KROQ's Almost Acoustic Christmas Was Impressive Without Overwhelming Rock Power

One of the most eagerly anticipated events on the winter concert calendar is KROQ’s Almost Acoustic Christmas. For 26 years, the venerable rock station has brought the biggest names in both the genre and music to Los Angeles as sort of a year-end review and/or celebration of what  went down in the past 12 months. This weekend was no different.

Though Saturday’s crowd had plenty of open seats and ample space on the floor, the bands did their part to power through with a deep, but not overwhelming lineup. Unlike years past when there was a star to anchor a lineup, there was no such thing this year. The two headliners —UK house duo Disclosure and pop punk outfit Fall Out Boy — probably wouldn’t have been near that lofty stature in years past. Alas, what that says about this year in alternative music is for another day.

What KROQ has counted on in years past is for local bands to muscle their way through the bill. A strong showing was had by Silver Lake’s Silversun Pickups who proved they certainly belonged on the big stage of the Forum. Their second appearance at the event was a crowd pleaser and was one of the night’s first highlights. Brian Aubert and Nikki Monninger helped get the mood going following another local, AWOLNATION, who surprised the crowd with an appearance by bassist Duff McKagan during their set. 

The one, true nuts and bolts rock band on the bill was Cage The Elephant. Following an on-screen tribute to fallen Stone Temple Pilots/Velvet Revolver frontman Scott Weiland, which included a moment of silence, the Kentucky band bolted out and made fans forget shocked fans out of their somber mood. Judging by the reception to their set, it’s easy to hear why so many rockers have thrown plaudits their way. Their psychedelic brand of alternative rock was at home, even with many of the younger fans. With a new album out this Friday, the band mixed in a couple of new tunes, including the Black Keys-inspired “Mess Around” before yielding to a number of their more familiar tunes. Singer Matt Shultz’s spastic dance/movements on-stage were something to be seen, and his enthusiasm was returned by the excitable audience. 

No matter what you think about the merits of their music —which isn’t much —but a majority were clearly there to see Twenty One Pilots. While their pre-packaged sound went over well, it was the duo’s performance that was impressive. On top of their high energy on the actual stage, singer Tyler Joseph —when he wasn’t sprinting across the stage —ran to the end of the GA and dashed 25 rows up to the crowd’s delight (at least judging by the cameraphones) and drummer Josh Dun had a portable drum kit that he played in the crowd with their help holding him up. The explosive nature of their performance, which included a number of radio hits had many ready, able and willing to leave following their set.

One thing that KROQ does well does is enlist their steady force of harden veterans. Whether it’s Jane’s Addiction or No Doubt or in this year’s case Weezer, the station has a battle-tested band on-tap and ready to go. Weezer was simply being Weezer, and for many, hearing the hits from the band’s 20-plus year history was enough.

There was some controversy regarding the station’s choice to book Disclosure, but hey, they also booked The Prodigy once upon a time. Some lashed out on Twitter and nearly half the crowd split before hearing the British duo, but for those who stuck around, it was well worth it and easier to make sense of unlike some of the bands mentioned before. 

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