Epicenter 2011 – Irvine, CA

Concert review by JD Alvarez

It was September 25th, 2011 and time for the annual migration of hard core music enthusiast to the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine, California. Epicenter is entitled Southern California’s Rock Festival and in only its third year, it is becoming a music and cultural phenomenon.

Unlike the last two years, the weather was overcast and cool. However, as the day went on, the sun made its way out and the flesh-o-rama show began. Amidst the vendors, great food, teeny-weenie-bikinis and the tattoo spectacle, there was a great music festival taking place. In addition to the stellar Alt Rock, Metalcore and Nu-metal bands, Epicenter featured the return of Limp Bizkit in their first SoCal show in a decade.

Other featured acts included Drive A, Crossfade, Red, Asking Alexandria, Middle Class Rut, P.O.D., Everlast, Redlight King, Five Finger Death Punch, Skillet, Puddle of Mudd, Buckcherry, Staind and Papa Roach. The draw for many concertgoers was checking out bands they were not as familiar with as they would like to be. Bands like Five Finger Death Punch who have a huge following in the Midwest and East Coast, but for whatever reason, they’re not a household name in Southern California. The truth is, if you’re in SoCal and under the genre of rock, alternative or anything under that umbrella, you need to be heard on KROQ or 91X. If not, it’s going to be a tough road to be front page news in LA. Shows like Epicenter are essential for some of these bands to get some well-deserved exposure.

Inasmuch as I wanted to check out all the bands, it really wasn’t possible with two stages and 15 bands workin’ it. The Promoters did a great job in providing a full plate of entertainment. So I had to limit the shows I took in to give the bands I checked out the attention they deserved.

The first band was Asking Alexandria. I caught the English lads at this years Vans Warped Tour while they were still the buzz over their Jimmy Kimmel Live (JKL) appearance. Admittedly, I am not a huge fan of Metalcore, but these guys are something special. As the show was getting ready to begin, I was remembering how much I feared for my life at the Warped Tour. That’s because I remember seeing bodies fly over the photo-well barriers like rag dolls. As I was daydreaming, the music started and I was standing right in front of the speakers. I had just enough time to put in my earplugs to save my ear drums only to go into cardiac arrest because the music was so damn loud. Their sound is distinctive and bone crushing. Just before the show, I asked Danny Worsnop (lead singer) what makes their fans so insane. His response was that they are passionate about their music and they bring it. Their fans feed off that. He went on to say “if you’re not there to hear loud music, you shouldn’t be there.” The fans got what they came for, they played tunes from their albums Stand Up And Scream and their most recent Reckless & Relentless. For whatever reason, the crowd wasn’t as looney tunes as they were at the Warped Tour, but crazy enough. The crowd was fired up and they formed a mosh-pit that impressed.  The band was as animated as I my memory served me. Guitarists Ben Bruce, Cameron Liddell and bassist Sam Bettley bounced off the stage to the delight of the crowd. Drummer James Cassells kept a steady beat while Danny lead the crowd into a frenzy. I was even more impressed with the band after a second go around. What also stood out, despite their rock star persona, I found it very normal and touching that Danny had his dog Luci along for the tour. It was quite a site to see how kind the lads are towards that little guy. Expect big things from Asking Alexandria.

Band number two I came to check out was Sacramento-based Middle Class Rut. This was another band I caught at the Warped Tour; and again, I needed a second dose to size them up. MCR is coming off a year that has Zack Lopez and Sean Stockham at the top of the alternative charts with their hits New Low and Busy Bein’ Born. These guys are hard working and humble, traits that will suit them well in the years to come.

A second look drew the same results, these cats took no prisoners at Epicenter. What amazes me from this duo is how loud these two dudes can get. Sean puts everything into his drumming and is a virtual Gumby as animated as he is on the drums. Zack puts everything into his vocals and guitar, the sound is simply amazing. Appearing at the Warped Tour and festivals like Epicenter will deifnitely create a buzz that these two guys deserve. I look for big things in 2012′ and years to come from MCR.

Band three on the parade was the San Diego-based quartet known as Payable On Death, or simply P.O.D. These guys have had so much going on with label change and the current topsy turvy climate in the music industry. Yet somehow P.O.D. has stayed true to themselves, and their values. They take pride in their influenced sound of reggae, hip-hop, Latin rhythms and Alternative Rock. It’s a virtual cornicopia of food for the soul.

The first thing you ask yourself when you see P.O.D. is how do good Christian boys fair at events like Epicenter? In order to get insight I asked this question to the band directly. Their answer was a simple one, “We’re all believers, but we also believe in being a good band, not just a good Christian Band.” That being said, P.O.D. killed it with songs like Boom, Roots In Stereo, Youth Of A Nation and Alive. Sporting a hat that simply read “Sons of God,” lead singer Sonny Sandoval found his way into the crowd as soon as the set started. The crowd safely delivered him back to the stage, but the frenzy P.O.D. created was very un-christian-like. That’s ok, I think that’s what they aimed for!

