Photo by James Bunoan THE (NAME OF SOFT DRINK BRAND) LIQUID MIX TOUR
(NAME OF PHONE COMPANY) AMPHITHEATER
SATURDAY, SEPT. 7
Subjecting ourselves to yet another cacophony of skate demos, corporate logos, spiky-haired cretins getting blotto on their first beers, overpriced food, rampant sexism and mediocre music (want summa this? Then surely you're heading to this Saturday's horrific-looking Inbred Invasion punk fest in San Berdoo), we hit good-ol' ex-Irvine Meadows Amp, not exactly certain what we'd uncover on this bill of decent-seeming hip-hop acts, white-boy rawk bands trying their hardest to become decent-seeming hip-hop acts (yeah, 311, that means you) and aural monstrosities that flat-out didn't fit the bill (Hoobastank super stank, both sonically and literally).
So what was up with all the booths hawking tacky materialism by the pound? We fondly recall the old Lollapalooza days when the makeshift vending scene was filled with activist info about the right-wing news media and queer rights and why vegans are bitchen, but all we glimpsed here was an endless, numbing onslaught of car companies and cell-phone conglomerates pushing their latest product, along with a clothing stand that sold T-shirts with BLING BLING scrawled on the chest. Then again, at a short-attention-span fest that frequently felt more about advertising than art, we should've known better.
We lasted about five seconds with Sevendust rip-off act Nonpoint on the second stage, and when you're ripping off Sevendust, you're pretty hard-up. So dull were they that their singer actually had to ask people if they could be so kind as to assemble a mosh pit—lord knows their music sure wasn't doing the trick.
We dug Nappy Roots, but really only their breakout tune "Awnaw," which they of course tacked on to the end of their half-hour set of otherwise dumb, uninteresting hip-hop. When the act you're seeing has to reach into the "Where're my weed smokers at?" audience shout-out, you know they've pretty much blown all their creative wad on one hit.
Blackalicious had some sweet, tasty beats behind them, though we were apparently unmoved by Talib Kweli, seeing that now, some 48 hours after the fact, we hardly took any notes during his set. Perhaps we stood mesmerized by the hypnotic bounce of his backup singer's transcendent Afro? Okay—we'll go with that.
NERD were impressive, with their mix of arena rock and enticing '70s R&B hooks. Though when they weren't making music, they were making asses of themselves, demanding that the crowd zip past any pesky security-type people and rush the stage. Main vox man Chad Hugo was particularly oafish, constantly hand-jobbing about how he "breaks the rules." What a rebel! What a risk-taker! What a shmuck! They dragged out celebrity buddies such as Tony Hawk and 'NSync's Justin Timberlake for cameos—Justin looking fabulously redneck-y in a mesh ballcap that screamed "I'm a glorious superstar! Look at me, but don't look at me!"—and then they were gone, but not before Hugo oddly asked the crowd if they liked Steely Dan, to which they responded with a huge "Yeeeah!" though we think they probably misunderstood the question. That, or they thought he was referencing the dildo in Burroughs' Naked Lunch. It coulda happened!
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We're embarrassed to admit that we once liked Hoobastank. We caught them about three years ago when they played an almost-empty Back Alley in Fullerton, and we recall being somewhat endeared because they had horn players and they weren't trying to be ska. Now the horns are gone, and so is our love, now that they're all over the radio farting out Blinkubus-like poo-rock, apparently doing just what Teen People readers demand of them. If they put half the thinking into their music that went into coming up with their hokey infinity logo, maybe they'd be less grating, but now that we've seen how they've devolved, we realize they're doomed—all doomed. Another few months, and they'll be totally forgotten.
But their stink won't. Appropriately, an overwhelming aroma of freshly pinched turds rose up into the air just as the band hit the stage—we love you, irony! Even the band commented on the mysterious stench, and we witnessed at least two people running for the restrooms with their noses and mouths covered, puke about to gush past their jowls. It was as if the whole of Iowa or Tony Rackauckas had exploded.
We watched 311 for one song and then left to walk around, since one 311 tune is all anyone really needs to hear, and we found ourselves at the top of the lawn contemplating our existence in the universe. And this: Did you know people still climb the hill behind the lawn to have sex? The name may change, but it's good to know some Irvine Meadows traditions never die.
Jay-Z, decked out in an Angels cap and jersey (at least he knew where he was, since everybody else kept shouting-out to LA all day), was dreary, lazily rhyming to backup tapes when he wasn't passing his mic off to one of the more tedious members of his Roc-a-Fella crew. We didn't even stick around long enough to hear "Big Pimpin'"—that's how bad it got. And we didn't want our clothes smelling like a cow field, either.