KROQ Weenie Roast
Irvine Meadows Amphitheater
It was only appropriate that “Say It Ain’t So” was the last song ever performed at Weenie Roast’s 24-year (except for 2000) stint at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre.
SoCal’s semi-official summer kickoff festival narrowly avoided disaster on Saturday night, as Red Hot Chili Peppers were forced to cancel their headlining slot due to singer Anthony Kiedis departing for the hospital – reportedly with intestinal flu and severe stomach pains.
Armed with $13 Bud Lights and matching RHCP shirts/tattoos, a good portion of the sold-out crowd angrily booed Flea’s announcement, apology, and promise for a make-up show just moments after cheering the bassist’s appearance alongside guitarist Josh Klinghoffer and drummer Chad Smith.
Unfortunately, the news of Kiedis’ hospitalization broke immediately before Weezer performed an extended set to fill some of the time, so the jeers carried into the first few notes of Rivers Cuomo’s crooning. Either the vocal displeasure of the crowd or the steady stream of folks leaving throughout their set seemed to get to Cuomo and the band a bit, as Weezer seemed a bit out of sorts and low energy (even by Weezer standards) for the now-main slot at a festival that big.
Most of the crowd still cheered and sang during hits ranging from “Hash Pipe” to “Pork and Beans,” “Undone – The Sweater Song” to “Thank God for Girls,” but there was a clear disappointment in the air when the rotating stage didn’t spin around to reveal the scheduled headliners after Weezer’s encore of “Buddy Holly” and the aptly timed “Say It Ain’t So.”
Coming from someone who’s seen Weezer a handful of times, it certainly wasn’t among the best shows the alternative legends have ever done. Or maybe Weenie Roast just isn’t the type of festival that’s conducive for headlining bands with singers dressed like the attendees’ grandparents. Who knows?
About a tenth of the crowd stayed in their seats for a few minutes after the house lights came on, still hoping that Flea was merely joking, but there was no such luck. There also seemed to be an increased police and security presence (compared to other shows and festivals at the same venue) as the thousands of people shuffled out, perhaps to discourage angry intoxicated Chili Peppers bros from acting too irresponsibly.
But let’s discuss the high point of the festival, shall we?
Up until just after 8 p.m., the biggest applause of the night came during Panic! at the Disco’s cover of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” A few of the bands before them earned mid-sized reactions for their hits – the Lumineers’ “Ho Hey” probably being the biggest of them. Garbage played a fantastic 30-minute set sandwiched between Cold War Kids and the Lumineers (seriously, Shirley Manson fell off the stage during “Special” and didn’t miss a note – like a fucking boss). But it felt like everyone was just waiting for the main event to really turn things up a notch.
As Panic!’s set ended with a story about Rob Zombie making fun of them during their first Weenie Roast experience leading into “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” (and me realizing that I liked them better when they sounded like a Fall Out Boy cover band), the stage went dark for a moment before beginning to rotate once again.
Rumors had been swirling all day as to who (if anyone) would make a special guest appearance for Weenie Roast’s last trip to Irvine. The hammered guy in front of me swore it would be Guns n’ Roses, while a woman a row or two behind me loudly declared that she’d heard from multiple people it would be Radiohead or LCD Soundsystem. Regardless of who it could be, everyone agreed that if there was time for a secret set, it would have to be either before or after the next band (the bizarre Empire of the Sun).
Prince’s logo briefly flashed on the backdrop (which seemed like a mysterious joke at the time, but was probably just a miscue given the fantastic Prince tribute occurring after the next set), but then the unmistakable sound of late-‘90s pop punk rang out while the stage turned and everyone began to realize what was happening.
Blink-182 (complete with 100 percent more Matt Skiba) launched into “Family Reunion” as soon as the stage was finished rotating, and the entire amphitheater went absolutely insane. Aside from the handful of parents who didn’t seem to appreciate Mark Hoppus’ handful of dick jokes, virtually everyone in the venue was singing along to classics like “The Rock Show,” “Josie,” “What’s My Age Again?” and “All the Small Things.” Phones were out in full force as Snapchat became OC’s leading cause of FOMO on Saturday night, but can you really blame people for wanting to capture a secret performance of a band of Blink’s stature?
Although the tie-wearing Skiba didn’t seem entirely comfortable singing tracks like “Dumpweed” and “Feeling This,” his musical prowess and songwriting abilities will undoubtedly be on full display on the upcoming album, California. Although “Bored to Death” was the only track longer than a few seconds performed from the new album (“Built This Pool” is about 15 seconds long live), it certainly seems as though Skiba will be able to transfer from one trio to another with ease.
With the entire crowd on their feet after Blink closed the 30-minute set with confetti cannons and “Dammit,” it seemed like Weenie Roast finally had everything worked out. The aforementioned Prince tribute followed, and then Empire of the Sun came out and killed the momentum Blink and the deceased legend had just created. Empire of the Sun wasn’t terrible, it was just that a spacy theatrical electronic rock band isn’t doing much for the Weezer/RHCP crowd that just got hyped up for another ‘90s alternative icon.
Following Empire of the Sun (and their extended/gratuitous “Roast of the Weenie” guitar-smashing extravaganza), the three non-singing Chili Peppers were announced… and we all know what happened from there.