X-Fest 2012, Cricket Wireless Amp

Concert Review by JD Alvarez

It’s been 29 years in the making, and we still can’t get enough of 91X and their X-Fest. The 2012 incarnation at the Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre proved to be no different than other successful events for the Southern California Alternative Rock icon.

This years line up had a nice mix of newer bands and some more established names that concert goers relished over. This years show gave us Walk The Moon, Of Monsters and Men, Grouplove, Eve 6, Rebelution. The Über  acts included Tyler Glenn with his Neon Trees, San Diego’s own P.O.D. and not to mention Tom Delonge with Angels & Airwaves. From across the pond we had Shirley Manson with her Midwest sound of Garbage and from Los Angeles, Perry Farrell and Dave Navarro; they’re in that little band we know as Jane’s Addiction.

91X did a great job including a fans paradise with autograph booths and a live broadcast. The broadcast included  interviews with all the bands. Many fan favorite joqs were also at the show. Some of the joqs included Steve West, Robin Roth, Mike Halloran, Kalie, OZ, and new Program Director Christy Taylor. In a classy move, 91X had their DJ’s come up before each set with a fan that won a contest and let these fans introduce the acts.

As for the fans, they were multi-generational and sported some very cool tats and piercings. The ladies found the opportunity to show off those itty bitty tiny bikinis. A good number of the concertgoers weren’t even born when 91X had its inaugural X-Fest in 1983. It’s hard to believe, but that event was held at the Murph (now Qualcomm). That show featured bands like Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers,  The Stray Cats and Bow Wow Wow. What a journey it’s been, a fact that was not lost on DJ Steve West as he mentioned some of this in one of his onstage appearances.

As for the show, first up was Walk The Moon. The kids from Cincinnati had a number of fans waiting to hear their sound. Before the show even started, several of their female fans wore their shirts, hats and even painted their faces. They had no problem letting everyone know who they were there to see. Nicholas Petricca and Kevin Ray sounded great, the kids from Ohio did not disappoint. Especially when they belted out their big hit Anna Sun.

Bringing the show a truly authentic international feel was the Icelandic sextet Of Monsters and Men. They gave a very upbeat performance. Lead singers Nanna and Raggi provided great vocal ranges and displayed an impressive talent as musicians. They received a great ovation from the crowd when they belted out their hit Little Talks. This was another very solid performance and great start to the show.

Next up was industry darlings Grouplove. Hannah Hooper is simply infectious with her smile and charismatic personality. The crowd enjoyed her onstage dancing and other artistic talents along with co-lead singer Christian Zucconi. Together they put out a dynamic sound that was truly appreciated by the crowd. When they went into their mega-hit Tongue Tied, the Cricket paid them attention with a great ovation.

Next up was Eve6, the reunited trio from the San Fernando Valley featured the reunited sounds of Max Collins and Jon Siebels. They came out to a crowd that welcomed them with open arms. They sounded sharp, dynamic and loud! Just what the crowd wanted. The kids in the pit screamed when they played some of their mainstay tunes like Inside Out and Here’s to the Night. Eve6 definately brought the energy at the Cricket to a higher level, making way for the next few bands.

Next up was the reggae sounds of Rebelution. Like reggae superstars Pepper, Rebelution went to school and had their formative moments in Santa Barbara. They brought that sweet sounding island sound to the Cricket. Vocalist Eric Rachmany has a dynamic sound that is perfect for this genre. The crowd gave them the largest ovation when they performed their hit Sky Is The Limit.

