Despite all the Epicenter tweets Southern California residents may have seen, the Pacific plate wasn’t shifting. In fact, it was thanks to some earth-shaking rhythms at one of rock’s finest music festivals: Epicenter 2012.
The line-up boasted a diverse array of tough-toned rockers including up-and-coming bands on the Monster Stage like Hyro Da Hero, Beware of Darkness, Crash Kings, Escape the Fate, and Hollywood Undead and bigger bands on the main stage Dead Sara, Chevelle, Scars on Broadway, Bush, and rock legends, Stone Temple Pilots.
In a rare festival feat, one of the best performances of the day occurred during one of the hardest slots. Houston, Texas export, Hyro Da Hero or Hyron Fenton, blasted onto the stage at 12:30p.m., the mid-day sun beating down on his brow and he never faltered. Fenton gave his rhymes a vicious bite with a heady, inventive combo of rock à la Rage Against the Machine, dirty south rap, and old school punk rock.
Fenton eased the crowd by pointing out the audience must be saying “that’s one crazy black muthaf**ka out there” and then, with a grin, instructed them to turn to the person next to them and say “f*** you.”
With middle fingers in the air and his DGAF mentality, Fenton was able to make a hundred sweaty faces turn into a mini mosh pit of people happily turning their angry energy into a big screw you to the world.
Operating on a whole different plane, black-clad Beware of Darkness were a moody affair, churning out muddy psychedelic-blues rock akin to Led Zeppelin and literate lyrics that made them more poetic than pitiless. For some, looking to bust some heads, that sent them off on search of beer.
Those who stuck around got to witness a band go from zero to sixty through the power of their well-written music and the sense of humor of their frontman Kyle Nicolaides. After playing a few chords and announcing, “that is our set. Now I go into the part where I read French poetry for twenty minutes,” technical issues sent Beware of Darkness down a path where they were consistently trying to redeem themselves. Instead of just giving up, the band plowed through, bluesing out with a rare indian summer breeze sliding past.
The audience stood by enjoying regardless, recognizing the talent of the boys without the perfect sound and when Nicolaides started grinding and pummeling his guitar on the floor, people ran over totally captivated. ”This is going to be an exciting show because none of my sh*t works,” joked Nicolaides. “I hope none of your shirt works so we can all be in this together.”
Bonus points go out to the boys for standing up for their sound guy.
We’d heard good things about Stone Temple Pilots’ tour mates, Crash Kings, especially the innovative keyboard/whammy bar combination that frontman Tony Beliveau employs. Also, Beliveau’s voice is just gorgeous, mixing classic rock grittiness and that Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin emotionalism with something dark, theatrical, and even Cabaret-ish.
With Crash Kings’ sultry tunes and attentive female fans, their cult following could turn into mainstream success any day now.
Escape the Fate loves to party and it showed when lead singer Craig Mabbitt asked the audience, “Show of hands; how many people have had a beer? How many people have had two beers? How many people have had four beers?”
When the audience admitted to their intoxication, Mabbitt called himself an “alcoholic” and them the “perfect crowd.” The band then lead the audience into a frenzy with a high-energy set of songs like “10 Miles Wide,” “The Flood,” “This War is Ours,” and a new song called “Live Fast, Die Beautiful.”
If you’re a Hollywood Undead fan, you know why you love them. The masked mad men are provocateurs and they don’t care what anyone thinks. No matter what seemingly offensive thing came out of their mouths during their show at Epicenter yesterday, Hollywood Undead are entertainers, drawing in crowds with their loud, raucous musical style as much as with their expletive-strewn statements against their haters to “eat sh*t and die.”
Eventually peeling off their masks, the group drew the largest daytime crowd, playing songs like “Tendencies,” “Been To Hell,” and “City.”
“It’s good to be home. You guys aren’t drunk yet, are you? OK, I take that back. I’m sorry.” Lead singer of Dead Sara, Emily Armstrong, soon learned that the fun at Epicenter 2012 had started hours ago and the party feeling was infectious. Armstrong, wearing skinny jeans and a navy blue t-shirt, but she swung her mic and shrieked like a veteran rockstar.
Dead Sara is a tough-rocking band, but Armstrong has a beautiful, multifaceted voice, channeling Janis Joplin, Stevie Nicks, and a little bit of country twang, while also sounding like she could belt out some opera while she was at it with her sublime vibrato.
