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KNAC.COM Recaps The CAL JAM '18 Festival

By Charlie Steffens aka Gnarly Charlie, Writer/Photographer
Friday, November 2, 2018 @ 10:11 AM

October 6, 2018 At Glen Helen Amphitheater

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All Photos By Gnarly Charlie

The first two Cal Jam festivals that were held in Ontario, California in 1974 and 1978, are regarded as two of the most memorable festivals in the history of rock. The attendance at both events was staggering, and the lineups of some of rocks biggest acts of the era, such as DEEP PURPLE, BLACK SABBATH, AEROSMITH, SANTANA, and TED NUGENT were the obvious draw.

Cal Jam’s revival in 2017 was a FOO FIGHTERS idea that went off well enough to bring it back to San Bernardino California’s Glen Helen Amphitheater this year. For Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, Cal Jam 18’s lineup pales in comparison to the two storied fests of the 70s. The subgenres in rock are innumerable now.

The lure of this year’s Cal Jam were FOO FIGHTERS, IGGY POP with POST POP DEPRESSION, GRETA VAN FLEET, GARBAGE, and TENACIOUS D. An array of emerging and popular bands embodying post-punk, alternative, pop, prog, psychedelic, as well as folky elements, played on the Sun and Mountain stages. There was a lot of walking stage to stage to catch each band, but the overcast skies and cool temperatures throughout the day helped make it easier. There were non-stop performances amid the three stages from noon until midnight.

There were a few noteworthy sets on the alternate stages, including GIANTS IN THE TREES, which features ex-NIRVANA bassist Krist Novoselic and singer Jillian Raye. Novoselic played accordion while accompanied by the gamut of stringed instruments from his bandmates, and their set provided a welcome contrast in comparison to the heavier bands on the bill. The highlight of the set (and the whole day up to that point) was when Dave Grohl got behind the drum kit and joined his former NIRVANA band mate Novoselic for a song.

A band that could be considered heavy metal did not exist on any of the stages, yet a couple of the bands played with enough aggression to satisfy those with a penchant for the hard sound. England’s YUNGBLUD, was one such band, pulling the crowd to their feet by melding punk with hip-hop; Canadian hardcore/post-punkers METZ, led by vocalist/guitarist Alex Edkins, incited a sizeable circle pit.

GRETA VAN FLEET took the main stage at 4:30 as people began to fill the floor area, upper level seats and lawn, and the place was beginning to look like a rock festival. Singer Josh Kiszka and his brothers Sam Kiszka (bass) and Jake Kiszka (guitar), along with drummer Danny Wagner, roused a 70s vibe of peace and love to the party.

GARBAGE hit the main stage at dusk. As Shirley Manson sang “Only Happy When It Rains” rain drops fell, creating a surreal moment. They played a great set that included “I Think I’m Paranoid”, “Stupid Girl” and a cover of DEPECHE MODE’s “Personal Jesus”. Manson, known as more of a dark persona, lit up the stage with a more energetic manner than usual.

Oddly, TENACIOUS D, the comedy rock duo featuring Jack Black and Kyle Glass, didn’t play on the main stage, despite the enormous crowd that had gathered at the Sun Stage to see them play. The band’s credo has always been to rock hard and have fun doing it.

IGGY POP was backed by the POST POP DEPRESSION band, a choice amalgamation of musicians from QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE (Josh Homme and Dean Fertita), and ARCTIC MONKEYS (Matt Helders). Opening with “Lust for Life”, Pop’s voice sounded solid and the band was tight. The singer, long ago dubbed the Godfather of Punk, strode the stage tirelessly, stopping here and there to smile at the crowd. Within minutes, he was shirtless, as usual. A few songs from the POST POP DEPRESSION album included “America Valhalla”, “Gardenia” and “Sunday”, along with a moving cover of DAVID BOWIE’s “China Girl”. When Pop asked, “Anybody hitchhike here tonight? If I was, would you pick me up?,” it was predictable that the next song would be “The Passenger”, and the crowd responded wildly. “Success”, another classic from the IGGY POP catalog, closed the set.

The much-anticipated FOO FIGHTERS started off their set with “Run”, followed by three other tracks from 2017’s Concrete and Gold album. For FOO FIGHTERS fans the two-hour set was a dream that included “Pretender”, “Best of You”, “Everlong” and “Monkey Wrench”. The FOOS withheld nothing and the audience was completely engaged, loving it.

By now the whole world has heard about the NIRVANA “reunion” (minus Kurt Cobain, can it be called that?) The reunion buzz (prior to this, the only other reunion was in 2014 when the Seattle groundbreakers of grunge were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) began to make its way around the grounds earlier in the day. The best clue was given at the start of the FOOF FIGHTERS’ set, when Grohl said, “Tonight we’re going through the years…all the way back.” So, the pre-arranged get together with NIRVANA’s Grohl (drums), Krist Novoselic (bass), and touring guitarist Pat Smear teamed up with Joan Jett and DEER TICK singer John McCauley. To their eternal credit, the surviving members didn’t display a hologram of the long-departed singer/guitarist performing with the surviving members. The short set rocked and was a moving way to cap off the festival.

Check out some more photos from the festival in the photo gallery HERE.

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