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Pop Music Review

A Festival for Fans and Musicians to Mingle

The second Fan Nation gives the audience face time with Sheryl Crow, Goo Goo Dolls, Ryan Adams and others.

April 29, 2002|RANDY LEWIS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Corporate sponsorship and product placement being what they are in the rock world these days, the natural assumption Saturday at the second Fan Nation festival at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine would have been that the lead tour sponsor was Levi's.

Actually, the event--featuring performances and such close-contact elements as autograph and question-and-answer sessions--is put on by radio station Star 98.7 FM and the fan-friendly Web site Artistdirect.com. But practically everyone on stage was outfitted in faded jeans and T-shirts, and except for headliner Sheryl Crow, all the singing was handled by scruffy guys with guitars.

That added up to a show that was the antithesis of the slickly produced, elaborately fashioned and choreographed music that represents such a major slice of the pop pie nowadays.

The fact that all the bands (Goo Goo Dolls, Five for Fighting, Rubyhorse) and individual performers (Crow, Ryan Adams, John Mayer) are rooted in the singer-songwriter tradition further put the focus squarely on music, bypassing any production effects save for a bit of stage fog and one big blast from a pair of confetti cannons.

The mood during the six hours of music was celebratory but still muted, the crowd offering up its strongest responses to such heart-on-sleeve material as the Goo Goo Dolls' "Iris," Five for Fighting's breakthrough hit "Superman (It's Not Easy)" and its version of the Beatles' "Let It Be," most of Mayer's whispered-sung songs and the title track from Crow's new "C'mon, C'mon" album.

The format allowed an egalitarian 45 minutes per act, which seemed to benefit the emerging artists most by giving new listeners enough time to get to know them. That gave a giant career shot to Rubyhorse, a little-known Irish quintet added to the lineup Friday after singer Jewel canceled due to a horseback-riding accident. Its music combined elements of U2's grand-scale rock with Creed's arms-wide-open emotionalism.

The value of the interactive portion of the day swung widely depending on whether fans got what they were after.

"I'm really, really upset," said Christine Kearns, 26, of Costa Mesa, one of dozens turned away when Crow's autograph-signing session ended.

"This was a big, big reason I came to this, and now the rest of the day is ruined. I don't think I'll come back."

On the other hand, 28-year-old Rebecca Coriaty of Long Beach said, "Last year was great, and this year is great," as she emerged with Crow's autograph from one of two tents where performers signed CD covers, posters and even fans' bodies for 45 minutes at a time. "It works," she added, noting she'd waited in line for two hours, "but it can be difficult."

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