There are a few things you can learn from going to BFD, Live 105’s annual concert at Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View. Among these are that people will wait in huge lines to spin any prize wheel, it can take over an hour to go from the highway exit to a parking space, and there’s no such thing as a “bad lineup” for BFD. It will nearly always sell out, and will always have some surprises. And this year, with the “Surprise Special Guest” appearing on the bill, we knew we were in for at least one.
Every year I hear it from my friends, that “this year’s lineup isn’t as good as,” and you can insert any previous year. Sure, you can look at the BFD lineup from ten years ago, and see Foo Fighters, The White Stripes, The Chemical Brothers and The Roots, and think “man how come it can’t be like that?” One, because bands playing this festival are on the way up — the biggest bands are always going to be in the past. And two, because this festival isn’t for you. It’s for the people I talked to in a concessions line yesterday who told me they had no idea who Stone Temple Pilots are. I even hummed them some songs … nope.
So the excitement over the Stone Temple Pilots set was limited to the rumor-mongering chatter of music industry watchmen (“Is Chester leaving Linkin Park?” “Was this announced quickly, on a weekend, so that Scott Weiland couldn’t file a cease and desist?”) and a few older crowd members who sang along with every word and passed quick judgement on this team-up. People like me. And the quick judgement? They sounded better than they had in years, and Chester Bennington looked more like Scott Weiland than himself when he was singing the songs. Other people said things like “that was weird,” and others just hate Linkin Park so much, they can’t even judge it properly. (Hey, if you’re still making “I hate my daddy” jokes about Linkin Park, you’re the one who hates your daddy because they never say anything about who needs to shut up or who’s being talked to. See someone about it.)
As for the other acts on the bill, I’m going to blow through the ones I saw, capsule style!
Fitz & the Tantrums – there are two kinds of acts on this bill without guitars: DJs and Fitz & the Tantrums. Fitz wins in a landslide. Just a crazy energetic show in the late afternoon heat, sending everyone for water refills when they were done. Phew.
Wallpaper. – Oh, Wallpaper also doesn’t have guitars, so I guess they’re in this fight. I enjoy the material of Wallpaper 1.0 to that of Wallpaper 2.0 because the early stuff felt like satire, and the new stuff feels like pandering. I’m wrong, though, because the new stuff is just fantastically well done. It just doesn’t work as well for me personally. For everyone else, it slays. Nothing can stop this band, now. Mega-stardom awaits.
AWOLNATION – I like the album Megalithic Symphony a lot, and in my head, it was the work of a singular genius, fiddling with knobs quietly in his room to create a funky, dynamic sound. I was curious what the album would be like live, and the answer is LOUD. Just screaming and wailing and overpowering bass, and well, it wasn’t effective. I’ll go back to thinking he’s a singular genius and not some cheesy front man.
Silversun Pickups – This is their second consecutive BFD, albeit with a big difference. Nikki Monninger found out during last year’s show that she was pregnant with twins and she’s taking some time off from touring, being replaced by Bay Area native Sarah Negahdari from The Happy Hollows. She admits that she hadn’t played bass before taking this gig, and her obvious excitement of being on stage at BFD playing a hometown show is not enough to hide the fact that she’s not the dead solid perfect player that Nikki is. (That’s a lot to ask of anyone, believe me.) Still, “Panic Switch” and “Lazy Eye” got people going, and watching Chris Guanalo attack the drums like Animal never gets tiring.
Jimmy Eat World – This band wins the “with guitars” division of BFD. Even when the PA dropped out during a song, the band didn’t stop, and the crowd clapped along as loudly as the possibly could to keep the time. When you can be good even when you can’t be heard, that’s saying something. This band really knows how to blow through a quick festival and keep everyone happy throughout.
30 Seconds to Mars – Why are these guys headlining? Oh, THAT’S why they’re headlining. Because they know how to act like a headliner. Masked men on drums, songs sung while running through the crowd on top of seats, giant inflatable snowmen, smaller inflatable sharks and turtles, inviting people up on stage to dance, and two big-ass confetti cannons. Was the music good? Who cares? Look at the pretty lights! Major points go to whoever’s idea it was to invite kids from the lawn down to the front of the house for this set. Their energy in the front carried to the back, getting everyone involved. That’s how you headline a festival!
All photos by Dakin Hardwick. He’s got several more photos from BFD here.