In a surprising move and from a stable of dependable KROQ bands to choose from, Kiwi game-changer Lorde was chosen to headline KROQ Weenie Roast and Fiesta, and she did not disappoint. Prior to her set, Incubus gave the crowd, hungry for the ‘rock’ in KROQ a satisfying performance that featured all their favorites as well as a much-needed and moving tribute to Chris Cornell.
Weenie Roast is a time-honored tradition which KROQ began in the early ‘90s; when alternative rock bands like Soul Asylum, The Beastie Boys and Lemonheads ruled the airwaves. It was held for the first time at the StubHub Center, in Carson, Calif., May 20. The Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, home to the Weenie Roast for more than two decades, was demolished last year.
In the past, KROQ has received blowback for the lack of female rock bands on its rosters but this year, female-led acts like Paramore, and artists like Lorde and Lana Del Rey featured prominently and more importantly, made an impact with the crowds. Lana Del Rey’s set was early on but she gave a flawless performance that focused on her mellifluous vocals and new songs of her upcoming album Lust For Life. Paramore’s Hayley Williams commanded the stage, and got many on their feet, giving the StubHub Center the first dance party of the day.
The event kicked off, in the sizzle of the soaring afternoon sun, with sets by The Revivalists, New Politics and Judah & The Lion. Those who braved the heat and arrived early were treated with energetic sets in the intimate surrounds of the BudLight Stage.
No Doubt and AFI supergroup, Dreamcar, showed a flair and musicianship but their set was devoid of the kind of familiar hits, their old bands have in spades; hence, they did not make a big impression. However, there was no shortage of memorable rock sets from stellar acts like Cage The Elephant, Imagine Dragons, 311 and Incubus.
Here are seven of the best things we saw at this year’s KROQ Weenie Roast.
1) Incubus and Matt Schultz tribute to Chris Cornell
Incubus rocked the crowds and got many, still left sitting in the 25,000-strong open-air venue, up on their feet. They played hits that spanned their 26 year career from “Anna Molly,” “Drive,” “Nimble Bastard” and “Wish You Were Here,” and also debuted new single, “Love In A Time Of Surveillance.”
A fitting end to their high-energy rock set was frontman Brandon Boyd’s tribute to Chris Cornell; who died on Wednesday, May 17. Boyd acknowledged Cornell’s influence on Incubus, and many of the bands who have played at KROQ over the years. “He taught me how to be heavy and look for beauty in everything,” Boyd said. "I love you, Chris. Where ever you are, we will never forget you." He then invited Cage The Elephant’s Matt Schultz onstage to deliver a searing rendition of Soundgarden’s grunge hit “Black Hole Sun.”
2) Lorde tries her hand at comedy
Every musician's nightmare, Lorde proclaimed after "Tennis Court" her first song, that “...we are currently experiencing some technical difficulties." She paced the stage and said a warm hello to fans, filling in time as the problems got solved. "What do you do in times like these?" she asked almost embarrassingly. "I have to practice my standup comedy. I’m not very funny,” she deadpanned. When the problem still persisted, more awkward banter followed. "This is maybe one of the weirdest situations. Is there some house music they can play for you?" she asked. When nothing was offered, she said she might have to do her first ever acoustic guitar set. Eventually, she just sat on the lip of the stage and asked fans how they were enjoying Weenie Roast?
After the delay, she went on to perform Pure Heroine favorites "Royals" and "Team," but not before several new songs from Melodrama, her soon-to-be released album; co-produced and co-written with Jack Antonoff. "Liability" appeared to be the only song that takes the form of a slow, piano-led ballad. The others featured her unique rap-vocal stylings over electronic beats, though none quite as catchy as "Greenlight," which closed the night out on a high.
3) The entire Cage The Elephant set
The tour de force that is frontman Matt Shultz's showmanship was breathtaking. Pulling from a discography that has some of the best radio singles, there was no building up the pace in this Kentucky-band's set. It was full pelt from the moment they came on with "Mess Around," then "Cry Baby," followed by "Trouble," and the monster hit "Ain't No Rest for The Wicked."
