Avicii, Capital Cities, Fitz and the Tantrums, Beck and more show the new blend of dance and alternative at Weenie Roast
Given Los Angeles radio station KROQ’s lofty status in the broadcasting pantheon, its annual summertime kick-off show, the Weenie Roast, is usually a pretty strong barometer of the current state of alternative music.
This year’s day-long affair, which started at 1 p.m. on the side stage with Cherub and ended almost 10 hours later with headliner Avicii, the first-ever EDM act to close out the concert, was no different. Sandwiched in between the two was a laundry list of current hit-making acts, from Phantogram, Bastille and Fitz and the Tantrums, to the Neighbourhood and Foster the People, as well as Beck in the requisite icon slot.
And what this year’s array of talent showed is how much alternative is being swayed by the dance music scene.
Opener Cherub was the first of many acts on the day to infuse their energetic hook-laden sounds with dance beats, with the smash “Doses and Mimosas” being an obvious crowd-favorite. But the infectious, if adolescent-minded “xoxo,” with its refrain of “Fuck that bitch,” was equally well received.
Also going over well on the side stages, set up in a parking lot of the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine, Calif., were Bleachers, the current side project from Fun.’s Jack Antonoff, and American Authors, whose Zac Barnett told Billboard following its set how the show was special to him because of childhood memories he had of growing up part time in Los Angeles.
“It’s pretty cool because I split my time between California and Minnesota growing up, so I used to grow up listening to KROQ and I grew up coming out to Weenie Roast actually, so it’s very cool to be here today,” Barnett said.
Phantogram wrapped up the side stage with a set anchored by the gorgeous “Fall In Love,” a song that may not make crowds shake their collective asses, but anyone familiar with the trip-hop boom of the mid-’90s is very aware how the lush female vocals over an atmospheric melody fits right in with the dance music scene.
The dance boon continued over on the main stage with Capital Cities, one of the most successful acts of the last year to blend alternative hooks and dance beats. The band, whose “Safe and Sound” has been a ubiquitous presence on alternative, top 40 for the last year and is not slowing down, has its own dance, the Capital Cities shuffle, that it blends into every show.
Despite playing in the afternoon sun, Capital Cities got fans up and moving to songs like “Kangaroo Court,” as well as jumping and singing the refrain to the ridiculously upbeat and fun “I Sold My Bed, But Not My Stereo.”
Fitz and the Tantrums had an equally successful set, with songs like “Money Grabber, “Fool’s Gold” and “The Walker” proving to be crowd favorites.
As day turned into night, Bastille, the Neighbourhood, who mixed radio hits like “Sweater Weather” and “Afraid” with new “shit,” and Fall Out Boy, which got the crowd going with older hits like “Sugar (We’re Goin Down),” “Dance, Dance” and the closing “Light ‘Em Up,” set things up for the night’s biggest acts, starting with Foster the People.
The group, who were joined at one point by Capital Cities’ Spencer Ludwig on trumpet, jumped right into the hits with “Pumped Up Kicks” coming in the second slot. Of the new stuff “Best Friends” and “Coming Of Age” were the predictable favorites, providing the perfect soundtrack for the kaleidoscope visuals that accompanied the act’s 45-minute set.
As one of the first artists to mix beats and alternative songs, the man with “two turntables and a microphone,” Beck, was a perfect choice (with Depeche Mode not touring right now) to fill the nostalgic portion of the night. Opening with “Loser,” he delivered a masterful set that was both fun and funny. Beck dedicated “E Pro” to actor Will Ferrell, because he used to be an usher there, covered “Billie Jean,” got the sold-out throng going with “Where It’s At” and just generally showed why he is a consummate professional.
It’s a tough act for anyone to follow, especially a relative newcomer like Swedish DJ Avicii, but with so much of the crowd there to see him, as evidenced from the moment he came out with “Hey Brother,” he had no difficulty winning over the young audience.
Dancing as he worked the board, which could be seen against the backdrop of steady strobes and movie-esque visuals, Avicii turned Weenie Roast into a giant rave. It was something that a lot of purists railed against when the lineup was announced, but Avicii has crossed over to alternative radio with both “Hey Brother” and “Wake Me Up,” and say whatever you want about change, but the vast majority of the more than 15,000 or so stayed throughout his whole set and danced while waving their glow sticks proudly.