The Los Angeles-based band looked totally comfortable on stage playing songs like “I Said You Were Lucky,” “We Are What You Say,” and the amazing “Weatherman.”
Alternative metal band Chevelle gets the award for coolest stage prop of the night–a giant black bull. Perched on a gold stand and surrounded by their gold musical gear, the bull was representative of Chevelle’s latest album, Hats Off To The Bull, but also was a good visual indication of what their music sounded like: refined, but massive. Driving, but graceful. Chevelle is metal for the more discerning musical palate.
The band emphasized this with spoken word interludes between songs, violin sounds brining them onto stage with fanfare, and their polished stage presence. The also blew out some eardrums–the good way–with songs like “Sleep Apnea,” “Pinata,” “The Meddler,” “I Get It,” and “The Red.”
One of the bands that created the biggest audience buzz was Scars on Broadway, the side project of System of a Down’s Daron Malakian and John Dolmayan. People in the audience who weren’t familiar with Scars were telling their friends, “they sound nothing like System,” which was true to an extent in that Scars is more straight-forward, but there are definitely System sounding moments like Malakian’s warbled choruses and the socio-political content of some of the lyrics.
Playing songs like “World Long Gone,” “Sickening Wars,” and “Dictator,” the biggest hit of the night for Scars on Broadway was their naughty song “Chemicals.”
“We’re going to get a little vulgar with you Epicenter,” said Malakian. “Are you read my for us to get a little vulgar?” Indeed, they got vulgar, but they should have seen the audience up close. That was definitely some kind of babymaking song.
Bush played all the hits and they played them well. “Glycerine” made the girls gurgle, some even jumped through the aisles to get closer to the stage to touch Gavin Rossdale. “Everything Zen” made the whole audience start chanting in unison. “Machinehead,” the song they started off their set with, nearly caused a riot.
Then there was Rossdale’s stripping throughout the performance.
Going from a combat jacket and pony tail and ending up in a gun-flaunting silver-bedazzled muscle tank and his hair wild and free, Rossdale is the epitome of a rock star. Bush could have just stuck to that, setting the stage to a char and readying it for the mind-crushing melodies of the Deftones, but Rossdale had to one-up just about every other rock star we’ve seen perform.
Rossdale jumped off stage into the pit, but instead of just leaving his foray into the crowd at that, the singer ran up the aisle through the orchestra into the loge, throughout different sections of the loge, up near the grass and around the whole perimeter of the giant amphitheater while still singing in full control of his breath.
A few songs later, Rossdale made it back on stage effortlessly and covered in blood. “Blood and rock shows go together,” said the humble-sounding rock star without a tick and with a nod to the people up top that looked out for him.”But at least it’s my blood.”
Dudes loves the Deftones. While girls were ready to get naked for Rossdale, the California-born Deftones were making normally stoic bros in the audience yell out things like, “Yo, Chino. My man.” Whatever Chino Moreno has, the common man identifies with it. Maybe it’s because the friendly-looking lead singer looks totally cool and approachable.
Even when scorching the air with Deftones songs, Moreno seems completely relaxed. His entreaty of “oh, sh*t. What’s up?” seemed casual and relaxed–like he’s just some friend hanging out playing video games with you. Instead, he’s singing songs like “Rocket Skates,” “Diamond Eyes,” and “Digital Bath.”
And according to a hardcore Deftones fan right next to me, their performance of “Leathers” was the first time that’s ever been performed live. A perfect way for fans to get “faded and x-rated,” as Moreno said.
Grunge girl fantasies came true last night as Scott Weiland took the stage looking healthy gaunt and donning some psychedelic floral wonder blouse and a black vest. Stone Temple Pilots tried to play some bluesy oscurities or riff a little, but the crowd wanted their hits like “Vaseline,” “Meat Plow,” “Big Empty,” “Between the Lines,” “Plush,” “Big Bang Baby,” and ”Interstate Love Song,” which Weiland explained grew to be at the now closed Cole Rehearsal studios in Hollywood.
In fact, we would have loved to just hear Weiland tell his life stories. Our personal favorite? How he said he saw the Smiths at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater when he was in college.
“It changed my life. For better or for worse,” joked Weiland. “Like a marriage.” And sort of like Stone Temple Pilots. We’re really glad they could kiss and rock out.
–Nadia Noir, KROQ Los Angeles