"There's a lot of sadness at the moment. But there's hope, that thing still exists," said Schultz before he sang his heart out, on the tender love song "Cigarette Daydreams." More rollicking hits such as "Shake Me Down" and "Come A Little Closer" followed as Schultz continued with his inimitable dance moves. He leapt all over the stage, then climbed into the crowd, as he sung held up by fans in the pit. As always, Schultz was supported by a tight band of musicians which includes older brother, guitarist, Brad Schultz.
4) Lana Del Rey on the KROQ stage
When you hear the name KROQ, Lana Del Rey is not an artist that naturally comes to mind. Yet, Del Rey said on stage that KROQ was one of the first radio stations to play her music and support her. It is a sign of the times: shifting tastes, the blending of boundaries between musical genres and KROQ's ability to redefine its role as purveyors of what they deem alternative or indie rock, at any point in time.
Whatever the labels, Del Rey did not look out of place on the KROQ stage. Fans in the pit yelled out for her with the kind of fervor that screaming Beatles fans did back in the '60s. Word for word, they sang along with her on "Summertime Sadness," "Video Games" and "Off To The Races." When she mentioned she was going to sing a new song, "Cherry," the fans out front, clutching her albums, swooned. Del Rey was effortless, poised and ever-confident, she relished her time on the stage, reaching out to fans so they could hand their mementos to her. Accompanied by two dancers, the highlight of her set were newer tracks, "Lust For Life" which features The Weeknd in the studio version, and "Love." Her vocals were pitch perfect and her short set, flawless.
5) Imagine Dragons preached love
Also wasting no time was Las Vegas quartet, Imagine Dragons who exploded on stage with their 2012 breakthrough hit, "Radioactive." They were all laser lights, big drums and pure adrenaline. But they also took the time to preach love, not once but twice. Making reference to Matt Schultz' comment on hope, Dan Reynolds said: "People are divided over politics, religion, race. Race, still, even today." He called for music to make a difference and bring people together, before he sang "Gold." Later in the set, he said: "We get on the internet and people spew hate. I'm burnt out on it." Relating personal stories around his three young daughters, he felt more than ever that he was invested in making the world better for them. Their first-ever single "It's Time" followed.
It is amazing how Reynolds and gang, have managed in four short years to find themselves at the top of the pile with a host of awards; from a Grammy, to American Music Award and several Billboard Music awards. If their latest singles "Thunder" and "Believer" are anything to go by, Evolve their forthcoming third album will keep them on top, but with feet still firmly on the ground, and their hearts in the right place.
6) 311 frontman took off his shirt, it was hot!
So our money was on Brandon Boyd taking off his shirt but it was 311 frontman, Nick Hexum that took that crown. We're not complaining. 311 did play earlier in the evening when it was hotter. Hexum kicked off the set with "Beautiful Disaster," clad in a sartorially-perfect, zip-up jacket. Midway into the set, his jacket was off, and he performed in a tank top.
An extended drum solo on "Applied Science," where all the band's members formed a drum line, meant all worked up a sweat. The whole venue was having a good time to their reggae-meets-Beastie Boys vibe on tracks like "Down," ballads like "Amber," and before you knew it, Hexum was shirtless. Weenie Roast does hail the start of a SoCal summer; of BBQs, bare skin and beach days. And eye candy should not be the exclusive domain of men.
7) Andrew McMahon And The Wilderness surfing an inflatable Car
KROQ hosts bands from all over the world but it's always nice when a local boy makes good. "I grew up just down the road from here. Such an honor to play in my hometown," said Andrew McMahon. He kicked off the festivities on the main stage, after DJ Jeremiah Red's set, with "Fire Escape" and "Canyon Moon". It's as familiar a sight to see him at his grand piano, as it is to see him standing or leaping off it. But McMahon set the tone for the whole the event, when he crowd-surfed over excited fans, in an inflatable truck, singing "Don't Speak For Me."