Moby, Young the Giant and a Former Co-Owner Say Goodbye to Irvine Meadows
"Nothing looks like Irvine."
In what is sadly becoming a tradition in Southern California, another legendary venue is saying goodbye. Following the Universal Ampitheater, House Of Blues Sunset Strip and the L.A. Sports Arena, Irvine Meadows will hold its final concerts this weekend, as Gwen Stefani and Young The Giant send the venue off in style before it is razed and turned into apartments.
Since opening in 1981, Irvine Meadows has been a major part of the Southern California music scene, hosting a mix of rock, pop, country and urban stars. Among the countless acts that have graced the Irvine stage are Michael Jackson, the Smiths, Grateful Dead, Elton John, Ozzy Osbourne, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Queen, Frank Sinatra, Fleetwood Mac, Joni Mitchell, the Kinks, Stevie Nicks, Tina Turner, Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry together, Robin Williams and on and on. It’s also been the home of KROQ's Weenie Roast since 1993.
Before another piece of SoCal music is paved for a parking lot, as the great Joni Mitchell sang, Billboard spoke with both artists and industry veterans about their favorite memories from Irvine.
I ended up playing there so many times. I think I’ve done three or four KROQ things and then the one Area2. The last two times I played there was Area2 and a KROQ Weenie Roast, and I remember the Weenie Roast because it was really when modern rock had moved into the rock part, it had moved into Puddle Of Mudd, Disturbed, Papa Roach and Limp Bizkit. I was the only thing on the bill that was not metal. I felt like I was backstage at like a 38 Special concert in ’78 or something. It just felt so macho and Republican and weird. I had one of those weird Radiohead moments where I’m like: “What the hell am I doing here?”
Brian Murphy, President, West Coast, AEG Live:
Irvine was the coolest place in the world. Nothing looks like Irvine -- everything was a slope, Irvine was straight up in the air. When you walked on stage all you saw was people in your face because it was such a steep angle. It was not a cookie-cutter, it was an original design at the beginning and, honestly, my fondest memories were being at Irvine. We had a great family at Avalon Attractions and it was the same with Irvine. I booked Irvine until I left Live Nation. One of the main reasons Live Nation bought Avalon was because we had Irvine Meadows.
M Shadows, Avenged Sevenfold:
We didn’t get to play there much, we played there one time, during Uproar in like 2009 or 2010, and it was an amazing show. I grew up going there. One of my first Warped tours was there, seeing Bad Religion and NOFX there. I’ve seen Sublime countless times there and Slayer there, so Irvine Meadows, to me, was the ultimate venue. It was right down the street from my house, it’s a beautiful venue. I guess the most memorable experience would be watching Bad Religion play, I think it was Bad Religion, Rancid, Guttermouth, NOFX all playing the Warped tour when I was a young kid. And I remember there was so much dust, so we all had bandanas around our faces and I remember just coughing up dust for a week. That always stuck with me because it’s when I fell in love with punk rock. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I want to play in a band and I want to do this and be in the mosh pit.
Adrian Young, No Doubt:
In ’96 we did one of these KROQ Weenie Roasts, and Red Hot Chili Peppers played that night, we played as well, a lot of good bands, and Kiss played, I believe, for their first gig back in full makeup. That might not be accurate, that’s what I was told that night. Kind of epic.
Kevin Weatherly, svp Programing, CBS Radio:
It’s been a great venue for Weenie Roast through the years. We have a huge audience in Orange County, holds 15,000 people and it’s been the perfect setting. In terms of favorite memories, there are so many. One certainly has to be Rage Against The Machine back in ’94, ’95, they hit the stage and there was so much energy and so much passion in the audience. Another one was when Kiss performed and they set off fireworks and the top of Irvine Meadows caught on fire. Another one was when Shaquille O’Neal helicoptered in to Weenie Roast to introduce one of the bands. Some of the unannounced guests through the years, from Foo Fighters to Green Day to Incubus always give it an extra little something people talk about after the fact. So we’ve had nothing but great memories at Irvine.
Young The Giant:
Jacob Tilley -- My first concert was Peter Gabriel there. He came out in a hamster ball.
Eric Cannata -- Tom Petty was my second show ever, with my dad and my brother. It was the first time I smelt the smell of pot.
Sammer Gadhia -- Our first time playing Irvine Meadows was for KROQ Weenie Roast in 2011. That venue always provided the spectre of something greater beyond your doorstep, that opened the gate to the rest of the music world. It was a huge contrast to the local shows we were playing at the time. Being there just made getting out and breaking farther than the local scene slightly more realistic of a goal and it set the standard and ushered in lots of bands that really enriched the scene. I honestly was too broke to ever get any tickets, and my parents didn't get the whole going-to-a-concert thing at the time. I always loved how they would randomly choose people from the lawn to send to the pit. It kind of made it a real experience for the true broke fans, gave us something to brag about. Irvine Meadows was the crown jewel of Irvine's musical relevance.
Michael Jackson in 1988 (first show at Irvine). I grew up in Lake Forest, which is the neighboring town and a couple of minutes away so my parents took us to concerts there all the time. Then in my eighth grade we graduated eighth grade from the stage there and then in high school my graduating class graduated across the stage there also. It’s my home venue, it’s a travesty what’s happening. My kids won’t be able to see the history of where I took them to shows. I took my daughter to Irvine so at least I could say, “Hey, this is where mommy listened to her first concerts.” [But] to have snuck into almost every show as a music lover in my teens and to work in the music industry and to represent two of the biggest powerhouses [Blink and Aoki] and see them on stage together was so amazing, and almost full circle for what that venue meant to me. That was the perfect way to close the venue for me.