On The Download: KROQ’s Heavy-Hitting Weenie Roast Blasts The Audience Into Blissful Smithereens

Since 1993, Los Angeles powerhouse radio station KROQ has assembled the coolest bands around to perform at its edge-of-summer rock-fest known as the Weenie Roast. That name says everything you need to know about this edgy and rambunctious affair, which prides itself on showcasing loud, hard rock music. Through the years, the festival has attracted heavyweight bands from Radiohead to Metallica, and this year’s installment at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre did not disappoint.

The two headliners — Rise Against and Linkin Park — lit up the stage with their heavy-hitting sound, and they clearly gave their all to entertain the crowd. Bad Religion (one of the bands that brought punk rock to the mainstream) brought some old school cred to the event. It was cool to hear them play their classic hits, “New Dark Ages” and “Infected” live. And you should have seen how crazy the crowd went when the Foo Fighters hit the stage for a surprise appearance. That said, there were three bands in particular that stood out the most for my music taste.

The first was The Airborne Toxic Event. I had, of course, heard their smash hit, “Sometime Around Midnight,” but I wasn’t familiar with the rest of their discography and I had never seen them live before, so I was pleasantly surprised by their set. Even though I had never heard “Wishing Well” or “All At Once” before, I found myself humming along as if they were old favorites. I was especially impressed with the band’s energy, most notably lead singer Mikel Jollett who had just enough attitude to make him feel like a rock star without coming off as arrogant. As for getting to hear “Sometime Around Midnight” played live, it’s the kind of song that gives you goose bumps with how well it captures the angst of a love gone wrong.

Cage the Elephant also had superb energy. I saw them at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, but it wasn’t until Weenie Roast that I really appreciated their mix of hard and mellow rock. They remind me a bit of Rancid and The Ramones.

I knew some of their songs from the radio like “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” and “Back Against the Wall” without realizing that they were by the same band. I know I’m late to the game, but “Shake Me Down” is certainly one of my new favorite songs to play, and as more tranquil songs go, “Flow,” really hits the spot. And just like The Airborne Toxic Event’s Mikel Jollett, who had some fun interaction with the crowd, Cage the Elephant’s lead singer Matt Shultz completely captured the essence of a playful rocker with his grungy demeanor and his predilection for crowd surfing.

The highlight of the festival for me was The Strokes’ set. It is impossible not to dance along to their infectious tunes, and they played a great mixture of songs from all of their albums including “Last Night” (from their first album,“Is This It”), “Reptilia” (from their second album,“Room on Fire”), “Juicebox” (from their third album, “First Impressions of Earth”) and finally “Under Cover of Darkness” (from their fourth album, “Angles”). Unlike the lead singers from The Airborne Toxic Event and Cage the Elephant, though, Julian Casablancas is laid back and chill, but it works for him. The Strokes’ songs aren’t overproduced and they have a raw quality — like a group of friends recorded songs together in their garage, so being chill is part of their charm. Just like when I saw The Strokes at Coachella, I was left wanting more, but that’s the sign of a solid band, so I’ll have to wait until the next time they visit the L.A. area.

Music festivals take the concert-going experience to an appealingly heightened level. Where else do you get to discover up-and-coming bands (like Foster the People and Young the Giant) mixed with seasoned pros (like Linkin Park and The Strokes) that you’ve been longing to see live all in one location? And KROQ has mastered the art of putting on a seamless festival with their rotating stage. Instead of waiting up to a half hour between performers, the main stage is set up so that once a band finishes their set the stage rotates and miraculously the next band is all set up and ready to go. If the great music and efficient staging hasn’t sold you on checking out Weenie Roast next year just yet…then there’s this — the lemonade is about as delicious as any refreshing liquid could ever possibly hope to be.

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