Much-loved indie rockers Weezer returned to the annual 2-day festive party that is KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas 2015 held last Saturday, Dec. 12 at The Forum. The night, however, belonged equally to acts such as openers The Struts; Kentucky-band Cage The Elephant; and the genre-jumping Twenty One Pilots. All delivered a fresh injection of rock’s many permutations to the evening's proceedings while keeping fans who may not have been familiar with their music completely engrossed.
Ohio duo Twenty One Pilots whose band name is inspired by Arthur Miller, dazzled with their brand of electronica featuring rap, samples, live drumming, ukulele strumming and a dynamic stage show. Frontman, Tyler Joseph thought nothing of his walk across the piano and drummer, Josh Dun indulged in an acrobatic back flip without ever missing a beat of their strong set. It included favorites from their Fueled by Ramen debut "Vessel" as well as their latest album – Blurryface's "Tear In My Heart", "Lane Boy" and "Stressed Out."
With the release of their new album “Tell Me I’m Pretty” only days away Cage The Elephant is set to be everywhere in the coming months. Singles such as "Ain't No Rest For The Wicked", "Shake Me Down" and "Come A Little Closer" tend to stand out in their discography without the critical acclaim that these boys deserve. However, as they seek to stretch themselves further and build upon the success of 2013's Melophobia which garnered them a Grammy nomination, their Dan Auerbach-produced "Tell Me I'm Pretty" might just get them there.
This is all academic and does not matter one bit tonight as their live shows are faultless and this was one of the evening's top highlights. Their set opened with the psychedelic-tinged "Cry Baby Cry" as frontman, Matt Schultz who truly has the moves like Jagger – jumped and shimmied across the stage giving the mic tech a run for his money. And when he wasn't looking, guitarist and brother, Brad Schultz descended into the crowd. Followed by a stage dive by Matt soon after. This is where all their disparate influences from The Pixies to The Rolling Stones and Tame Impala appear most cohesive, even slower numbers like "Cigarette Dreams" and "Trouble." They gave the girls in the KROQ audience a moment to swoon.
Glam rock is not something you see a lot these days in the age of electronica but with vocals as colossal as Luke Spillers from UK upstarts, The Struts you can't help but be swallowed whole. Channeling the ghost of Freddie Mercury, The Struts were a modern-day Queen – a mantle not to be taken lightly. The quartet basked on the live stage with such drama, aided by lashings of eyeliner, a sparkling batwing cape and standout tracks such as “Could Have Been Me” and “Put Your Money On Me” and “Where Did She Go.”
With a monster-hook, "Could Have Been Me" has already cracked the Top 5 on Modern Rock Radio and has hit Number 1 on Spotify's viral chart. Not bad considering they are still working on a full-length debut. A pity that they were the first rock act and The Forum was barely half-filled.
The Foals fared better with a larger crowd later in the evening. They brought their UK stadium rock to the stage with frontman Yannis Philippakis proclaiming: “If you don’t know us now, you will by the end of the 25minutes!” The posturing and energy was great especially on tracks like “Mountain at my Gates” and the driving, "What Went Down" but the snarling hyper-masculine music didn’t always hit the mark.
Responding to criticism that last year’s show had a dearth of female rock acts, this year’s bill showed a welcome improvement with Silversun Pickups whose bassist, Nikki Monniger very tellingly still gets asked the "what is it like to be a girl in the band?" question. And even after 15 years in the Silver Lake band she still gets told "no girlfriends backstage" when the quartet arrive at venues. It is pretty appalling considering the number of female-fronted bands out there and we hope to continue to see more of them on the KROQ bill.
Monniger in a sparkling dress and fabulous tresses worked the bass frets crucial to their shoe-gazey dirge as well as the best of them. Even better, she stepped into the spotlight from her usual back-up vocals to join frontman, Brian Aubert on lead vocals for “Circadian Rhythm”, a standout single from their latest album, Better Nature.
The only female solo act for the night was the "New Americana" – Halsey. Spotting her newly shorn head, the 21-year-old Ashley Nicolette Frangipane was apparently tired of being referred to as "the girl with the blue hair" or "with the pixie cut" on every press clipping. Whatever we didn’t care as long as she keeps singing the way she does about the things she does, and not so much about Taylor Swift and Harry Styles like she did three years ago. Perhaps that's what the haircuts and anagram-moniker are about.
Anyway, all is forgotten as Badlands debuted at No 2 in the Billboard 200 in September and she just sold out Madison Square Garden. Her short set at KROQ proved why her star is on the ascent. Her fans hold a candle to her like she’s the new Lorde – or our Alanis Morrisette – anointed to speak to her generation "...raised on Biggie and Nirvana" with dark synths and a taut urban grittiness. Yet the Notorious BIG and Nirvana have a cultural reach well beyond just the millennials and despite her precociousness the song has a wider universality.
Many on Night 1 of KROQ's christmas extravaganza were really there to sing along to the happy, unfettered power-pop of Weezer. All through the night the crowd at The Forum appeared thinner than last year's quarter-of-a-century milestone. It was easily at its maximum capacity when KROQ's Kevin & Bean introduced River Cuomo and company to the stage. Just about the whole auditorium got off their seats as thousands of KROQ faithfuls sang enthusiastically to unabating hits from "Hash Pipe" to “(Undone)The Sweater Song”, "Pork and Beans", “Islands In The Sun” and “Beverly Hills.”
Even though Disclosure was billed as the last set – throngs left as Cuomo sang the last refrains to "Buddy Holly" and the confetti canons were unleashed. By the time, the brothers Disclosure played tunes like the Sam Smith breakthrough, “Latch” more than half of The Forum had comfortably emptied out. It was confusing – was it meant to be a KROQ after-party set? Or a warm-up for those hoping to party on into the Saturday night?
Whatever the motivation, it was clear that Disclosure’s standout set deserved more throbbing bodies. Having just received a Grammy nomination for the Best Dance/Electronic album; working with pop's brightest from Lorde to Sam Smith and Ellie Goulding; and crushing it at festivals across the globe –they definitely gave KROQ listeners who did stick around something to celebrate.