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Epicenter 09: Junkman's Day in the Sun

By Junkman, On-Air Personality
Tuesday, September 29, 2009 @ 7:09 PM


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August in Southern California like most of the US is, as KISS once sang, “Hot- hot, HOTTER THAN HELL”!! But ya deal with it, right? I rarely bitch and complain about the heat, because, as a transplanted easterner, the weather is part of the reason so many of us moved here way back when, and continue to do so, legally and illegally. The other reason for me, and many others, is the music scene.

Lately though, this summer’s concert scene has been pretty boring. Mostly the same 80’s hair bands that so many people never seem to get sick of. Its gotten to the point where I have attended some shows to see people who I know will be in attendance, as opposed to watching the band, and that makes me sad. Maybe I just attend too many shows? Maybe I have gotten jaded to a certain degree? Maybe the summer tours this year really have been lame?

Recently though, I attended a festival show that really got me excited about what summer festivals are all about. A pleasant mix of bands old school and new, that really put new meaning to an old term-“Hot August Night”. This was “Epicenter 09” at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona, CA. Sponsored by a local radio station (radio? What’s that?), IAMROGUE.COM, and our good friends at Monster Energy drink, it was hot, sweaty, crowded, loud and I loved every bit of it!

After picking up my media and photo credentials, I headed to the concert site, which was a bit of a walk. The concert site was on the infield of the horse racing track. It consisted of a main stage, side stage, vendor area, and in the middle, a huge pavilion sponsored by Monster, which included bars, lounges with couches and big screen TV’s and a few observation decks. This was the place to be!

It was then that the music on the side stage started and I checked out a band called After Midnight Project. Very young guys, LOTS of energy, but nothing that stuck in my head. Since it was getting pretty warm, I decided to head indoors to the press area to cool off for a bit and wait for the main stage bands. The place was buzzing as some of the bands were starting to arrive. Ran into a bunch of fellow journalists and photographers that I knew. It was going to be a good day!

Out to the main stage I went, armed with my photo pass and my trusty SLR camera. BTW, just so ya know, don’t go into a photo pit using a “point and shoot” camera or a cell phone camera, it just aint the place for you! I’m always amazed when I see this. I’m also surprised that most of the professional photographers don’t beat the crap out of these people for taking up their space, which is usually quite limited.

The P.A. blasted out the theme for the 70’s TV show “S.W.A.T. as the members of Street Sweeper Social Club hit the stage. The band, a new project, featuring guitarist Tom Morello and singer Boots Riley kicked the crowd into gear with a very funky set starting with “Fight! Smash ! Win! And featuring a cool cover of M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes”, and a nod to Morello’s former band, Audioslave, a bit of “Cochise” as well as the bands first single, “100 Little Curses”. I LOVED their set, and was truly fired up for the rest of the day.

Back to the media area I went, and spoke with Tom Morello after the set. He’s a great guy and seemed pleased that I liked the band so much. I wasn’t alone. The band was swarmed with well wishers and I was lucky just to have a few minutes alone with them. “Anything for my KNAC” exclaimed Morello. Yes, I love my job.

Next up. I spent a little while interviewing members of Atreyu who would be hitting the main stage third, after Hollywood Undead who I completely missed. The boys from my town of Huntington Beach, Ca. have recording a new CD, entitles “Congregation of The Damned” (out Oct. 27th), and I recently witnessed an AMAZING set by them a few months back at the Rock On The Range festival in Columbus, Ohio.

Guitarist Dan Jacobs told me that the band will be touring in support of their latest CD this fall with the previously mentioned, Hollywood Undead. He also said that their upcoming record would be a change in direction to some of the old-school metalcore sound of Atreyu’s earlier work. “Very KNAC.COM friendly, I’m guessing”? I asked. To which he exclaimed “We have some surprises for you”.

As for their set, it was an all too brief half hour. It DID however, kick ass. Lead singer Alex Varkatzas is a dynamo on stage. Lots of energy as you would expect and great musicianship. Guitarists Jacobs and Travis Miguel shined in songs like “Right Side Of The Bed” and “Ex’s And Oh’s”. They even played a new song “Bleeding Is A Luxury” from their new CD. Check it out: here.

Wolfmother was next on stage. After their debut and hit single “Woman” a few years back, the band, actually lead singer/guitarist Andrew Stockdale, regrouped with new guitarist Aidan Nemeth, drummer Dave Atkins, and a bassist/keyboard player, Ian Peres, to record a new CD “Cosmic Egg” which will be out the first week of October. They played a very loud and feedback filled set . Opening with “Dimension”, the band is all about Stockdale. He controls the action, all eyes seemed to be on him, although drummer Atkins was impressive at times. The band has been compared to early Black Sabbath and Zeppelin at times, and you can see the influence, but if you had to compare them to anyone, go WAY back to, what I and many others consider the first heavy metal band, Blue Cheer. Good show, nonetheless.

After a break and yet another visit to the Monster Pavillion, I was totally WHACKED on Monster Energy Drink, to the point of shaking. Hell, I guess shaking and Epicenters have always gone together here in SOCAL anyway. But next up would be some serious earth shaking on stage, the return of Alice In Chains!

