Over the Weekend: KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas with Muse, AFI at the Gibson Amphitheater

Muse at the Gibson Amphitheater
Muse at the Gibson Amphitheater
Andrew Youssef

Click for a comprehensive slideshow of night one. Click here for photos from night two.

The Hype: Seventeen bands in two nights at the cozy Gibson Amphitheater in Universal City served as the annual Almost Acoustic Christmas party for the staffers at mega "alternative" rock radio station KROQ. Getting tickets is nearly impossible and the new limit of two tix total per person severely limited scalpers and those who had hoped to attend both evenings.

The Show: Their were plenty of highlights during the 10-plus hours of live music in two days. I preferred the overall lineup on the second night but the first night had plenty of bite in the right places. 

AFI burned up the room from the moment they stepped on stage. Clad in a gold sparkled suit, Davey Havok showed it was business time. This involved multiple jumps and frantically pacing the stage as the opened with "Torch Song." AFI ran through all their hits including "Girl's Not Grey."

It's a close call but I have to give Rise Against the honors of best performance for the first night. Tim Mcllrath always seems to be on the verge of blowing his vocal chords as he melodically screams through their songs like "Audience of One." I regretted not catching their sold-out show earlier this year at the Forum with Rancid.

A dirge like performance was turned in by Alice In Chains. It seemed that most of the KROQ crowd weren't too familiar with any of the newer material. "Man in the Box", "Rooster" and "Would?" sounded good but the energy of the crowd was directly proportional to the popularity of their tunes.

A band from Long Beach with two former members of Sublime were the special guest. Rome Ramirez uncannily sounds like the late Brad Nowell and has the guitar chops to go with it.  "Smoke Two Joints," "Date Rape" and "What I Got" were, predictably huge crowd pleasers. I hope the band can get their legal situation--Nowell's family won't grant surviving members use of band name--settled.
Muse owned the second night. Hotly tipped as a headliner for Coachella, Muse made their third appearance at the annual Christmas bash and it was their most commanding performance yet. Matt Bellamy is a guitar hero from the future, methodically wielding his custom Manson guitar embedded with guitar pedal effects. "Plug In Baby", "Knights of Cydonia" and "The Uprising" were some of the many furious tunes that will scorch the desert this coming April.

Electricity was in the air for Phoenix. From the moment they started with "Liztomania" until the last synthesizer pulse of "1901", the band had the crowd on their feet and dancing in the aisles. It was criminal that they only had a twenty five minute set, but they strategically jam-packed all of my favorite tunes into one delightful sonic package.

Another one of my favorite synthesizer based albums of the year is Fantasies by the Canadian based band, Metric. Emily Haines looked alluring in front of her Sequential Circuits synthesizer. "Stadium Love" and "Gimme Sympathy" along with the older tune "Dead Disco" sounded dynamite live and hopefully they will return to future KROQ shows with a long set time. 

I am glad they only do these shows once a year because my ears are still ringing from the barrage of music. I just think it is about time they drop the Acoustic part from the concert name cause I think I only saw two acoustic guitars between the seventeen bands.

The Crowd: Everyone in attendance was either well connected or got super lucky via Ticketmaster. With headliners like AFI and Rise Against, black was very fashionable and the most popular choice for the first night. The pit was definitely full of lucky kids who fearlessly called the radio station to win their prized tickets.

Overheard: I eavesdropped the gem of "That Muse band was amazing!" on the way out. No duh! 

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