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A Toast to Roasts Past, Jams Ahead


IRVINE — And what is so rare as a day in June?

Then, if ever, come perfect days.

Then Heaven tries the earth if it be in tune,

And over it softly her warm ear lays.

--James Russell Lowell,

19th century American man of letters


I wanna rock and roll all nite, and party every day.

--Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley,

20th century American gargoyles of rock


If Heaven should softly cup its warm ear earthward over Irvine Meadows on Saturday evening, as Mr. Lowell imagined, it is in for a hell of a shock.

This day in June brings the Fourth Annual KROQ Weenie Roast and Sing-a-Long and, with it, a screeching, pyrotechnic rarity not seen or heard since another June evening in 1983: Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley fronting KISS, decked out in their long-discarded comic-book hero makeup and giving new meaning to that old Broadway title "The Roar of the Greasepaint."

The second coming of KISS Kabuki--with original members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss joining perpetual stalwarts Simmons and Stanley for good measure--marks the biggest coup yet for the Weenie Roast, which is now solidly entrenched as Orange County's splashiest annual rock 'n' roll bash.

For KROQ, the taste-making Los Angeles modern-rock station that uses the event to solidify listener loyalty, it's a perfect June day to do good while doing well: The Weenie Roasts are benefits, with this year's proceeds going to AIDS Project L.A., AIDS Walk Orange County and two environmental groups, Heal the Bay and the Surfrider Foundation.

For the bands--Saturday's lineup also includes Everclear, Fugees, Garbage, Goldfinger, Korn, Lush, No Doubt, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 311 and the Verve Pipe--it's a chance to play to 15,000 people and remain in the good graces of the gods of KROQ, which has emerged as an important cog in the hit-making machinery of rock's post-Nirvana "alternative" age.

For the fans, it's a chance to sample a bevy of bands in a single nine-hour helping. (With this year's Lollapalooza-copying inauguration of a second stage for emerging Southern California acts, the Weenie Roast expands to 16 bands in all, the 11 on the main stage, plus second-stagers Failure, Super 8, Unwritten Law, Voodoo Glow Skulls and Weapon of Choice.)

How hot is this Weenie dog? According to KROQ, tickets for the 1996 Roast sold out in 11 minutes. But have the shows lived up to the hoopla they generate? (Mark Twain once remarked that nothing promotes itself so shamelessly as a newspaper, but he never heard commercial radio.) Can a fan go to the Weenie Roast in reasonable expectation of enjoying that Perfect Day in June?

Unlike some folks, who figure the less they remember about a big bash, the better time they must have had, we've been staying alert and taking notes--literally--at every Weenie Roast. Here are some memories of the highlights, oddities and letdowns that the big show has served up to date.

June 12, 1993, Weenie I, or, 'The Revenge of Depeche Mode'

In KROQ lore, it was St. Kurt of Seattle who came and slew, or at least defanged, the synth-pop dragon that had enslaved and benumbed the station for years. Lovers of meaty, rockin' fare had to be nimble with the tuning button, because dialing KROQ before 1992 usually meant dodging all manner of noxious, synth-generated blips, beeps and buzzes and weightless singsong hack work in hopes of snaring the odd crunchy morsel of Social Distortion or Dramarama.

The First Annual KROQ Weenie Roast and Sing-a-Long, as it was confidently billed, confirmed the change, ditching all synths for guitars, guitars and more guitars. Unfortunately, balky sound mixes hampered many of the bands. Consequently, you could hardly hear any guitars during long stretches of Weenie I.

In a fitting touch, KROQ anointed X, the band chiefly responsible for sparking Southern California's indigenous punk-alternative movement, as the day's closing act. X came through with assured brawn, and singers Exene Cervenka and John Doe seemed so happy to play for a large, young audience that they refrained from cracking any Orange County Republican jokes.

The day's big crowd fave was Stone Temple Pilots, which at the time were making their first move toward the Top 10 on the national albums chart. Singer Weiland (he wasn't using his first name, Scott, in those days) comes from Huntington Beach, but he didn't seem too pleased to be back on his old O.C. turf. He muttered something about the audience being too scrubbed, white and wealthy-looking for his tastes. The crowd was momentarily miffed but generally pleased by STP's crisply rocking performance.

Other Good Memories: Terence Trent D'Arby winning an initially indifferent crowd with his soul-man dance moves; Rocket From the Crypt's guitarists hammering like hard-working hard-hats on "Ditch Digger"; Bettie Serveert having the guts to play winsome ballads in broad daylight.

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