I spent the better part of Saturday at Arizona's Fall Frenzy concert. A huge outdoor festival style concert, this was the years second show. It's 3 straight days of music outdoors at Tempe Beach Park. It was a great local for a show, it's right along one of Arizona's trendiest shopping district on Mill Avenue, right beside Arizona State University's campus. There is always a huge influx of teens and college grade students there and it's the perfect vibe for this kind of outdoor show. The use of the word fall in the title might be a little mis-leading as it was still in the 100's throughout much of the show, though the weather cooled off considerably once the sun set. This year the three day show kicked off on Friday with Sevendust, Shinedown, The Cult, and headliner Stone Temple Pilots. Sunday was more of a hard rock bend with Stone Sour, Avenged Sevenfold, and Disturbed headlining along with several other acts.The only day that really intrested me, especially at the exorbitant ticket prices for a 3 day pass, was Saturday. That day featured AM Taxi, The Dirtyheads, Blue October, Devo, Primus, Sublime with Rome, and Weezer.
I should point out that of the 7 bands mentioned, I'm really only a fan of two, Devo and Weezer. Such is the price you pay to see some of your favorites though. I got to the show a little late and missed AM Taxi completely but i managed to catch the Dirtyheads set. They have one song that is getting a lot of airplay on Phoenix radio called Lay Me Down, a song in which Rome (the new singer of the reformed Sublime) accompanies them vocally. They have a kind of reggae rock feel to them and honestly I didn't really enjoy the set personally. I will say the crowd was into it when they closed the set with Lay Me Down.
Up next was Blue October, a band that has had some success on the radio with a couple of hits, noticeably Hate Me and Into the Ocean. Going into the performance I wasn't really a fan either way, though on the drive down to the show I listened to a really engaging interview with the bands lead singer, Justin Furstenfeld, as he talked about some of the troubles he's faced, noticeably two suicide attempts. As he has recovered he has dedicated part of teh money generated from his shows to charities helping to fight suicide and help those in need of counseling, which he had said really made a difference in his life. As they performed the songs, accompanied by electric violins, mandolins, and whatnot, you couple almost feel the palpable emotion coming from Justin as he sang. I was especially impressed with him as the say Hate Me to close out their set, he really laid everything out in that rendition of teh song and you could feel the aggression and emotion and memories that the song had cause bubble up during the performance. I was greatly impressed.
Up next was easily one of my favorite concert appearances of all time. Devo. A band that first broke onto the scene nearly 40 years ago took the stage and had a really awesome show. They erected a huge video board behind them that ran a strange allotment of classic Devo footage along with pop culture art and video in this weird medley of music and movie. The came out wearing grey futuristic jumpsuits and masks that covered their eyes, noses, and parts of their head, and set into a great performance of Don't Shoot! (I'm a Man) from their latest album which very much had a Don't Taze me Bro vibe to it. They did a couple songs off the new album, including Fresh, which I really liked having not heard that one before sliding into their biggest hits. All in all they did four costume changes, from stripping down the grey jumpsuits to show us that They ARE men, to the tear away yellow radiation suits of Jocko Homo to the flower pot hats of Whip It and Girl U Want.
I loved everything about the performance and I truly wished they had not been placed on at the brain scorching time of 4:30pm. To see the whole display and antics of the band at night would have really set it off. I am not sure if the whole audience really got the whole Devo experience, I heard comparisons to the band being like watching your father sing. I didn't see that all. I thought they put on a great show, a hybrid of the 80's and today and really proved themselves to be the father's of nerd rock. Their renditions of Mangaloid, Girl U Want, Gates of Steel, and the closing number Freedom of Choice was an experience I'll never forget and I am so glad I got to see them in concert. For me at least, they still had so much magic.
The next two acts are not bands I particularly like, Primus and Sublime with Rome. The pop that Les Claypool brought with his guitar work certainly shamed the reaction that the 20 something crowd had to Devo, but i thought the performance was fairly uninspired. Admittedly I could be the only one who thinks that. Claypool is certainly a virtuoso on the guitar and can make some especially unique music with his instrument, but I thought they didn't have much stage presence. Claypool put on a pig mask for a few songs while singing, and danced a few lazy circles, but they did get some good reactions during Jerry Was a Racecar Driver and My Name is Mud. All in all they were ok.
Next up was Sublime featuring Rome. Here I will admit to hating the band. I didn't like Sublime when they first came out in the mid 1990's, and I like them less now that they are basically a glorified cover band. Rome, replacing deceased lead singer Bradley Knowles, sounded like a pitchier version of the singer. Arizona alternative radio has always loved Sublime far more than I ever thought possible and within 3 songs I was already miserable at my spot close to the stage. So miserable that I forced my way out of the main concert area and watched the rest of the band's performance on the monitor back by the vendors. Let me preface this next sentence real quick, I don't mind people's personal choice to smoke, cigarettes, marijuana, whatever. It's a choice. There was so much weed being smoked up in the pit area that it made me nauseous. Shortly after the band sang Date Rape, I made my way out. It was overwhelming... and fairly miserable. I will say this though, they kept the rest of the crowd into it by singing all of Sublime's hits, like What I Got, Bad Fish, Smoke Two Joints, and the rest. For most people this is the first chance they had to see the band live, even if it was with a new lead singer.
The end act though made up significantly for my disinterest in the previous two acts, my all time favorite band, Weezer. They came straight out on stage to a roaring version of Hashpipe that the crowd was really into despite some technical issues with the equipment. Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo then went into a little speech about how they had been flown in on a private jet for the show and that it had actually been a little scary but hey, that's how the band rolls in 2010. He commented then that you have to take some risks. When then the band launched into Troublemaker and Rivers did just that the rest of the show, jumping on and off the stage recklessly and really interacting with the audience. The band stayed pretty close to thier hits, including Undone- The Sweater Song, Say It Ain't So, Perfect Situation, Island in the Sun, and even threw in Memories, their single off their newest album, Hurley.
It was during my favorite Weezer song, My Name is Jonas, that the show really went off the rails of normalcy. Grabbing a light up baton from the crowd, Rivers led part of the audience in an almost Olympian syle parade around teh perimeter of teh concert area to teh refrain " The Workers Are Going Home. before ascending a bank of ATM machines to sing Beverly Hills from atop of them. He didn't stop there either, as he continued to circle the perimter he ascended the fencing of teh VIP area and did a tightrope like walk across the fence top while singing Pork and Beans, specifiaclly the lines, "I'm a do the things I want to do" and "Excuse my manners while I make the scene."
He then made his way back onstage to sing the first encore, a medley cover of MGMT's Kids and Lady Gaga's Pokerface, complete with a blond wig and stage rolling gaga antics. They closed out with having some members of the audience come on stage and sing If You're Wondering If I Want You To before closing the show with Buddy Holly. I know a lot of die hard Weezer fans have called the bands latest efforts more commercial or soulless than their original efforts, like Blue or Pinkerton, but god damn they can fuck off. Weezer is the perfect rock band, fun, poppy, and audience pleasing. this is the second time I have seen them live and I have yet to be disappointed. They made the day out in the hot sun so worth it, cementing their status as one of my all time favorite performers.
In the end, I am deeply grateful for my pal Genji having hooked me up with his ticket and I wish he could have been there to enjoy the Weeze with me. Devo and Weezer was simply one of the best concert experiences and I can't wait for either to return! Tune in later this week for my take on another seminal band, The Pixies, as they show up in town Friday!
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