Thursday, August 22, 2013

CONCERT REVIEW: Hoobastank - Fuel - Alien Ant Farm - Local H

(Photos: Janelle Wilson)
w/ Fuel - Hoobastank
Alien Ant Farm - Local H
Vinoy Park / St. Petersburg, FL (8.18.13)

On paper, the event
seemed enticing.
But, in execution, 
the recent day-long, 
outdoor, multi-band, 
tour de force could 
and should have 
been billed as...
The Big WET 
Night Out Tour.

In my estimation, there's ONLY ONE truly great band to emerge onto the intergalactic rock scene in the last 15 years — a crunchy little combo called Hoobastank. Case in point — their 2009 record,  For(n)ever. In fact, I challenge anyone to compare any classic record to this one in a side-by-side taste test — Abbey RoadSticky FingersCat Scratch Fever — it doesn't matter, For(n)ever will pummel them ALL!

I've seen Hoobastank in concert a few times over the years, and even live, they're mightier than any  iHeartRadio Music Festival headliner. Hence, I was psyched to discover that they were returning to Florida this summer as part of the much-hyped Big Night Out Tour.

In short order, I rallied the troops — a perfect posse to join me in making the near three-hour pilgrimage from Florida's central east coast to the west. Organizing this expedition proved to be a bit of a challenge — who's  in, who's out, who's got tickets, what's show time, when are we leaving, will my beanie match my nail polish, etc. But I love it when a plan finally comes together, and  by 1PM on Sunday, we were en route — the seven of us — John and Janelle, Jesse and Brandi, Wag and Lisa, and me — the token "old guy," all piled into John's minivan — For(n)ever crankin'!

Rollin' with my crew on our "big night out."
We experienced intermittent showers  along the way — Florida in August. But at least it all would be blown over by the time we arrived in St. Pete — right?

The skies had cleared as we approached the gate at Vinoy Park. In fact, it had become an intense scorcher, with temperatures soaring into the 90s. Now that the rain had stopped, the next hurdle was to secure my press credentials from Will Call, as an Alien Ant Farm  rep was setting me up with the ol' ticket / photo pass combo. However, one of my greatest journalistic fears soon became a reality as I learned that I'd been burned — my name wasn't on "the list." Fortunately, the young gal manning the VIP clipboard recognized me as  the "Show Biz Guru" and immediately granted my access. Sweet — now let's rock!

Alien Ant Farm's Dryden Mitchell 
and Mike Cosgrove.
The scene was an old-fashioned hoo-ha — sun baking, music blasting, pot smoking, beer swilling — all of the standard rock and roll foolishness that I'm delighted to have long since left behind. Gee, we're about to roast alive out here — a little cloud cover would be nice. (Careful what you wish for.)

After providing their own soundcheck, Local H kicked off the festivities around 4:30. Keeping it "real" for the people, the unkempt-looking duo consisting of frontman / guitarist Scott Lucas and drummer Brian St. Clair, offered fans a healthy dose of "F"-bombs and "GDs" — a spirited set featuring material old and new, including their obligatory '90s hit, "Bound for the Floor." 30 minutes in, the Local H set came to a rather noisy conclusion.

Alien Ant Farm's Terry Corso.
Possessing the attitude and edge of delinquent teens just released from high school detention, California's punk / pop poster boys, Alien Ant Farm, stormed the stage at approximately 5:30 — just in time for one of the concert's promoters to approach my crew and escort us personally from "the cheap seats" to the front row. FYI boys, there's great value in always hanging out with hot chicks!

Rebounding from an early set audio tailspin, the quirky quartet quickly proceeded to steal the show. Engaging the crowd of 2,000+ with his rather dubious tales of alcohol-related issues, "kitty cats" and "bubblegum," frontman Dryden Mitchell proved to be a compelling and effective storyteller throughout the band's rib-cracking, 30-minute set. Yet despite AAF's unified sonic supremacy, the real ace, the true superstar of the day was bassist Tye Zamora Clearly connecting with the crowd by combining a cartoon-like persona with furious, nut-busting, musical precision, Zamora became an instant super-hero to all who had eyes to see and ears to hear. Heartfelt kudos must also be extended to drummer Mike Cosgrove for having perhaps the most beautiful kit EVER — purple sparkle  DWs with hot pink trim! But just as the guys began winding up the show with their signature hit, "Smooth Criminal," I could have sworn I felt something. Was that rain?

(AAF's Tye Zamora)
Yes, and within minutes of my rock messiahs Hoobastank taking the stage, a storm of near biblical proportions rolled in across the bay. But didn't the ads read, "rain or shine?"

In short order the stage crew feverishly began covering the band's gear with sheets of plastic and sweeping waves of water off the quickly flooding stage. Despite concert promoter Fat Harry's  numerous announcements to the contrary, it was becoming clear that my boys were about to be shut down. But I wasn't going to wuss out now — I'd found my way to the front row, and with every fiber of my middle-aged body, I remained steadfast in my mission and maintained a death grip on the security barricade — freezing and soaked to the bone from the torrential downpour.

Dan Estrin, Doug Robb and 
Brett Scallions making it official:
"We'll play in the rain, but we're not playing in the lightning," I heard the fellow who I surmised was Hoobastank's tour manager inform Fat Harry and the police officers who had been dispatched to the stage. "Get ready," Fat Harry announced once and for all. "Hoobastank will be on in 15 minutes!" And at that precise moment, it began to pour harder than at any other time during the day. Crap — we're going home!

Within ten minutes, my fears were confirmed as Hoobastank's Doug "Too Fast for Love" Robb and Dan "Thunder Pants" Estrin joined Fuel's Brett Scallions on stage to announce that the show now was officially cancelled. I was disappointed, but not surprised. It was not worth people jeopardizing their safety. Heck, I'd have called it off an hour earlier! So with my soggy tail placed securely betwixt my frozen, shaky legs, my crew began to make its way back to the parking garage.

Soaked to the bone with
my BFF, Doug Robb!
Fortunately, being the token "old guy" has its perks, and I was grateful to have such wonderful female cohorts to offer me the occasional warm hug and to wipe the constantly accumulating water from my glasses throughout the day, and to guide me by the arm (Sharon and Ozzy-style) from the venue. And it was one of my loving angels who poked me in the ribs on the way out and offered the revelation of the year — "Hey, there's your boy!" And sure enough, I squinted to my right and there he was — Doug Robb, in the flesh (within spittin' distance), holding an umbrella — shaking hands and apologizing personally to fans as they departed. It was a  totally pro move — one that required class and balls. And I even said so, as I inched up next to Robb for a photo op. However, he seemed so overwhelmed by the tension of the moment that I don't think my words of encouragement were registering. Besides, who the heck am I? I'm just the token "old guy."

Me and John Wilson shopping for dry 
duds in St. Pete after getting rained 
out at "The Big Night Out Tour."
My posse couldn't have been more fully saturated if we'd jumped into a swimming pool. Hence, our first plan of action after leaving the show was to GPS the closest St. Petersburg Walmart location and buy fresh, dry clothes. And it was then and there — while perusing endless aisles of superhero boxers, pajama sets and "Life's a Beach" T-shirts that it all truly soaked in. I'd traveled 200 hundred miles to see my favorite band, only to get rained out and potentially catch an ass-kicking cold. But I got to hang out with some great friends who I love a lot. I also discovered the true awesomeness of Alien Ant Farm. PLUS I got a pic with Doug Robb AND he didn't punch me, or call me a douche, or anything! Wow — this was actually the greatest concert experience of my life!

-Christopher Long
(August 2013)

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