Last night I finally attended my first KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas show. I’m not sure why they call it that, because no one plays acoustic. I guess it’s a clever joke in the minds of the KROQ people, but whatever. Despite the fact that the station didn’t give me any tickets for free, even though I called in a few times, I secured tickets in the Loge section and had a pretty decent view for the show. The pictures below were taken from my seat, so excuse the lack of up-close-ness.
Overall opinion: the show was a lot of fun, with some great performances. I really liked the Gibson Ampitheater, as the sound was incredible (with one exception I’ll cover later). The crowd, though, was super lame. They seemed like they were only there to see Muse, yet when Muse played, the people in the pit just stood around or danced lightly, without any sense of excitement other than cheering after the songs. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but I generally go nuts when a band I am really excited for is playing. I don’t just stand there and Tweet or sip my 13 dollar beer. Meh.
White Rabbits – They opened the show and were really impressive. The band has a cool, percussion-heavy sound, with frequently more than one band member playing some form of drums. The main singer guy plays piano and sings, but he trades off that duty with one of the guitarists as well. They played songs from both of their records Fort Nightly and It’s Frightening, and sounded great. It’s a shame the place was pretty empty when they played, because they were a highlight. Such is the fate of opening bands, I guess.
Metric – Lead singer/guitarist Emily Haines boppedaround the stage with undying energy in her shiny black pants. From their newest album Fantasies, Metric played Stadium Love, Gimme Sympathy (one of my favorites) and the single Help, I’m Alive. I’m not really familiar with their other three records as much, so I didn’t know the rest of the tunes that they played, but they were also impressive. They should receive more credit than they do, as Haines is a much more engaging and enjoyable female vocalist/focal point of her band than Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (ugh) is with her cat screeches and annoyingness. Unlike the No No No’s, Metric actually has some great songs.
Next up was Cage the Elephant. I saw them at Coachella last year and was blown away. Their set last night, while not received very excitedly from the lame crowd, was just as great. Besides playing Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked and Back Against the Wall, they played what I assume were new songs. The last song sounded like In Utero- era Nirvana, with fuzzy guitars and singer Mathew Shultz doing Kurt-esque screams and spazzing around onstage with relentless fury. If it is a sign of where their next album will go, I’m already looking forward to it. The crowd, though, mostly stood around. At the end of the set Shultz stage dove and crowd surfed around for a bit, which got the pit people a bit excited.
Phoenix – These French dudes really impressed me too. I still can’t get into their album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, the one that everyone rants and raves about, but their live show made up for it. They were also the first band that the crowd seemed really enthused about, standing up and cheering the whole time. Phoenix came off like a more full-sounding the Strokes, with a lead singer in Thomas Mars who actually moves around and is engaging. By the time they played the big radio hit 1901, the crowd was very lively. Mars ended the song by going into the crowd and singing the refrain from the pit, which always gets people excited. Mars knew what he was doing. Now if only their album kept my attention as much…
Vampire Weekend – Meh. Their songs are quirky, yes, but to me they are basically the indie version of Panic! At the Disco (If this statement offends your indie hipster point of view, readjust your scarf and calm down). They sounded fine, but I just can’t get all excited and worked up about them. Judging by the crowd their set was a big bathroom/snack/smoke break, too. I just don’t subscribe to the hipster hype machine that lauds them with so much acclaim.
Slightly Stoopid –I knew back when the lineup was first announced that Stoopid wouldn’t really fit the bill very well. I’ve seen them quite a few times, and they have a ton of albums, but all KROQ plays of theirs is 2AM from Chronchitis. Because of that, the crowd seemed bored and stood around listlessly until that song.
Stoopid did play a good selection of tunes for the radio show, such as Officer and Running with a Gun from the album Everything You Need, but for the most part they seemed just as out of place as I had expected them to. Sandwiching them around a bunch of hip indie bands probably didn’t help.
The Bravery – Breaking up the reggae/rock mix of 311 and Slightly Stoopid were the Bravery, NYC’s synth/new-wave pop band led by Sam Endicott and his silly hat and Robert Smith-ian croon. They’re not a bad band by any stretch, but some of their songs are a bit draggy and anti-climactic. They did play a new song called Hatefuck that wasn’t as Trent Reznor-ian as its name would imply; it was instead rather dance-y, as expected, but it did come with this weird video on the jumbo screen that looked like some old version of 1950s soft-core porn that was a bit distracting and funny. Ending with An Honest Mistake, the Bravery’s performance was basically just as I had expected it would be. It was just odd how highly they were listed in the bill, and playing between Slightly Stoopid and 311 added to the confusion.
311 – I’ve seen 311 more than 20 times, as they are my favorite band. They NEVER have any technical issues at their shows. Despite that, they were the ONLY band at this show that had problems, which was a weird buzzing feedback-y sound that marred some of the songs. They opened with Beautiful Disaster and played a set that I almost predicted with total accuracy (superfan? 311 nerd? Yup), throwing in the hits All Mixed Up, Down, Flowing, and recent single Hey You, a song I wish they never wrote with some other tunes from their new record Uplifter; they also played concert staple Applied Science, complete with its full-band drum solo. All told, it was another great show by the band, but the mysterious technical issues were a bit frustrating and out of character.
Muse – OMG YES THE BAND WE WERE ALL HERE TO SEE! Or at least it sounded like that when they emerged amid thunderous applause and screaming to slam into Uprising, the single from their new album The Resistance. They played for roughly an hour, touching on the big hits Supermassive Black Hole, Hysteria, Time is Running Out, and Knights of Cydonia, which ended the set, but they skipped over New Born (one of my favs) and Feeling Good in favor of a handful of Resistance tracks like United States of Eurasia, Guiding Light, Resistance, and Unnatural Selection.
I wasn’t surprised by this, as it was a radio show and they have a new album to push, but it was still a bit of a let down. Matt Bellamy’s guitar was all glittery and red, though, and he wore shiny pink pants, so that made up for it. They also sounded incredible, as Bellamy is able to replicate the soaring operatic vocals from the studio recordings to the live setting impeccably. Their performance was masterful, if a bit heavy on Resistance songs. I hope their Coachella set has more old stuff thrown in too.
In all, KROQ Acoustic Christmas Day 2 was great. The band selection was a bit strange in there was absolutely no cohesion to the lineup; it started out all indie pop then threw in some surf reggae, and the result was a bit scattered and all over the place. Still, I enjoyed most of the performances, and it was evident that the crowd did as well (or at least they did once Muse hit the stage). KROQ knows how to put on good shows, and pick a great venue for their annual holiday fest. I just wish they would have fixed the technical issues that messed up 311’s set, but that’s just me talking as a fanboy.
And to all, a good night.