Reporting Scott T. Sterling
With tens of thousands of rabid fans packed into Los Angeles’ Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, the spirit and undeniable power of radio was on full display at the annual KROQ Weenie Roast on Saturday (May 18).
From the clutch of emerging bands that performed early in the day on the side stages through the marquee headliners that graced the main stage, the songs of summer 2013 galvanized the diehard crowd of Southern Californians through the day-long extravaganza that was highlighted by the unexpected return of a ‘90s alt-rock favorite with a surprising new face fronting the band.
While the Black Keys and Thirty Second to Mars were the undeniable headliners, it was the Stone Temple Pilots, who delighted the sold-out show with a surprise set of their enduring radio hits like “Vaseline” and “Interstate Love Song.”
But instead of the embattled Scott Weiland at center stage, Stone Temple Pilots emerged with Chester Bennington from Linkin Park on the mic, admirably leading STP with spot-on vocals and even imitating some of Weiland’s signature serpentine stage moves.
With no announcement of Bennington’s presence on vocals, some audience members seemed confused by the unexpected pairing, but soon word rippled through the crowd that it was indeed the Linkin Park singer performing with STP, eliciting a barrage of camera flashes as people tried to capture the inspired pairing. The band played a number of STP hits and debuted a brand new track titled “Out of Time” which is available now as a free download exclusively at Radio.com.
The Black Keys charged through a stomping set of their down and dirty blues-rock, storming through crowd favorites like “Lonely Boy” and “Gold on the Ceiling” with a vengeance, determined to leave an impression on the already bedazzled audience.
Thirty Seconds to Mars pulled out all the stops during their bombastic show, with frontman Jared Leto starting the proceedings from the middle of the crowd to sing “Birth” as he traversed through excited fans to the stage while a drum corps clad in Spring Breakers-style ski masks pounded away with the band.
Announcing that it was the band’s first show in over a year and a half, Leto worked hard to earn the crowd’s approval, calling for sing-alongs of songs like “This is War” and “Conquistador,” closing the show with a raucous rendition of hit single “Up in the Air” with dozens of clamoring fans onstage dancing behind him.
Vampire Weekend ran through their growing catalog of stellar songs by mixing songs like “Diane Young” and “Unbelievers” from their new album, Modern Vampires of the City, with older hits such as “Oxford Comma” and “Campus” in their customary crisp and economical style, with bass player Chris Baio showing off some killer dance moves.
Iceland’s Of Monsters and Men delivered a charming and dynamic set, keeping things lively with their upbeat campfire rock. Female singer Nanna Bryndis Hilmarsson sporting new green tresses, the crowd sang along to radio hits “Little Talks” and “Mountain Song,” and graced touring instrumentalist Ragnhildur Gunnarsdottir with a rousing ovation for a powerful trumpet solo.
Jimmy Eat World tore through a blistering set of the band’s ‘00s emo anthems like “Sweetness” and “The Middle,” also taking a moment to showcase “Damages,” the title track from their upcoming new full-length, set for release on June 11.
Silversun Pickups frontman Brian Aubert marveled at the fact that the band has played the Weenie Roast no less than five times between blasts of their retro-tinged alt-rock hits like “The Pit” and “Lazy Eye.” He also announced that the band’s bass player, Nikki Monninger, was busy nursing newborn twin girls, and introduced her touring replacement, Sarah Negandari, moonlighting from her regular gig fronting L.A. band the Happy Hollows.
Imagine Dragons are still in the midst of their stratospheric breakout moment, and the main stage audience graced them with a hero’s welcome when they came out. Lead singer Dan Reynolds was sporting a broken hand, but it didn’t keep him from delivering a passionate performance that found him running through the crowd almost to the very back of the massive venue. Rolling out huge hits like “Radioactive” and “It’s Time,” Reynolds did take a moment to dedicate “Demons” to Tyler Robinson, a 17-year-old fan who recently succumbed to cancer.
Earlier in the show, emerging acts like AWOLNATION (“Sail”), New Politics (“Harlem”) and Capital Cities (“Safe and Sound”) rolled out their summer anthems to the thousands of fans who made their way to the Irvine, CA, venue at the very start of the long but musically satisfying day. Capital Cities hedged their bets by pulling out a pair of cover songs, “Nothing Compares 2 U” (written by Prince and made a hit by Sinead O’Connor) and the Bee Gees’ ‘70s disco nugget, “Stayin’ Alive.”
Other noteworthy performances came from Twenty One Pilots (“Holding On to You”), Fitz and the Tantrums (“Out of My League”), Atlas Genius (“Trojans”) and the Neighbourhood, whose single “Sweater Weather” is so hot it could very well stay on the charts until the sizzling and radio hit-driven summer of 2013 fades into fall.