Over the weekend, KROQ's Almost Acoustic Christmas celebrated its 25th anniversary at The Forum. It was the largest venue to host the event featuring Bush, Weezer, Smashing Pumpkins, No Doubt, and lots of the biggest names in the iconic station's history that came out to pay tribute to the place that gave many of them their break. Here are the best and worst things that happened over the two days.
System of a Down fans: They were out in full force on Saturday night, well represented and by far and away the most vocal fans in the audience. In fact, by our math, which admittedly isn't very good, approximately one in every five fans we saw wearing a band shirt were sporting the band's name. The thing about these fans is that they weren't there late: they were at the venue early and vocal throughout the show. Kudos to these people for not only being great fans of their favorite act, but for music as a whole.
Bush: If you thought that the veteran English rockers would deliver the most pleasantly surprising set of night one, you'd be in the minority. Gavin Rossdale, who was wearing a t-shirt that looked like he just cut someone up like Dexter before going on stage, was in peak form as were the band's biggest songs. Opening with "Everything Zen" and closing with "Come Down" it was a hit laden set that featured only a couple of post-2000 songs and Rihanna cover. Everyone was into it, and on night one where there was a lot of questionable cheering by fans, this one was deserved.
Tears For Fears: When the 25th anniversary lineup was initially announced, some eyebrows were raised at the inclusion of Tears For Fears. Yet the reclusive Brits had one of the standout sets of the night. Opening with "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," they powered through their '80s classics, breaking off slightly into the '90s with a delightfully haunting cover of Radiohead's "Creep." It seemed apropos as Roland Orzabal sang "I don't belong here," yet as part of KROQ's decorated history, they sure did.
Billy Corgan: Ah, it's nice to have good ol ornery Corgan back. With Smashing Pumpkins 2.0 having a surprisingly acclaimed new album out, Corgan and company played a few of the hits, but he was in an "I don't give a fuck mood," demonstrated on the scowl of "Zero" and his changing of the lyrics on "Bullet With Butterfly Wings," when he sang "Can you fake it/for one KROQ show." Oh, and the Pumpkins set went over by nearly 10 minutes. Welcome back, Billy!
1996: It was this landmark year where all the best songs and performances seemed to come from and when KROQ was at its peak influence and reach. Bands like the aforementioned Smashing Pumpkins, Bush, and Weezer and No Doubt all broke around that time and the songs still resonate. This year seemed to be at the height of the alt rock boom and around the time where the Almost Acoustic Christmas was being a staple on the Southern California concert calendar.
Next page, the worst things we saw…
Night One: Outside of the openers, the lineup relied on mostly post-2000 KROQ staples to power through the bill. That's fine and all, but it demonstrated little ambition in terms of booking. Granted, it was great to see some of these bands play live in the area for the first time in a while, but for others, it was seeing the same tired set over and over and the same songs you hear on the radio time and time again. With a rich history like KROQ's, it would have been nice to see a major reunion of a band that the iconic station broke. Now that would have saved the first night.
U2: Bono gets into bike accident. Bono looks like he's been hit by a truck. U2 cancels. What would have been the first or second show, and a real headline grabber is now a great disappointment. Yes, U2 hasn't generated a lot of positive publicity lately, but if anyone can grab it back as quick as it dissipated, it's the four lads from Dublin. It would have easily been the most prominent name to play Almost Acoustic Christmas in some time and the right way to celebrate the 25th edition. Bummer!
The lack of creativity in picking U2's replacement: This isn't to hate on No Doubt, who did OC proud by putting on their usual stellar show. It's noble that the group came to the rescue en lieu of U2's bowing out. But, again, KROQ could have been a bit more imaginative in their selection of a replacement. Yes, it was probably extremely difficult to find a band on short notice, but there's a treasure trove of local groups that owe the stations a favor from over the years, so it would have been a good time to cash in on that. Why not give Zack De La Rocha, Tom Morello and company a call? The crowd would have went ballistic for a Rage Against the Machine show. You get the point. The options for KROQ alum were endless, but they went with convenience ahead of creativity.
Incubus: How these guys shot to fame at the tail end of the alt rock boom is one of the great wonders in music history of the past decade and a half. Their music is tired, and the guys sitting next to me tried arguing with me that Brandon Boyd's lyrics were the best since Jim Morrison. Besides rolling my eyes and feeling like I was on crazy pills, the rest of the crowd was singing along to what was a bloated set. Their songs haven't aged well, and Boyd's slow removal of his buttoned-down shirt, tried too hard to channel Morrison or even a poor man's Scott Stapp (maybe that's redundant now) . But hey, at least he has a cool back tattoo! Either way, they have a new album coming out next year, so expect to see more of them soon.
Bean's tumble: As Jimmy Kimmel,who got his start as Jimmy the Sports Guy on the Kevin & Bean show, introduced the faces that go with the names you've probably heard on your radio dial the past 25 years to the screaming crowd, Bean accidentally fell off the stage and landed pretty hard. He was taken off on a stretcher with a slew of people surrounding him. KROQ tweeted 30 minutes after the show ended that he wasn't seriously injured, but even so, it put damper on the night and we're glad he's alright.
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