I had seen them at the previously mentioned Rock On The Range Festival in Columbus in May and they seemed like they were having issues with their sound. Not today. Alice in Chains, I thought, were the set of the day at Epicenter. New singer William Du Vall has fit right in to this band and has an identity all his own, as opposed to someone just trying to copy the late singer Layne Staley. He has stage presence, and his voice blends with guitarist Jerry Cantrell perfectly to give an “amped up” version of the classic AIC sound.

Opening with “Rain When I Die”, the band had the crowd singing along to every word, which must have pleased the band considerably. Bassist Mike Inez grinned throughout the 10 song set, which included all the favorites, “Them Bones”, “Man In A Box”, my favorite, “Again”, (which had me pounding my foot like a madman and moshing around in the pavillion) as well as two new songs “Check My Brain”, and “A Looking In View” from their upcoming CD entitled “Black Gives Way To Blue”, due out Sept. 29th. The crowd went completely ballistic as they ended the set with “Rooster”, and everyone I spoke with afterwards all said the same thing- “That fucking RULED”!!! Welcome back Alice In Chains.

I raced back to the dressing room and excitedly offered my congratulations. I think every other person with access had the same idea, as it was as packed as the area directly in front of the stage was. Everyone was beaming excitedly of how happy they were to see the band onstage again, and how great the performance was.

Linkin Park was the next band on the main stage. Now, understand, that I have not followed this band that much, but I am fully aware of how popular they are. They are true darlings of their genre, so I decided to check them out and was pleased with what I saw. Lead singer Chester Bennington is a whirlwind of energy and was in constant motion all through the 22 song set. Trying to take pictures of him was next to impossible. My F-Stop settings on my camera just could not keep up with him. I’ll tell you what though, he IS impressive in his vocal abilities as well as his stage presence. The band played just about every song I knew of them including “Breaking The Habit”, “Numb”, “Crawling”, and “In The End”. ¾ of the way through the set, Bennington told the crowd, “I hope you don’t mind me bringing my new band Dead By Sunrise up. We’re going to play a few songs for you. Let us know what you think”. And with that, they played 3 songs together. You know what I think? I think I couldn’t tell the difference between their songs and Linkin Park songs.

Anyway, the crowd loved it and Linkin Park finished out their set with an extraordinary version of “One Step Closer” (does this song remind you of Limp Bizkit or what?) to which the sun drenched crowd roared its approval. As the pit emptied and people started to head towards the refreshment stands I noticed more than one bleeding mosher being helped along by a buddy, the ground behind them looking like those mysterious “crop circles”.

I have seen a lot of shows over the last few years, but, up until today, I had never seen Tool live, for whatever reason there is. Tonight I would not be denied, although I was not allowed to photograph them. I found a spot, and realized that the lighting and video projection is just as much a part of a Tool show as the onstage performance- absolutely mind blowing!

Opening the 90 minute set with “Jambi”, I noticed that singer Maynard James Keenan was on crutches, which he used throughout the set to punctuate certain lyrics, which in a creepy way, really worked. “God kicked me right in the balls”, he apologized to the crowd, although I was told the real reason he got hurt was while picking grapes. You can NOT make that one up.

This was definitely a Tool crowd. The crowd screamed every word of songs like “Stinkfist” and “46 and Two. Drummer Danny Carey was on fire, and soloed along with bassist Adam Jones during an amazing “Rosetta Stoned” which led into “Aenima”. Keenan played to the crowd all through the show. He is an awesome front man, injured or not. After very song it seemed, I heard someone scream “Fuckin Tool”. And this time it wasn’t directed at me!

Closing the set with a great one two punch of “Lateralus” and “Vicarious” (sounds like a couple of gladiators, eh?) the band, crowd, and anyone else working the show were completely spent. I think the whole show was about 10 hours total, in blazing sun and dusty evening. I reached for one last Monster Energy drink and headed out into the Southern California night, fully stoked about a killer show. My thanks to all at MSO PR, Monster Energy Drink, and the bands themselves, for a great event. I was told that it was a success at the box office and will return next summer. I hope you enjoyed my review, its been awhile since I’ve written one.

Setlists:

Street Sweeper Social Club-

  • Fight! Smash! Win!
  • Somewhere In The World Its Midnight
  • Paper Planes (cover)
  • The Oath
  • 100 Little Curses
  • Cochise (Audioslave teaser)
  • Promenade
  • Nobody Moves (till we say so)
Wolfmother-
  • Dimension
  • California Queen
  • White Unicorn
  • New Moon Rising
  • Woman
  • Minds Eye
  • ? (new song)
Alice In Chains
  • Rain When I Die
  • Them Bones
  • Damn That River
  • Check My Brain
  • Man In The Box
  • We Die Young
  • A Looking In View
  • Again
  • Would
  • Rooster
Linkin Park
  • Session
  • Given Up
  • From The Inside
  • Somewhere I Belong
  • No More Sorrow
  • Lying From You
  • Points Of Authority
  • What I’ve Done
  • Leave Out All The Rest
  • Numb
  • Shadow Of The Day
  • Hands Held High
  • Crawling
  • In The End
  • Bleed It Out
Dead By Sunrise
  • Crawl Back In
  • Fire
  • My Suffering
Tool
  • Jambi
  • (-)Ions
  • Stinkfist
  • 46 and 2
  • Schism
  • Lost Keys
  • Rosetta Stoned (10,000 Days, Wings For Marie, Drum, Bass solos)
  • Flood
  • Aenima
  • Prison Sex (Guitar tease)
  • Lateralus
  • Vicarious



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