Monday, September 17, 2012

Returning Weenie Roast rocks rain away

Rain threatened to mire 106.5 WEND The End’s returning End of Summer Weenie Roast Sunday, but the fine spray of sprinkles subsided just as Anberlin was leaving the stage around 2:30 making way for a pleasant, thankfully comfortably cool, stylistically diverse day. After side stage sets from Vess and Drop D, Foxy Shazam greeted concert goers at the gate with its charmingly over-the-top set, which was one of the best of the day.

Foxy is enormously fun to watch with its Queen-like grandeur, but they aren’t beyond theatrical stunts. The animated Sky White, for instance, removes his keyboard from its stand at one point in the show and plays it atop fans outstretched arms (pictured above). Frontman Eric Sean Nally ended the show by requesting “a bunch of cigarettes,” stuffing at least six in his mouth, lighting them, then eating them before letting the drummer use his head as a cymbal stand.

You get the sense that Foxy tries to outdo every other band on the bill no matter who it’s paired with.

The sound was actually strongest on the side stage earlier in the day. The main stage was a bit muffled for Our Lady Peace (pictured above), but that didn’t stop fans from singing along with the Canadian rock band. An early staple of WEND, Our Lady Peace continued the `90s rock resurgence kicked off by Eve 6’s set earlier with hits like 1998’s “Clumsy” and 1995’s “Starseed.” The group’s string of alternative rock hits, including the crowd favorite “Somewhere Out There,” extends well into the 2000s as well.

Though also from Toronto, hard rock act Evans Blue represented the flipside both sonically and chronologically with their biggest hits striking the rock chart in 2011 and 2012. It drew an ample crowd to the side stage for a testosterone-fueled set of Tool and post-hardcore-tinged modern rock. But neither Canadian group matched the excitement of Christian rock’s biggest crossover artist Switchfoot, whose set of hits like “Meant to Live” and “Mess of Me” escalated with a rousing cover of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage.” What better way to get non-fans on their feet? 

Frontman Jon Foreman charged all the way to the front of the lawn and performed the next song from the audience where he teetered on the metal barrier that divided the pit from the seats (pictured above).
Hometown breakout Paper Tongues closed the side stage filling the fenced parking lot area. Although the mix was uneven, the band charged through its eclectic set with heart-on-sleeve enthusiasm. Having already made it outside of Charlotte, Paper Tongues always plays like it’s proving itself and though musically a pop-rock unit at its core the group hits on everything from reggae to gospel-like backing vocals to a Latin-tinged beat to a Chuck Berry solo. It somehow all works together. Maybe it was due to the sound issue, but its set seemed less polished, more raw and visceral than on record. That may be an indication of where the  now independent act is heading.

The stylistic mood shifted again as the heaviest band of the day, Coheed and Cambria, took the mainstage with its high concept, theatrical brand of math-metal. Frontman Claudio Sanchez is a revelation with his six string shredding, soaring vocals, and massive hair (which he unleashed the same time as the white double neck he ended the set with - pictured above). 

Although Coheed’s grand, complicated arrangements translated well on the big stage as with any festival you have pockets of intense appreciation next to faces of bored indifference. Such was the case for both C&C and Flogging Molly, whose enthusiastic fans made up for the seat dwellers. Flogging Molly actually ignited the best crowd of the day with the Irish-American folk-punk ensemble leading many in fist-pumping anthems and dances that bridged straight edge, skanking, and Irish jigs. One fan dressed as Luigi from Super Mario Bros. led what almost looked like a kickline of revelers in the pit.

The sound was often pummeling though with banjo, mandolin, fiddle and more traditional rock instruments blending on stage. It was hard to hear the nuances of individual instruments and the sound was even muddier from the lawn. 

Band leader Dave King dedicated one song to the families of those that died at the American Embassy in Libya this week and thanked soldiers serving in the military. Its raucous set exuded unabashed patriotism. It’s somehow fitting that an immigrant from Ireland whose band has literally climbed from a Warped Tour stage smaller than my living room to selling out venues like The Fillmore can inspire such chants of freedom.

Garbage, who disbanded for seven years in 2005 and hadn’t played Charlotte for over five years before that, made a welcome return. I never saw Garbage in Charlotte, but the mid `90s concert I witnessed at Virginia Tech remains on my short list of shows I’d travel back in time to. 

Led by the apparently ageless Shirley Manson, who at 46 looks better than many thirty year olds I know, Garbage delivered a set of mostly hits like “Blood for Poppies,” “Stupid Girl,” and “I Think I’m Paranoid.” There were a few surprises though. The early B-side “#1 Crush” (which actually went to #1 when it was included on the “Romeo & Juliet” soundtrack) was a pleasant inclusion while “Cherry Lips” and the minor single “Push It” also made the cut.

Though she struggled with her in-ear monitor, fiddling with her belt pack through much of the set, Manson never let it alter the quality of her vocals or her pacing, posing, prancing, bendy performance.

Although some in the crowd pondered the placement of the Offspring as headliner, the Southern California group has technically had twice the number of alternative rock charting singles as Garbage. For anyone only sticking around for its arguably biggest - “Come Out and Play” - Dexter Holland and company delivered it as the second song in its set. Those hungry for Offspring’s other biggies would wait until the end where “Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)” and “Self-Esteem” helped close the resurrected Weenie down though some concertgoers had already vacated their seats. 

Empty seats were visible through the day, an issue WEND’s Jack Daniels addressed while introducing Flogging Molly: “If you see an empty seat next to you - or 12…” He asked those in attendance to bring friends next year signaling that this might not be the final Weenie. 

Here’s hoping the station decides to do it again. Given the overall quality of acts and the weather (compared to sweltering July Warped Tours), the festival made for a fun Sunday.