One thing became very clear to me the other night at the KROQ Christmas party – I am not from Southern California. I may have been born here, but spending most of my life in Toronto, I did not grow up with KROQ as my ‘new music’ station. Rather, to me it’s ‘just’ a station that I have on my dial next to FLOYD-ONE-O-ZEPPELIN, aka KLOS, the classic rock station, next to NPR, next to K-Earth 101 (oldies) etc, etc.
But to my friend Claire who invited me the the KROQ Christmas party at the Gibson Amphitheater, KROQ is that station that she grew up with, that’s been championing Southern California bands for twenty years. What seems like just another corporate rock station to me, in her eyes is a nostalgia-inducing entity to which she will always be loyal, no matter how much 311 they might play. I have to say, I’ve never seen this side of Claire, and it was fucking adorable. Also, she got the full-on backstage fancy tickets which meant we had somewhere to go lounge and drink when 311 were actually playing.
That’s where I was lucky enough to see THIS little gem:
Claire’s main attraction was BUSH, whom I know as the English band that’s been around for a long time with the singer with the ponytail married to Gwen Stefani. I was astonished to hear hit after hit from these guys, and less astonished to hear from Claire later that Gavin Rossdale is best friends with a famous tennis player. With his pumped muscles and ponytail, he kinda looks like a tennis pro himself. Anyway, I sang along to Glycerine, which I had previously always attributed to Stone Temple Pilots.
Though I was enjoying BUSH, I took this opportunity to head to the bar and get us some drinks and go pee. There was a huge line for the bathroom already, even in the backstage ‘special people’ area, but I was fortunate enough to be standing right behind Miss Double D-cember, as crowned by Kevin and Bean, the morning zoo mooks on KROQ. I didn’t know this of course, until this 20-nothing guy comes staggering out of the men’s bathroom and stops in front of Joanna (she’s my pal now) to slobber all over her. The things that came out of this kid’s mouth were so awesome and ridiculous I was like a blogger in a candystore.
“Oh my god! You’re Miss Double D-cember! I love you! I mean, I was so excited that you won. You’re awesome. You are just totally awesome.”
This guy was a regular Cyrano. I wondered if her breasts were going to answer. They didn’t, but not for lack of focused attention. She herself was a gracious 26 year old down to earth gal, as I discovered later – see picture further down.
I fought my way through the crowd only to get bumped by a guy who broke one of my plastic drink cups. I had to go all the way back to the bar, so by the time I got back to Claire and our excellent concert seats, there wasn’t much left of BUSH, but we rocked out together.
Then Sublime With Rome hit the stage. I’m not sure if Sublime does anything Without Rome and are therefore sometimes just Sublime, or whether this is always their name, but either way they were so terrible I thought we had somehow teleported into a boy-band concert. No need to waste more words on the collegiate nightmare that was anything but sublime. Awful Anywhere might be a good name for them. The urge to bolt was upon me, but I looked to Claire for my cue. I didn’t know how far her KROQ allegiance would extend, and I never want to tell someone what music to like.
“These guys have no presence,” she said. Yay Claire! Back to the bar! This time Claire needed to use the bathroom, so I was left alone to watch the crowd in the middle of the elite ‘special people’ area. I suddenly caught a whiff of pot smoke and it smelled so fantastic that I began to look around to see who was smoking. I had this vague idea that I would ask for a toke. After about three different wafts, I finally turned around to the guy standing right behind me and looked. No, it was just a cigarette. But then he put it out with his fingers immediately after taking a drag. Busted!
“It’s you!” He looked around conspiratorially and handed me the ‘cigarette’ proceeding to tell me how this was the strongest Orange County homegrown ever and that my friend would need to carry me home if I smoked too much. He was one of those die-hard Orange Country white guys with slicked back hair and Cholo clothes, probably late 40’s. His friend was also very nice, and looked resigned to be the designated driver to his chronic friend. Anyway I took a toke and then put out the heater with my finger, as he had done.
“Oww! You made that look so easy!”
We made some small talk about Southern California bands and it was clear that this guy also grew up with KROQ and was fiercely loyal to Social Distortion, who were coming up next, but whom he didn’t seem to be making a move to actually watch. Claire returned at that moment and we headed back to the concert, thanking buddy for his hospitality.
