’s death marked the return of a new front man by the name of William DuVall. He’s a long time friend of guitarist Jerry Cantrell, and a perfect replacement for the late legendary Staley. The best way to explain it was if you were to close your eyes, you felt like you were back in the 90’s listening to the boys on stage. Their upcoming album, Black Gives Way to Blue is going to be amazing, judging from what we got to hear thus far.

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Linkin Park took the stage at dusk, with an epic introduction by Mr. Hahn on the turntables. The edge of the photo pit was teeming with energy as the Linkin Park flag raised, Session blasting in the background. After drummer Rob Bourdon set up, the set kicked off with Given Up, from their latest album. I have a higher appreciation for the band now, as far as live performances are concerned, but then again, this is why they are so successful.

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I did however; feel bad for Chester when he brought out his new band, Dead by Sunrise. It was around this time that the crowd of Tool fans really started to get antsy. They booed the new band, and even tossed back a drumstick drummer Elias Andra tossed out, to consequently hit guitarist Ryan Shuck square in the head. Overall I felt as if this side project of Chester’s just wasn’t ready for the main stage. Luckily, Chester and the boys finished the set strong after the three song interlude by Dead by Sunrise.

After taking a break and watching several semi trucks worth of gear ride in; we watched the vans carry the members of the main event to the backstage. The air was electric, humid, and invigorating; despite the stink of sweaty fans and horse track. A long science fiction speech of some sort (I’m not sure what it was exactly) was playing before the set started, with weary fans perking up at the impending face rockage.

As you can expect, the band was one of those rare shows where you ask yourself, “How the hell are these guys doing this?” The set felt like an out of body experience as the music hits you. It’s hard to explain, but even with Maynard Keenan’s leg injury (sustained while picking grapes fyi), the show went on, starting out with a crowd-enthralling Jambi, from 10,000 Days.

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Maynard stood in the background amongst the shadows, as he usually does, while making comments about his injury a few times between the set. From start to finish, this was quite the heavyweight set, complete with on the fly switching imagery and video clips of the macabre. No Tool show is ever the same twice, but here is the set list from the evening:

1. Jambi 2. (-)ions 3. Stinkfist 4. 46&2 5. Schism 6. Lost Keys 7. Rosetta Stoned 8. Flood 9. Aenima 10. Lateralus 11. Vicarious

Also, in between Rosetta Stoned and Flood was a tease to Wings for Marie Part 1, with a second tease after Aenima of Prison Sex.

Another great event to add to the annals of Behind the Hype press by Dan and myself. Dan I of course thank you for weathering this dusty, humid storm all day. And also my unsung heroes of the  crew at MSO PR: Aaron, Kristine, Bari and everyone else who made all this possible.

Epicenter 09’ is the first of what I hope to be many more like it, and I’ll be here to give you the goods when the time comes.

Until next time my friends,

~Flak

P.S. Check out Dan's photo gallery on flickr, before it hits our gallery here!