By Sarah Bennett
By Adam Lovinus
By Jena Ardell
By Nate Jackson
By Gustavo Arellano
By Nick Keppler
By Nate Jackson
By Alex Distefano
"This is for all the ladies with the nice racks!" blathered one of the guys in dull New Joisey opening outfit Rye Coalition. Of course it was a guy, too, as this was a predominantly testosterone-fueled, no-dykes-allowed-unless-they're-doing-each-other environment. Yet as grimace-worthy a statement this was, these doofus rawkers had to go and better themselves by dedicating a song to ZZ Top, which they cheekily dubbed "ZZ Topless." You mean for this, we had to run through a phalanx of security peeps at the entry gate who not only groped us like we haven't been groped since our last leather bar visit, but who also threatened to confiscate our apparently illicit weaponry (simmer down, fellas—it's called a Bic retractable with black ink; what is this, the Hollywood Palladium)?
And yet these plod clods at times seemed on the verge of becoming non-horrible, power thudding their way through the night as if running on the energy set forth by their decibel levels alone—almost like the Bronx would be if they were even mildly good. This thought stuck with us for mere seconds before RC (they've conveniently purloined the Royal Crown cola logo for their merch) launched into a perfectly choreographed, simultaneous head-banging routine, as if to highlight their "metal" roots or something. Heh—real Hessians we used to hang with would've eagerly stuffed their scrotums up their cabooses back in the day.
There was solace, though, in that we weren't the only ones making fun of them. On a bathroom run for toilet paper earplugs after their set, we eavesdropped on this bit of friendly man banter between several buddies:
"Do you know who their lead singer is trying to sound like?"
"I think they're trying to be the Strokes."
"No, dude, you're way off. Think '80s hair metal."
"What's their name? Rhyme Coalition?"
"Bro! That's their name! Rhino Colon!"
There was plenty of that HB guy/dude/bro lingo fluttering through the air, too—were this 1988, everyone in the Grove would've had hair stretching down past their asscheeks. Yet there was scarcely a long-locked laddie here (all the better to see those emergency-exit signs, lest someone think they're at a Great White gig), and the major fashion statements consisted of knit stocking caps pulled down just over the eyebrows, worn by about every fifth man in the crowd—apparently the chic stoner-rock accessory.
All for Queens of the Stone Age, who play a brand of stoner rock their fans like to call "desert rock," though that's really just a nicer way of saying "Inland Empire rock," which no band would ever admit perpetrating. We know they're hugely popular and all—even critics like them!—but we still think Fu Manchu do this shtick better than anyone, and besides, the Fu are local. Yet beneath the Queens' preppie veneer (why does singer/guitarist Josh Homme look like a backsliding Mormon? That ain't rock, Queen-boy!) lay some interesting Beatle-y melodies scattered about all the ear-bleeding riffage and metal sludge-o-rama, which we thought intriguing for a spell. The Queens are hard and poppy, not unlike prime Nirvana, but with more of a redneck bent about them, the sort of music a Raider fan whose dad listens to Metallica would be into.
Otherwise, we thought it was neat that Mark Lanegan of Screaming Trees came out and sang a few songs, evidently taking a break from waiting for the Great Grunge Revival of 2003 to kick in. We thought it was deathly dull when the Queens bathed themselves in ridiculous blue light, as if they were straining to appear "psychedelic" for all the High Times subscribers in the house. We thought it was awesome to witness the Fisticuffs of Fury that broke out on the 200 tier (a quarrel over who was the bigger pothead?), resulting in at least one ejection and one grotesquely bloodied white usher's shirt (no, man, we don't think you get paid enough for that crap, either). We guffawed with contempt whilst taking a break outside on the entry plaza as the band began their mega-boffo MTV hit "No One Knows" and witnessed hordes of smokers promptly extinguish their cancer sticks and hurry inside so they wouldn't miss the one Queens song they knew (way to prove it, bandwagon-hoppers!). And we yawned during the Queens' many tedious, repetitive, boring parts, when they became the sonic equal to stop-and-go traffic on the 405. Ultimately, aren't Queens of the Stone Age just the Foghat or Mountain of the new decade? Yes, we say!