Everyone I know has seen Social D a million times – even my friends in Toronto – but somehow I always missed their shows, and then living in Los Angeles it’s just a given that you’ve seen them so many times that it’s not a priority for anyone. So you can imagine that I was very excited to rectify this situation.
Big concert venues can suck the life out of good rock bands, but not this one. They offered up one poetic anthem after another, with guts and glory and singalong awesomeness. It all made sense to me in that short set, buzzed as I was on wine and pot. Social Distortion are like my Teenage Head – bands you can be fiercely loyal to because they don’t let you down no matter how old they get. They remind you what real rock and roll means. They’ve got stories, they’ve got soul.
“He seems so tortured, doesn’t he?” Claire sizing up Mike Ness.
“You think it’s the prison tattoo?”
They finished their set and the rotating stage turned once again to reveal a band I always thought was one of those post-punk-wanna-be-Green-Day bands, 311. In fact, they are kind of a reggae band or something. The chubby singer guy immediately started singing a song about ‘smoking two joints’ before and after everything he does. It was laughable. But the kids seemed to know the words. The only thing that made me respect them was the brutally low and loud bass sound that was giving me heart palpitations. Back to the bar!
Claire and I wandered over to this presentation area where we were informed that Mike Ness was going to be interviewed in about two minutes. The very tanned, very blonde woman in front of us said that we had stumbled into the right place at the right time, but followed that up by saying that she met Mike Ness once and he was an asshole. Here he is, Southern California icon and occasional asshole, Mike Ness, signing something.
I have to point out that the radio personality on the right was an absolutely fantastic interviewer. She was so well-informed, and handled the chaos of the live event so well. And, I might add, bringing back crimped hair.
By the time we were finished waiting in the next long bar line, we were ready to go back in for the final band, Blink 182, who I realized I had mixed up with 311. You can see why, right? Numbers, people. Anyway, I got my Ramones derivative post-post-post punk rock for the evening, which is what I think of when I think of KROQ. The most amazing thing about this band, besides the drummer, was the reaction from the audience. It was like suddenly 1,500 more people showed up just for their set. Claire was the one that pointed it out.
“Look how packed it is suddenly,” she said.
I already knew this band was all about the drummer, but when you see them live, it’s REALLY all about the drummer. You have the one front man making milquetoast banter and vanilla comments, while the other guy is trying to make a schtick out of being horny. I guess it was like a Gene Simmons kind of thing? I don’t know, but it wasn’t working for me. I was shocked when a girl threw her bra on stage. Really?
It’s not that I didn’t enjoy their set – you can watch the drummer for days – he’s like Coady from Big Business. But the whole set made me feel very old. As my friend Matt would say, it was meta-meta-meta, hearing all the watered-down influences coming together in a 21st century punk-pop band. Sigh. I liked the super hardcore songs because it made me happy that this style had actually broke mainstream, but ultimately the lyrics had no substance and the songs just aren’t good enough. But fuck you can’t argue with how popular they are!! They certainly don’t need me.
It was the end of the show. This time Claire and I were both behind Miss Double D-cember and this time we started talking, the icebreaker being the girl who was barfing her guts out in one of the three stalls. Refer to picture above.
“So, what are your interests?'” Yes, readers, I asked Miss Double D-cember what her interests were.
“Oh, you know this was just a crazy thing – I’m not interested in modeling or anything. My friend entered my picture – I never thought I’d win,” she said, pointing to said friend, who confirmed the story.
“Seriously, we couldn’t believe it when she got into the top ten. It was surreal.”
“But you know, I’d love to become a school teacher. I love working with kids and having an influence that way, but I’m not sure about the money. I don’t understand why teachers don’t get paid more money.”
“But we have endless money for wars.” Guess who said that.
“Right? I know, it’s so screwed up.”
Oh, Joanna, you are so RIGHT. And I just need to take your picture with your Miss Double D sash squished under your black motorcycle jacket here at the end of the night.
Thank you Claire, for enlightening evening – and a very KROQ Christmas!