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POP MUSIC REVIEWS

Music for the Masses

KROQ's Weenie Roast is a refreshing dose of rock.

June 17, 2002|RANDY LEWIS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Hey, modern rock fans: Ready to hum, perhaps even tap your foot again? If the annual KROQ (106.7 FM) Weenie Roast can be trusted as a forecast of what's headed our way on the modern rock scene, the 10th edition Saturday at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine suggested that the angst-laden clouds of the recent past will break enough to allow some sun, refreshing breezes and with them some genuine fun.

Not only did New York's red-hot export the Strokes and Australia's Vines turn in sparkling sets that reaffirmed the vitality of guitar-driven melodic rock, but the capacity crowd's enthusiastic receptions for both also proved that they stand a chance in a marketplace more tilted toward heavy rap-rock and punk-metal acts.

Even the normally catchy pop-punk of Jimmy Eat World paled following the Strokes' performance, a case study in first-rate song craft and no-frills delivery by Julian Casablancas, the baby-faced singer with the laconic, Lou Reed vocal style, and his four cohorts.

The Weenie Roast also included a winning, unbilled set by the venerable Violent Femmes that further lightened the atmosphere, thanks to the trio's wry, skillfully sculpted alt-rock.

Once the sun went down, so did the vibe, as spunkier afternoon sets from pop-punk group New Found Glory, Jack Johnson and others gave way to the grinding, testosterone-rich likes of Papa Roach, Puddle of Mudd, Rob Zombie, Incubus, P.O.D. and, with a knockout finale, System of a Down.

The message? The musical storm clouds may be starting to break, but they won't go softly, nor quietly, into that good night.

Of course, when the sturm und drang is as gripping as System of a Down's, there's no reason to look for brighter skies.

The L.A. quartet, perhaps the most sociopolitical band to go mainstream since Rage Against the Machine, taps elements of predecessors in a variety of genres, from punk and metal to hip-hop and even surf music, but in totality System is utterly unique. The performance by singer Serj Tankian and company was so intense you were tempted to check the stage rigging for signs of buckling metal.

Amid the late-evening barrage, techno-rocker Moby offered a welcome change of pace. Unfortunately, his brief set ran into technical difficulties, and while he regrouped to close with the driving "Body Rock," by that point it was anticlimactic.

Incubus and Papa Roach, while eagerly received by the crowd, delivered plenty of aggro-rock firepower, but little that was musically or lyrically memorable.

The highlight of the dark side of the bill before System of a Down arrived was old-school horror-rocker Rob Zombie, who brought with him a much-needed sense of theatricality and humor. He's also a top-notch showman who skipped and skittered hither and yon around the stage like a Muhammad Ali of heavy rock.

Of the day's punk component, ever-reliable Bad Religion provided the philosophical heft and the sheer force such far younger and comparatively lightweight punks Unwritten Law and New Found Glory have yet to tap.

For a time it seemed as though the Femmes' name would be as close as this year's roast came to any type of female representation on stage. Moby single-handedly provided the feminine touch with five women among his nine-member ensemble.

Even so, they were merely five among about 70 musicians who played through the 10-hour show. The Weenie Roast, whose proceeds benefit three local charities, has built some fine traditions over the last decade, but giving women equal time isn't one of them.

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