I think I have missed two Acoustic Christmas shows since 2000. It was a good line up in 2000 with some band called Coldplay making their U.S. debut and an upcoming band called At The Drive-In. The second night had another upcoming band called Linkin Park. Seven years later, Linkin Park is the headliner and always answers the call from KROQ. The line up this year wasn't spectacular compared to 2005 but I really wanted to see Bad Religion and Rise Against.
I missed all of Paramore when they opened the KROQ L.A. Invasion. I missed 85% of their set at Acoustic Christmas due to parking and traffic. I managed to catch "Misery Business" which had all the teenage girls in the audience screaming along. I found out some interesting facts at their website. I was astounded to see that lead singer Hayley Williams lists Failure as an influence. Will they move on to space emo punk?
Angels & Airwaves
Angels and Airwaves were next. Tom Delonge (Guitars/Vocals) didn't mince his words at last year's show. Tom was still just as chatty this year at the expense of at least a song or two. Tom was still using his custom Gibson Hollowbody signature model and even using a capo for a few songs. Since Tom has a bigger message these days, his sound is bigger with added keyboards and backing tracks. I do enjoy the keyboards in their songs and wasn't surprised to find out Roger Manning Jr. from Jellyfish did the keyboards on their new album. Adam Willard (Drums) was killing it on drums and used to drum in the underrated Rocket From The Crypt. Angels and Airwaves played "The Adventure", "Everything's Magic", "Secret Crowds" and "Valkerie Missile".
Serj Tankian looked revitalized when he appeared onstage. I remember my brother calling me when I was in college saying how he saw some amazing metal band called System of A Down open for Machinehead at the Showcase theatre in Corona. I would later see System of A Down numerous times at the Whisky, Roxy, and Troubadour before they became super huge. I became disinterested with each successive album and it seemed like the band members felt the same way. Serj was wearing a white top hat and looked excited to be onstage performing his some material of his new album "Elect The Dead". I was even more surprised to see Larry Lalonde (Guitars) who used to play in Possessed and Primus. A lot of instrumentation was utilized in Serj's performance with notable instruments being a Korg Kaoss pad and a Moog Little Phatty keyboard. I really don't know what to make of the performance. The crowd seemed to enjoy it but I still listen to "War?" and think what if System had continued with that type of energy. The performance had elements of the theatrical, part showtime and Gogol Bordello sprinkled with a dash of metal. Some of the songs Serj played were "Empty Walls", "Elect The Dead", "Praise The Lord and Pass The Ammunition" and "The Unthinking Majority".
I am still kicking myself for missing the Rise Against show at the Long Beach Arena with Lagwagon and Strung Out. Rise Against really impressed me with their set at the Weenie Roast. I was not let down as Rise Against brought their "A" game to the masses. Tim Mcllrath (Vocals/Guitars) has a great voice for punk and really belts out the songs. Zach Blair (Guitars) had a slick Gibson Les Paul Goldtop to accompany his Gallows t-shirt. On a side note, the Gallows cd is one of the more refreshing punk albums I have heard in a long time echoing the anger of the first Minor Threat release. The pit was actually moving for Rise Against which provoked Tim to say that it was similar to the Chain Reaction in Anaheim. Rise Against played a very well received set with the standout songs being "State Of The Union", "Give It All" and "Ready To Fall".
Avenged Sevenfold stormed the stage with their brand of metal core. I know very few things about Avenged Sevenfold. I know they are from Huntington Beach as I have seen them in town from time to time. Zachy Vengeance(Guitars) and Synyster Gates (Guitars) have custom Schecter guitars as I see their ads in Guitar World and saw them here at NAMM. I saw that one of them was using a Bogner amp head. In terms of guitar playing, both Zachy and Synyster were very proficient and did some cool unison solos that would make Iron Maiden proud.
Bad Religion has been one of the most consistent punk bands for decades and are true living legends. My first interview in the college days was with Brian Baker(Guitars) during the Grey Race Tour. Did you know that Brian was going to join R.E.M. as a touring guitarist just before Bad Religion called? Greg Graffin (Vocals) was his usual gesticulating self as they burst into "American Jesus". Jay Bentley (Bass) got into the Christmas spirit with a Santa cap and beard. They went back to the old school with a blazing rendition of "We're Only Gonna Die" from their first release. Bad Religion played so fast that they went through their setlist too quick and had to pick some more songs on the fly. Jay changed the lyrics of "21st Century Digital Boy" from "No No No" to "Ho Ho Ho". Greg Hetson (Guitars) was doing the pogo on his side of the stage and had more energy then most of the earlier performers who are half his age. I am looking forward to their two shows at the House of Blues Anaheim in 2008. Some of the stand out songs from their set included "Let Them Eat War" with Tim from Rise Against, "Stranger Than Fiction", "The New Dark Ages" and the perpetual KROQ single "Infected".
Linkin Park may not be your cup of tea but they sure put on a entertaining live show. I did like their first two albums but have yet to fully get into their latest offering "Minutes To Midnight". Joseph Hahn (DJ) had a ridiculous 8 M-Audio Trigger Fingers off to his side. I think he used them once or twice for the whole show. Linkin Park did a good job entertaining the crowd and would mix old songs with new ones to maintain a high energy level throughout the night. The highlight of their set was when Mike Shinoda (Vocals/Keyboards/Guitars) and Chester Bennington (Vocals) did a piano version of "My December" which prompted the audience to pull out their lighters and cell phones. Some of the songs they played included "Numb", "One Step Closer", "Crawling" and "Papercut".