Band Four on my hit list were the boys from Kansas City Missouri, Puddle Of Mudd. The connection to Limp was evident, Durst signed them to Flawless Records more than a decade ago and they were more than happy to share the  stage with those cats again. Although the two bands don’t have the same vocal dynamic, they share in the same musical style and their fan base is a microcosm of that. Wes Scantlin (lead singer) still has that raspy post grunge sound that fans have grown to love. Wes quickly got into a groove and brought the crowd to their feet. The crowd screamed out to songs like Blurry, Control, and crowd favorite and cult-like classic She Hates Me. The boys brought it to Epicenter and electrified the crowd.

Number five was Los Angeles natives Buckcherry. The older fans seemed to appreciated lead singer Josh Todd immensely. These guys have been around since 95′ and have played just about everywhere in LA, so the die-hards knew it and expressed their admiration. Todd’s onstage antics rival that of two other iconic rockers, Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland and Lollapalooza founder and Jane’s frontman Perry Farrell. The fans took it in and lost their minds when he went into Crazy Bitch. A song I told Josh before the show speaks to everyone, we all know someone like that, he smiled when I said that. Amazing how Josh has the ability to make the entire crowd scream with a simple look, and smile.

Number six, the most anticipated show I heard everyone talking about when I was walking around the venue was the nu-metal phenonminon Five Finger Death Punch. This LA-based band is an enigma in my opinion. They are from Los Angeles, but their fan base is rabid in the Midwest and East Coast. Most likely due to the genre that is not as well represented in Southern California as it is in other parts of the country. These guys bring a sound that brings a smile to the faces of heavy metal lifers. The crowd cheered to songs like Hard to See, No One Gets Left Behind, and Bad Company. Frontman Ivan Moody definitely knows how to work a crowd. Over the years I have witnessed legends like Dave Wakeling from the English Beat save plenty of fans from being kicked out of shows. Moody is along those lines of frontmen. During their set, he literally stopped mid-song to come to the aid of a fan who was getting kicked out of the show. He threatened to quit if the fan wasn’t allowed to stay. Needdless to say, the fan was allowed to stay. Acts like that, will endear Five Finger Death Punch to the hearts and souls of fans in Southern California, and everywhere else USA.

Band number 7 was none other than Papa Roach. From the beginning of the set, lead singer Jacoby Shaddox was mezmarizing. He literally hurled himself into the crowd and like the pide piper, his loyal subjects carried him like the tide. He was carried inward towards the center of the crowd, and finally back to the stage. Jacoby had the crowd amped, but that didn’t stop him from putting the petal to the metal (no pun intended). They played songs from their most recent album Time For Annihilation, some of the songs featured were Burn, One Track Mind, Kick In The Teeth, Dirty Little Girls, Scars, Lifeline and Hollywood Whore. The show was electric and set the stage for the return of Limp.

 Staind followed, but unfortunately, I was sidetracked and missed their performance. However, I caught some of it backstage on the monitor. What I did see, and heard from others is that Aaron Lewis brought it as well.

Band number 8, Limp Bizkit was the featured attraction and they were the band everybody wanted to see. Fred Durst, Wes Borland, Sam Rivers, John Otto and House of Pain’s DJ Lethal took the stage to the deafening sound of the capacity crowd. It was like a Depeche Mode show, people were just so damn happy to see them.

Limp opened with My Generation (their version, not The Who cover). Limp sounded fresh and energized, and the light show gave it that epic feel. Durst sounded great, for those who have seen him before, he seemed to have a different demeanor then in years past. He was still his old defiant self, but it was evident Fred has grown up. His performance was special that night.

At one point he went into the crowd, and as he was surrounded by his fans, the moment was like staring at a Da Vinci portrait. Durst reached out to a fan, and the fan reached out as well and they clasped hands. For those who were close enough, we witnessed a sincere and heartfelt moment. It was evident that as happy as the crowd was to see Fred, he was just as happy to be seen. He went into his cover of The Who’s, Behind Blue Eyes, his delivery was simply  inspiring.

The band segwayed into songs that brought the crowd to near riot level with My Way, Break Stuff, Nookie and Faith. Borland is one of the best guitarist in the business, and that night he reminded us that he is still a monster! Wes wore his traditional outrages outfit. This time he sported what looked like a sand-person ala Star Wars. He wore two masks that would have made fellow creepster Rob Zombie smirk. Limp ended the show with Rollin’, and the crowd ate it up. It was the end of a great day in Irvine.

Epicenter turned out to be one of those shows that lived up to all the hype. It will be interesting to see how the Promoters top this show.

Click here for TNN’s photos from the show!

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