Monday, June 15, 2009

BFD Takes Over the Shoreline Amphitheatre, CA: 6/6/09

The season for radio station-sponsored summer music festivals is upon us, and San Francisco's modern rock station Live 105 held its annual BFD concert last Saturday. From what I've seen this year and last, BFD differs from other summer festivals I've frequented in that the tickets are relatively inexpensive, but the headliners also aren't "A listers." Of the acts appearing, I was looking forward to seeing Glasvegas; Metric; DJ Steve Aoki; DJ AM; The Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs; 311 and The Offspring.

Last year I had a fantastic time at this concert, but it just wasn't as enjoyable this time around. For some reason, Live 105 decided not to release the set times for each band ahead of time this year. They also had a ridiculously small number of security people handling bag searches at the ticketing entrance, which led to a long, slow line to get into the venue. Thanks to that combo, I ended up listening to Glasvegas from the parking lot as I was waiting in line.

The bad news is that, since Glasvegas' lead singer fell ill at Coachella and the band cancelled that appearance, I'm now 0-2 for when it comes to trying to see them live. The good news is that Glasvegas sounded excellent during their set and I'm more determined than ever to enjoy them in concert as soon as possible.

Once I got inside the venue, I made a beeline to the Subsonic Tent since Steve Aoki had just started spinning. Aoki's set was good -- he's an energetic DJ who knows how to engage the audience while playing song after song that keeps you dancing. This year's crowd though, had a set of folks who were all about the moshing which made being near the stage a less-than-pleasant experience.

[bxA]After the aggravation of missing Glasvegas and not enjoying Steve Aoki's set as much as I'd expected, I'll admit that my mood wasn't very good so I couldn't fully appreciate Metric's set. Emily Haines knows how to use her distinctive voice and work the stage, so the Metric fans in the audience had a great time.

The next band to take the stage helped turn my mood around considerably though. I didn't know anything about Rebelution before BFD, so I was understandably skeptical when I heard "band from Santa Barbara" and "reggae" in the same sentence. Less than half a song into their set and my skepticism was gone. Rebelution's sound is clean, simple reggae made unique by an unmistakable California vibe. Of all the bands I saw at BFD, Rebelution was the one that got me to buy their albums on iTunes after I got home.

Next up was the first of the BFD headlining acts -- The Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs. Karen O and her bandmates sounded excellent and also put on a good show. Their guitar-driven rock is a perfect fit for summer rock concerts and had the crowd on its feet through The Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs' entire set. As odd as this might sound, the biggest negative was Karen O's nightmare of an outfit, which was so heinous that it actually distracted me from the strength of her live performance.

I passed up seeing 311 in favor of DJ AM's set, since I'd seen him twice before and knew that his set was guaranteed to be good. Even in a short, hour-long set, AM spins the perfect mix of current hits, dance club favorites, hip-hop, rock and Top 40. He also deftly hypes up the crowd, knowing that most are there specifically because he's DJing and not just to dance, but keeps the emphasis on the music. While he put on a good light show, the stage and his booth were never spotlighted for more than a few moments. There was still some moshing and crowd surfing during AM's set, but in general the packed crowd was busy dancing and enjoying the tunes.

The night closed out with a fun flashback courtesy of The Offspring. Belting out current singles "Hammerhead" and "You're Gonna Go Far, Kid" from Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace, Dexter, Noodles and company showed that they still know how to rock after 25 years in the business. The only audible sign of those passing years is in Dexter's distinctive voice. While he never had a wide vocal range, during certain songs you can definitely hear that the lead singer can't quite hit some of the higher notes anymore. Luckily, those moments are minimal and don't take away from the dynamic stage show.

All of those years as a band mean that The Offpsring have no problem filling a headlining set with hit after hit that kept the crowd on their feet from the front row to the back of the lawn. Along with the band, Offspring fans belted out the lyrics to "Come Out and Play" and "Self Esteem" from Smash, and "Pretty Fly (for a White Guy," "Why Don't You Get a Job" and "The Kids Aren't Alright" from Americana. The energetic set and encore was a great way to end the night and let BFD close on a high note.

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