Epicenter 2010 was a two day music festival in lovely Fontana California, featuring bands such as Kiss, Eminem, Blink 182, Bush, Rise Against, Bad Religion, etc. Besides two whole days of main stage music there was also a smaller stage with up-and-coming acts, as well as a few old school acts such as Suicidal Tendencies and House of Pain. Like festivals of the past, there were also some cool art installations as well as lots and lots of corporate logos and expensive cheap beer and food. One of the things that I found so compelling about day one was the three punch enders Bush, Eminem and Kiss. So let’s start there…
Bush had one huge record during the nineties - Sixteen Stone – which was right in the midst of the weird merging of grunge rock with heavy metal. So it really wasn’t strange how fast it had come and gone. That being said, there are some great songs on the record such as Everything Zen, Comedown, Machine Head and of course the grunge version of a ballad: Glycerine. One of the things that I really appreciated was how lead singer Gavin Rossdale adressed the relatively full audience by saying, “Bush has a new record coming out, and you guys have no idea how hard it is not to play the new songs. But I thought it would better to play songs that you might remember and then when the record comes out maybe you’ll check it out.” Bush (unfortunate band name, no?) finished off their set with Glycerine and a lively version of Comedown which had all the 40+ year-olds singing out loud, which is cool. The overall sound was a little rough for all the bands, because the stage was basically in a huge parking lot next to a raceway. There is really nothing there to absorb the sound, so depending on where you were standing it would greatly affect how you heard the band. We decided to get back behind the mixing station for Eminem so we could hear better.
I’m sorry; that’s not true. What really happened was that after getting turned down for a photo pass by Eminem’s management, we fought our way through a motley overpacked crowd (full of youngish white dudes with shaved heads and droopy pants and girls with painted on t-shirts and tougne rings) to an area where we could breathe for a second without getting drenched in someone else’s beer sweat. Okay now I know I’m getting old, because I coulden’t help notice the somewhat scary lack of security at this festival and I was thinking, “Boy, I hope Eminem delivers the goods or this could get bad quick.” The thing about all the forms of rock and roll and hip hop is that by in large at the end of the day it belongs to youth culture, and Eminem seemed like he was the spokesperson for a generation that just now is starting to grow up. Eminem had a DJ and a band with him as well as some backround singers etc. Every other word was mutha effah, you know what I’m sayin mang? The audience loved the set and was there to sing along to backing tracks. Some of the more adventurious dudes were rapping along (complete with overused but kinda funny hand motions)
The only thing that made me laugh was when Eminem was complaning about being a lead singer in a band. Even if you’re extremely talented at writing lyrics and putting sentences that rhyme together in a rythmic and at times even melodious way, it does not make you a singer. Saying Eminem is a lead singer is like saying Green Day is a punk band. The really crazy thing is by the time Eminem came out to do his encore Lose Yourself (from his semi autobiografical film 8 Mile), he had sort of won me over. Why, you ask? Because authenticity is always what matters most to me in music and this guy is the real deal. He is very talented at what he does, he put on a very well orchestrated show, and never stopped thanking his audience for being loyal to him and to making him who he is. As I said before about youth culture, never was it more obvious than when half of the very packed crowd left before headliners Kiss even hit the stage.
We had some time before Kiss, so we walked around a little. My favorite stop was at the Take Me Home booth, where two really cool guitars as well as other stuff donated by the event holders and bands were being raffled away to help raise funds and awarness for an anti-animal abuse non profit. The organization is working hard to save as many animals as they can though foster parenting and volunteering (screw you Michael Vick). They do this out of love, so check em out.
Back to the show…
I’m a Kiss fan from way back, and I even gave their last record Sonic Boom a pretty good review. But being objective is my mission, so sadly I must report that Kiss was not in fine form that night. Right from the very first song, unlike Bush they went into new material that nobody knows. That was followed by a bitter rant from Paul Stanley about there only being four members on stage; no “dancers” with fake microphones or people pretending to sing to back up tapes, etc. (Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t they overdub guitars and vocals on all three of their “Live” albums?) The thing that really got to me was that neither Paul Stanley nor Gene Simmons (the only original remaining members) could sing well, even though they have lowered the keys of some of the songs to make them eaisier. I have seen Kiss six times over the last twenty years, and I have always enjoyed the circus aspect of what they do, although no one would ever acuse them of being amazing musicians or even really of being a great band. But when you can’t even really fake it anymore? If that performance is what they are offering now, they should finally honor their promise of 2000 and say farewell. Or how about this crazy idea: since they have no problem having people dress up as original members, they could get two young guys to pretend to be them!
When Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer aka The Catman aka The Peter Criss action figure did the dueling drum / guitar solos on rocket ship risers. That was a really cool moment, but on the same token when Gene was raised above the stage to a high platform to sing I Love it Loud I kept thinking “Wow that’s really high,” instead of not thinking and rocking out…That’s a problem, people.
Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley have always been the world’s biggest shills, but even still — the nail in the coffin for me was when Paul Stanley introduced Say Yeah (best song off Sonic Boom) by telling the audience that Sonic Boom is exclusively available at Walmart. Ouch. I will always love Kiss for who they were, but I won’t see them again live. It just hurts too much. It’s like watching an ex-heavyweight turn into a punching bag for stubmle bums. I know I’m being harsh, but when you can’t hit the high notes anymore then why keep trying? It’s not like they haven’t accomplished enough, right? To calm myself down after writing this, I listened to Destroyer and enjoyed a tall ice cold beverage in my collectable Paul Stanley Super Big Gulp cup available exclusively at all 7-11′s.
Overall, the festival went off without a hitch. Considering it was well over 100 degrees on both days, people behaved really well and most seemed to have a great time. This is the second Epicenter festival, and I for one am hoping for a third. Gatherings can be sort of a nightmare, but we need them to tell us where we are at culturally. Kiss may have played last on the bill, but make no mistake — the masses have spoken: at Epicenter 2010 night one, there was a new king crowned, and his name is Eminem… A little spooky, no?
3 (out of 5)
Logan is a Scottish rock band very much in the vein of Creed and their new record The Great Unknown is a 90′s throwback fo-sho, but I’m not sure that is a bad thing. One of the great things about this record is that it professionally produced from the ground up with up front clear powerful vocals, thundering bass, tight big drums and big time rock star guitar licks and solos. Although this band has a European following and have toured with the likes of Bon Jovi they have been off my radar until now. There seems to be a faith based lyrical thing at work here and I don’t know if it is intentional or not but I like that it is a constant theme. Speaking of thematic emphasis there are power tunes galore on this offering with most songs starting with pretty guitars before dropping in to dig drop G power chords. Al Reilly really has that stadium anthem rock lead guitar thing down especially on Jump In Again which has a d-d-d dirty arse solo! Brother Steve Reilly plays a five string bass so there is plenty of low end to go around. The drums are handled by Iain Stratton and they could be on any big rock album from the 80′s or 90′s (yes that’s a compliment!) In a refreshing twist they have a rhythm guitar player Mick Coll who also has backing vocal duties and since I have yet to see Logan live I’m not sure who does what yet. Last but not least on the vocals Mr. Kenny Collins. Kenny Collins is a very powerful singer who obviously knows what he want’s to do before he does it and although you can tell he loves Eddie Veddar (so did Scott Stapp by the way!) of Pearl Jam he puts more than enough of himself into the songs that it never becomes a distraction. The Great Unknown was produced by Keith Olsen and in a word he is “awesome”. The record is solid all the way through but as of right now my fav’s are When I Get Down, Save Me, Hallowed Ground and my pick for best track Lost And Found. The bottom line on this record is just as I applauded Pierce The Veil’s new record Selfish Machines in a previous review for being a groundbreaking journey into the wonder of pro-tools I can applaud Logan for having a clear concise vision of who they are. Even though there is really nothing new here The Great Unknown is so well preformed and presented that it is very enjoyable. Sometimes I wan’t to go to outer space and sometimes I wan’t to put on a comfortable pair of shoes and just walk around. This is a darn comfortable pair of shoes, everything in perspective my friends everything in perspective.
3.5 (out of 5)
Addicted To Pain is a perfect blending of when punk crossed over to thrash in the 80′s as well as 90′s power metal. Addicted To Pain is a power trio in the real sense in that they are three guys who make a big noise, their self titled EP out Sept 14th on Megaforce Records is I would imagine just a taste of the mayhem to come! Even though this is not my fave kind of metal I found myself sufficiently rocked and even a little pissed off (in a good way if that makes any sense) Leo Curley is a fine guitar player and an even better vocalist, he has a touch of the old gargling with broken glass thing working… and for him it works quite well. Bob Horvath is locked in so tight with the guitar that sometimes you can’t tell which is which. Overall Addicted To Pain is a very tight band and when you listen to this EP you get the feeling of three guys locked in a sweaty basement or garage pounding this music out for hours a day and that comes through gloriously for those of us who remember when bands would rehearse for ever and then basically record live. Produced, recorded and mixed by Alex Perialas with a slightly (and I suspect slickly) low fi quality that makes you feel like your in the room with the band. That are no overdubs or guitar solos on this CD that I could hear and that keeps this band sounding authentic from start to finish. The thing that really got me into this EP was both the sound and the performance of the drummer Gregory Nash, he is not only an animal but precise technician as well. Never, ever replace this drummer as he is as much a part of what is pleasing about this band as any other part. All four tracks Hear N Now, Trust Me, Abigail and Going Going Gone are great. I want more when the EP ends and at the end of the day that is what an EP is for, I look forward to hearing what comes next with these lads and if you like metal,punk,thrash or any combo of these I say check em out! (only 4$ on I-tunes!)
3.5 (out of 5)