KROQ's annual Weenie Roast bash typically reflects the core tenets of the radio station's musical ethos: The '90s were alternative rock's Gilded Age, skate punk moonlights as pop music and L.A. produces one good local band every year.
But this year's event, held Saturday at Irvine's Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, showed a surprising bit of daring from the station's tastemakers, who let the toothsome dance hall punks Rancid carry the headlining slot. No Wave weirdos Yeah Yeah Yeahs delivered a strong turn, and several young L.A. bands made the case that our local indie scene still snowballs into the nation's mainstream rock.
Excepting Weezer's always-welcome volley of power-pop, the titans of the '90s were nowhere in sight.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs are probably the strangest band to earn prime Weenie Roast real estate, though they do have one genuine smash hit ("Maps") and probably another in the synth-driven single "Zero." The trio's fractured art-pop translated unexpectedly well to KROQ's beer-and-board sport crowd.
Jimmy Eat World's workmanlike emo was a more traditional fit, as the Arizona quartet has a serious fix for anthemic guitar-pop sugar. Singles like "The Middle" and "Sweetness" made strangers hoist Coors Lights to the heavens, but the band satiated its loyal MakeoutClub.com-era fans with deep cuts from its 1999 album, "Clarity."
Kings of Leon had a similar hugeness to its choruses, and even inescapable goofy love-god tunes like "Sex on Fire" and "Use Somebody" seemed refreshed by night breezes and a few thousand lighters in the air.
The grotty punk quartet Rancid has a long-anticipated new album coming out soon, but the band largely stuck to its considerable catalog of steel-toed hits like "Bloodclot" and "Roots Radicals." The band has only gained vitality with new drummer Branden Steineckert and its live set was like watching a gang of rowdy old sailors pulling into port -- singing gang-chant odes to their own longevity and spirit and maybe leaving a black eye or two in their wake.
The Airborne Toxic Event and Silversun Pickups illustrated different paths to fame (and whatever counts for fortune in today's music industry) for L.A. bands. Airborne, a new Island Def Jam acquisition, got there from its bleary Brit-rock earnestness. Silversun Pickups kicked around Silver Lake for years before striking gold with one of its oldest singles, the raspy crowd favorite "Lazy Eye." Each act was in good form at Weenie Roast, especially the Pickups, whose gauzy guitar thrash easily hit the cheap seats.
Weezer's early evening set was the one nod to the KROQ formula and while recent albums have indulged front man Rivers Cuomo's yearning to be a genuine codpiece-rock god, the band's brisk performance pleasantly reinforced why they get to play stadiums. "Say It Ain't So" and "The Good Life" still sound like nothing else on the radio.
This year's Weenie Roast, which closed out with TRV$DJ-AM offering up grindable exit music for the crowd, suggested that mainstream rock fans have broader tastes than KROQ sometimes gives them credit for. But it also proved that, sometimes, a dip in the status quo can be rather fulfilling.
-- August Brown
Photos: Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (top) and (bottom, from left to right) Lars Frederiksen, Branden Steineckert, and Tim Armstrong of Rancid peforming at KROQ’s Weenie Roast at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Irvine. Christine Cotter / Los Angeles Times