So far, so good… it was starting to get a little later in the day. The sun was starting to lower just a bit. However, the energy was just about to rise. Taking the stage next was Utah’s own Neon Trees. Hailing from San Diego, lead singer Tyler Glenn is one of the most dynamic and opinionated artists to come out of SoCal in recent memory. Glenn was sporting his trademark skintight outfit with a spiked up Billy Idol looking hairdo (with blonde locks and all). Glenn connected with the crowd as he told story after story of how he was an outcast in high school, and how he defied conventional wisdom. He got a loud cheer from the entire amphitheatre as he encouraged fans to be themselves. He really got an enthusiastic ovation when he told the crowd   “what we need these days is more doctors and teachers and less reality show whores!”  That being said, I’ve covered Neon Trees a few times now, each time their performance gets better and better. They have a dynamic and super cool looking  female drummer (Elaine Bradley), just like from the film Some Kind Of Wonderful. The band looked and sounded great.  Glenn improves each time he takes the stage as an artist and showman. The crowd lost their minds when they played their hits Everybody Talks, 1983 and Animal.

The stage was set for what was rumored to be a ruckus performance, that rumor became reality when P.O.D. took the stage. P.O.D. is an acronym for Payable On Death and they are categorized as a Christian metal band. Suffice to say they have come a long way since they were known as Eschatos. What strikes me most about P.O.D. is what said in an interview at the Epicenter Festival last summer. Lead singer Sonny Sandoval said they are a Christian, but they also want to be known for playing good music. Sandoval opened with an inspired and animated performance of Boom! The crowd went into a frenzy,  not long into their performance, the first nosh pits of the day erupted. What is now his trademark move, Sandoval jump the photographers well and went into the crowd to shake hands while singing to the crowd. The connection Sandoval has as well as the emotion he brings is inspiring. Sandoval elaborated that they had new material, the first in 5 years. They sprinkled new tunes throughout their performance. Midway through their  set, Sandoval stopped mid song as a fan went down in the mosh-pit. He made sure that they gave security room and praised Jesus when the fan turned out to be ok. That’s the feeling you get from P.O.D., these guys care about fans, their music… and life. The mindset translates into their performance, and the fans dig it. The biggest reaction came from their staple hits Alive and Youth of the Nation.

Next up was hometown favorite Tom Delonge and the boys known as Angels and Airwaves. Best known for his work with Blink 182, Delonge has steadily built a following with a strings of hits with AVA. Delonge brings a unique sound that has developed into an unmistakable alternative cornerstone. Along with the sound, Delonge has formed a group of gifted musicians. These guys come from bands like Nine Inch Nails, 30 Seconds to Mars and Box Car Racer.  The performance was high energy, only downside was that the sun was not completely set yet and their jaw dropping light show was not in full affect. They sounded great and the fans sang along to songs like The Adventure and their mega-hit Surrender.

The day was slowly coming toward its end, next up was the Scottish band by way of Wisconsin, Garbage! This band is lead by a dynamic lead singer in Shirley Manson. The heartbeat is lead by Producer/Drummer extraordinaire Butch Vig. Manson gave the crowd exactly what they wanted, a stunning vocal performance entwined with an artistic show that would have made Peter Murphy smile. Shirley did not disappoint with a very emotionally charged performance of #1Crush. The fans were treated with songs off the new album including current radio hit Blood For Poppies as well as other older tunes like I Think I’m Paranoid, Stupid Girl and Only Happy When It Rains.

The sun had finally set on an absolutely great day of music. It was hard to believe that the show was almost over, but 91X had one more gun to fire. The last act was up, this featured Über showman Perry Farrell and “Rock Star Poster Child” Dave Navarro. The scene was definitely set for a performance by alternative rock legends Jane’s Addiction. These guys looked great and sounded even better. They belted out the tunes the crowd came to hear. The crowd erupted with cheers over Mountain Song. Navarro sounded as good as ever while Farrells’ vocals were as strong as I’ve seen in a while. The crowd lost its proverbial mind over songs like Just Because, Stop!, Been Caught Stealing and Irresistible Force. In short, Jane’s brought down the house! This was a great night for music fans, and it was an even better night to be a fan of 91X!

It is said that the difference between being good at something and being great at it is the effort. The effort these bands made; along with 91X and promoter Live Nation made this a great event! Judging by the reactions we heard from fans as they exited the Cricket, the can’t wait for the next big 91X event. In other words, they can’t wait too hear Jingle Bells over the San Diego airwaves.

Click a bands name above for TNN’s photos from the show!

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