Stone Temple Pilots capped K-Rockathon’s annual modern-rock blowout
Scott Weiland, lead singer of Stone Temple Pilots, appealed to the philosophically minded among the 20,000 fans in attendance at the 2011 K-Rockathon with a question he raised at the conclusion of the day’s raucous, crowd-surfing festivities. “Do you still believe in rock’n’roll? Take that question— and answer—home with you tonight!” Weiland exclaimed to wild adoration from the crowd.
Indeed, for the throngs of sweaty, muddy, scantily clad teens in attendance at the New York State Fairgrounds on July 30, the popular event (this was the 16th edition of the long-running, annually held concert) offered a variety of assertions on the current state of rock’n’roll, hinting that some of the best elements of the 1990s rock culture are still functioning well enough to encourage young women to expose sundry elements of their bodies in public.
The marathon session provided a panacea of up-and-coming rockers, including locals Silent Fury, The Click Clack Boom, Jetstream, Rose Hill Drive, Bayside, My Darkest Days, The Airborne Toxic Event, Sick Puppies and Hollywood Undead were among those who warmed up the crowd and shared their modern-rock vibes with the early comers to the rock fest.
This year’s party proper consisted of some serious big boys, including Dropkick Murphys, Bush, Seether and, to the credit of the Galaxy Communications organizers, Stone Temple Pilots, one of the last modern-rock outfits who could rightly be stylistically linked to the good ol’ four-piece megaband days of Led Zeppelin. Galaxy Communications is the parent company that owns and operates WKRL-FM 100.9 (K-Rock), the station from which the K- Rockathon takes its name.
Dropkick Murphys, the 14-year-old Irish punkers from Massachusetts, played tunes from their newest album Going Out in Style (Born & Bred), as well as some of their crowd-pleasing hits. Overall, the seven-piece tour de force brought their Emerald Island kitsch as well as their rock’n’roll game face, which clearly pleased fans. Although the appeal of Dropkick is arguably niche, it’s worth noting that an admirable section of the crowd cleared out after its performance, a circumstantial indication that at least some K-Rock fans came for the Celtic-rock vibes alone.
Straight from the “Where are they now?” file, Bush followed, having come to peddle their latest spinner, The Sea of Memories (Zuma Rock). Apparently, sometime late in the last decade, frontman Gavin Rossdale got in touch with his old buddies, including guitarist Nigel Pulsford, bassist Dave Parsons and drummer Robin Goodridge, about getting the band back together again, perhaps because few of their individual solo efforts added up to much. They released their first studio album in about 10 years in 2011, and have been on tour since.
The new material was somewhat predictable—no major surprises, for Bush anyway—and was punctuated by annual modern-rock blowout the new “All My Life,” a relatively stock modern rocker. But Rossdale had clearly gotten the memo that all those former 16-year-old girls who had hung posters of him in their childhood bedrooms were in attendance. Cue “Glycerine” and “Come Down”; enter the shrill screams of adoring females; and you’ve got the scene. Yet an unlikely and lovely punch
through The Beatles “Come Together,” during which Rossdale played a competent John Lennon and Parsons a kick-ass Paul McCartney, provided an extra kick to the otherwise standard set list.
Modern rockers Seether then took to the stage, properly setting the 1990s context of headliner STP’s heyday with their heavily Nirvana-influenced take on grunge. Even lead vocalist Shaun Morgan channeled the spirit of Kurt Cobain, complete with flannel shirt and mopish locks that hid his tortured, introverted soul.
“Fine Again,” among the handful of early 2000s hits that garnered the band its fandom, sounded at least as good as it did the last 7,000 times the song has played on K-Rock. Perhaps the largerthan-life-size Hartke and Mesa Boogie speaker cabinets on stage for Morgan and bassist Dale Stewart amplified the experience as well as the sound, but the band’s droning, whiny melodies were neither improved upon nor detracted from.
On the other hand, Seether presented themselves as surprisingly fetching, especially during several acoustic numbers when Stewart put down his mighty ax in exchange for an acoustic guitar, then plucked some independently lovely accompaniment to Morgan’s nasal vocalizations.
Seether departed from their usual gritty style with a fairly vanilla, but nonetheless fun rendition of Cobain’s “Heart Shaped Box.” “Country Song,” the recent single that is clearly a reflection of a kinky tryst with the country genre rather than anything lasting, featured further instrumental flourishes. It was among the tunes that led to Seether’s finale, with performances of “Rise Above This” and “Fake It.”
An ear-pleasing medley of Rolling Stones classics then served as house music during a seemingly endless delay before Stone Temple Pilots entered the strobing stream of stage lights that enveloped the classic 1990s buzz band during their roughly hour-long set. Perhaps STP chose themselves to indicate to fans that they should be framed in terms of 1970s rock rather than the “modern rock” pigeonhole largely perpetuated by K-Rock during the past decade.
An obliterating-face-punch entrée to STP’s set came in the form of “Down,” among the hardest songs in the band’s stylistically wide-ranging catalog. Classy bassist Robert DeLeo delivered a leisuresuit-clad power performance right out of the gate, while his fraternal guitarist Dean DeLeo took somewhat more of a backstage position throughout the concert, perhaps not at the top of his game.
Drummer Eric Kretz, while still not in the same tier of drummers as Dave Grohl, hasn’t missed a beat since the band formed in the early 1990s San Diego scene, and continued his rock-steady work.
Weiland, however, has undoubtedly changed.
Perhaps to the shock of fans who haven’t seen him in the past half-dozen years, gone were his chainsmoking, drug-referencing, curse-wordin’ bits of stage banter, while a much more subdued Weiland stood in his alter ego’s place. Sure, his between-song commentary seemed drawled and labored, but you could tell from watching him perform that it seemed like the guy has gotten his act together.
Weiland has recently released a memoir, Not Dead and Not For Sale, which chronicles the lessons that the man, whose name can never be mentioned in a sentence that doesn’t include the word “drugs,” has supposedly learned from his endless battle with substance abuse. Almost seeming to musically move at a palpable speed for Weiland, the band played classic necessities like “Vasoline” and “Big Empty” at a noticeably slower, more deliberate tempo. It was as if the DeLeo brothers, to whom much of STP’s songwriting credit belongs, were saying to Weiland, “One day at a time!” Weiland was also much more appreciative of the crowd in attendance. He lectured the naughty dudes in the crowd who were copping feels off the female crowd surfers, while also appealing to thrill-seekers during a genuinely dangerous climb up the stage’s scaffolding.
A short presentation of new tunes from the band’s newly released eponymous album (Atlantic, the band’s long-running label, has kept them on despite STP’s checkered past) included the single “Between the Lines,” which is sort of a reflection on the times when Weiland “used to take drugs,” and “Hickory Dichotomy,” a song that rightly fell flat on the audience.
Rome, N.Y., resident Tim Hall, 24, also got the thrill of his lifetime after Weiland asked which member of the first row of the crowd knew every lyric to “Dead and Bloated,” the opening track to the band’s breakthrough album, Core (Atlantic). Weiland handed off his trademark megaphone to Hall with a brief teachable moment on its usage. Hall let out an impressive and crowd-pleasing rendition, which Robert DeLeo showered with great praise at the end of the tune. (Offstage, Hall commented to this reporter, “I cannot believe I just got to sing with the band I idolized since I was 8!”) Such breathless teenage thrill capped STP’s performance and characterized the ever-intrepid K-Rockathon fans who seemed well prepared from the day’s cavalcade of performances to answer the question Weiland had asked his fans. As for whether or not they still believed in rock’n’roll, the K-Rockathon’s fans answered with an emphatic “Yes!”