Blink-182, Bush, 311 Bring it Back to 1999 at KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas: Concert Review

Jeff Kravitz /
Alternative rock's most influential radio station goes for full-on nostalgia mode.

A concert featuring hitmakers Bush, Sublime, Social Distortion, 311, and Blink 182 sounds like a dream bill -- for 1999. But that was the topline on night one of this year's KROQ Acoustic Christmas, held at its regular home Gibson Amphitheater at Universal. A stark contrast to the 22-year-old fest's usual standard of lining up talent that's representative of the cutting edge of rock, it was also a somewhat depressing reminder of the aging demographic that actually still listens to rock music, with many in the audience downing large amounts of nostalgia along with their Bud Lights.

The outlook's not enitrely cynical: many of these bands have major current hits and could handily sell out a show of their own at a similarly sized (or bigger) venue, an arbiter of strength that gave the show a once-in-a-lifetime (or, at least, every couple decades) feel. For what it's worth, the second night's lineup, scheduled for this evening, skews far more current, with major artists like The Black Keys and Florence and the Machine playing alongside retro-faves Jane's Addiction, signaling that all is not lost for those who choose a guitar over a turntable or drum machine.

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Still, by far the biggest thrills of this first night came in the form of singalongs to songs that are old enough to drive. “Glycerine,” Bush's 1994 hit, found still-youthful-looking frontman Gavin Rossdale soaked to the bone with water and sweat (mostly culled from a marathon crowd-run a few songs earlier), leading the audience in a crescendo that erupted when he was joined by the rest of his band for a few headbanging bars at the song's climax. “Smoke Two Joints,” Sublime With Rome's opening ska-rocker, was accompanied by the sound of hundreds of lighters getting to work, just as it would have been had the band been arena-sized when they recorded it, in 1992 (the band was a last-minute replacement for Incubus, who backed out due to a member's illness). And headliner Blink-182 bounced through near-oldies like “Rock Show,” “What's My Age Again,” and “Dammit (Growing Up)” as well as recent hits like the smarter-than-you'd-think “Up All Night,” pogoing and making sex jokes that keep them perpetually in their early '20s, despite forehead-wrinkles that would suggest otherwise.

A few of the bands worked at least a bit of holiday cheer into their sets: Blink played not just one but two Christmas-themed songs (“Happy Holidays, You Bastard” and the written-for-KROQ rarity “I Won't Be Home For Christmas”), and workhorse punk stalwarts Social Distortion claimed they were going to break into a Christmas jam, before covering “Ring of Fire” to close their set. But major points are due to openers New Found Glory, the only band to embrace the “acoustic” part of “Acoustic Christmas,” via a fine singalong of “Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire.”

Elsewhere on the bill, the chuff-rock of Chevelle and 311's approachable reggae rock came off as somewhat pose-y, despite each band's energetic push to prove otherwise. The only newcomers on the bill, Irvine's Young The Giant, brought indie-rock to the caravan, but outside of their two hits, “Cough Syrup” and “My Body,” the band’s intricate arrangements and vocals were enitirely lost on an audience antsy for the youngsters to finish up so that they could get busy reliving their own youth.

Photo by Jeff Kravitz,

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