On The Download: KROQ’s Almost Acoustic Christmas: Night 2

KROQ’s Almost Acoustic Christmas is one of the biggest Southern California musical events of the year. Spanning two nights, it brings together some of the most prominent rock bands of today and promising up-and-coming bands who are generating a lot of buzz.

Night one, the Gibson Amphitheatre stage was graced by the likes of Anberlin, 30 Seconds to Mars, Three Days Grace, Rise Against and AFI, an incredible lineup, for sure, but I was a little more partial to night two (probably because that’s the night I attended).

With different KROQ DJs announcing each band, the rotating stage was ready to hold nine different acts. Sitting front row, center, I was anxiously waiting for the night to begin.

White Rabbits opened the show, followed by an act I’ve been wanting to see in concert for a while: Metric. Emily Haines came out on stage with a burst of energy, steadfastly maintaining her liveliness throughout the whole set.

Opening with “Dead Disco” and leading into the electrifying “Gold Girls Guns,” the Canadian quartet got the crowd pumped up and ready for the night. After my performing personal favorite, “Gimme Sympathy,” the audience went crazy when they started playing “Help I’m Alive.”

After closing out their all-too-short set (the result of trying to fit so many bands in just one evening) with “Stadium Love,” the rotating stage turned to reveal Cage the Elephant, who performed a short, but energetic set.

And then it was time for band of the moment, Phoenix. With onstage energy to spare, this French band proved they know how to put on a good show.

The outfit seemed genuinely happy and excited to be at the annual event and grateful to play for fans who enjoy their music. After a 25-minute set, Phoenix ended with the ever popular and indelibly catchy, Cadillac-selling “1901.”

Vampire Weekend, who later took the stage, offered nerdy college rock at its finest. Bubbly, fun-filled songs with clever lyrics are what make this band so unique and appealing and they offered them in droves.

The apex of the four-piece’s performance was “A-Punk,” one of their biggest crowd pleasers. But there’s something to be said about new songs like “Cousins” and their debut album classic, “Oxford Comma.” I was thrilled by their performance because their music is reminiscent of one of my favorite artists, Buddy Holly. Backstage, I asked lead singer Ezra Koenig if he was influenced by Buddy at all. While he did say he owned a Buddy Holly definitive collection CD, he told me it just wasn’t so. “Well, either way, it’s definitely a compliment,” I assured him.

While Vampire Weekend came across as charming on stage, The Bravery hit the stage ready to party. Thrashing, raucous and wild, lead singer Sam Endicott informed us they were gonna “break some s***!”

I’ve only actually heard a handful of Bravery songs before the concert, but I found myself completely enthralled throughout their entire set. Powerful and evocative, the song “Time Won’t Let Me Go” was the best song of the set and their last song, “An Honest Mistake” had the crowd primed and pumped up for the rest of the night.

311 came out ready to party too. Tearing up the stage through their entire hour-long set, they managed to engage even the non-311 fans. I actually found myself surprised at how many of their songs I didn’t know I knew. Opening with “Beautiful Disaster” and following with the classic, “Come Original,” the band’s vigor never ceased as lead singer Nick Hexum kept his and the crowd’s heart rate up by jumping around on stage. Halfway through their performance, they took it up a notch as the band exited the stage, leaving only drummer Chad Sexton on stage to perform a scintillating drum solo. He was then joined by the rest of the band who took their places in front of their own drum sets to partake in an incredible stomp-like drum sequence. Finally, Nick dedicated their last song, “Down,” to the old school 311 fans.

And then it was time for the main event: Muse. After the band stepped onto the stage, the sold-out audience went nuts as the opening riffs of “Uprising” echoed through the amphitheater. Everyone was up on their feet singing along to singer Matt Bellamy’s powerful, provocative lyrics.

Following their opening number, they led into “Resistance,” an epic song off their new album of the same name.

They put on an incredible show, although at times it felt like they could have engaged the audience a little more. Accentuated by those haunting melodies and polished vocals, Bellamy’s voice came across rich and hypnotic.

Later, the song I was waiting for all night — “Starlight,” got a huge response from the audience. People sang it in full force. Strangers put their arms around each other in solidarity, pumping fists and jumping up and down. Clearly this band has a way of uniting people.

During their performance of “Plug In Baby,” giant confetti-filled balloons were released into the audience adding to the excitement of the performance. For the grand finale, the trio performed their compelling and uniquely arranged instrument-laden hit, “Knights of Cydonia.”

It was a phenomenal night for music lovers. KROQ certainly knows how to put on one hell of a concert.

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