I had the opportunity to attend the Epicenter ’09 festival in Pomona this past weekend. It was hot, a little humid and I had a serious case of SAC (sweaty ass crack), but it was well worth it. The overall set up of the venue was odd. After a parking attendant sent us the wrong was, we finally parked and took a tram to the gate, where we were barely searched. Then we had to walk past an obvious entrance to the field and they sent us half way around the horse track.
We got there just in time to see most of Street Sweeper Social Club’s set on the main stage. Tom Morello was excellent as usual and Boots Riley has great stage presence. He been a favorite of mine for a while, so it was great to finally se him on stage.
After SSSC, we worked our way back to the second stage, where Paper Tongues were performing. Never heard of them and I won’t make any effort to hear more. The singer was pretty bad and the vocals were mixed too high. The band actually sounded like they had potential, but they need to dump the singer.
Hollywood Undead took the main stage next and it was terrible. We headed to the back of the field, grabbed a bear and some food and crashed in the shade. What little I did hear of the band was pretty bad; I truly cannot fathom why bands like these have any fans.
Next up, Aesop Rock took the second stage. I’ve been a fan for a while but never had the chance to see him live. Excellent! Along with Rob Sonic and his DJ, he rocked the stage, going through several songs, including the classic No Regrets and closing with None Shall Pass. I am really looking forward to a new album from him.
Atreyu took the main stage next and much like the Hollywood Undead before them, they proceeded to pollute the airwaves.
Atmosphere took the second stage next with producer and DJ Ant (with his slicked back hair and constant cigarette he looked more like a bouncer), Nate Collis on guitar, Erick Anderson on keyboards and Mankwe Ndosi singing backup all supporting Slug.
After a few weak acts on the main stage, Wolfmother came on and blew me away. I was familiar with the band but hadn’t really listened to them, but that will change. These guys are great musicians and they really sounded great. They even played a song from they’re upcoming albums, Cosmic Egg!
Next up, Alice in Chains took the stage and sounded incredible. They ran through classics such as Them Bones, Man in the Box and Rooster, as well as several track from their new album. The new singer sounds great. Similar enough to Layne to sound great on the classic, but different enough to sound original on the new tracks. Based on these new songs, the new album, Black Gives Way to Blue, looks to be another great record in their catalog.
Linkin Park took the stage next. Personally I’m not a fan, I’ve seen them three times now, all at festivals where I wasn’t there for them, and they have never sounded very good to me. The sound is always high pitched and the vocals overshadow the music. This show was no exception. We stayed in the back and ignored them for most of the set. Right in the middle of their performance, the band left the stage and Chester’s new band, Dead By Sunrise took the stage for a few songs. I was not impressed at all. With Linkin Park, he at least has some decent music backing him up, but here, it was just your basic emo rock schlock. Linkin Park cam back afterwards and played their hits. By this time, we had worked our way up into the crowd so we could get a good spot for TOOL, unfortunately, we were surrounded by a bunch of teenage girls screaming for more
After about 30 minutes of us working slowly up into the crowd, TOOL finally took the stage. Absolutely incredible!!! TOOL are seriously the greatest band in the world and they always put on incredible shows. Maynard was suffering an injury and was on crutches most of the show, but that didn’t stop him from performing at his best. Adam, Justin and Danny all brought their A game, running through classics such as Stinkfist, Vicarious, Schism, Ænima and Roseta Stoned. The crowd was wild as well, there’s nothing quite like being surrounded by thousands of people shaking their fists, banging their heads and sing the chorus to Ænima in unison. With the bon-fire burning and the mosh pit churning, the crowd roaring, it is such a surreal and powerful moment.
A TOOL show would not be a TOOL show without the visuals. As usual, they were beautiful and disturbing, each image or visual clip accenting the music, whether it was the extraterrestrial images during Roseta Stoned or the familiar video clips form the Ænima video.
I’m sure that when other bands watch TOOL perform they must be so envious that these guys can do what they do and make it look so easy.
I did think that Linkin Park and TOOL are an odd combination. LP are a slick, commercialized marketing machine of a band. TOOL is the complete opposite. Their music is difficult, intelligent and complex. Their message is about self expression and understanding. Their stage show is complex and disturbing. So it’s a bit of a paradox that both shared the stage.
Overall, it was an excellent festival. While there where a few bands that should have stayed home, the ones that mattered were great. I thought it was odd that Street Sweeper Social Club opened the main stage. Any band with Tom Morello in it should automatically be higher up in the schedule. The merchandisers were in full force selling band shirts for $45? I think I just go to Hot Topic and get one for $20, although there were some really cool tour only shirts.
A friend took a few pics and some video, so I should post those pretty soon. Also, I working on an interview with Street Sweeper, if all goes well, it should show up in Obscene soon.