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2003 Almost Acoustic Christmas

None of the 18 performing bands bothered with anything even resembling acoustic music. Annual charity affair drew an impressive lineup -- if not an eclectic one -- featuring many of the year's most-heard alternative-rock acts. Sunday's lineup was the more diverse of the two, but Saturday featured impressive perfs from Pennywise and Thrice.

Holiday cheer was hard to come by at this year’s sold-out, two-night KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas, and none of the 18 performing bands bothered with anything even resembling acoustic music. Per usual, the annual charity affair drew an impressive lineup — if not a very eclectic one — featuring many of the year’s most-heard alternative-rock acts, which each played a 30- or 40-minute set. Sunday’s lineup was the more diverse of the two, but the Saturday roster, filled out mostly by “nu-metal” and punk-leaning outfits, featured impressive perfs from South Bay veterans Pennywise and young progressive-emo band Thrice. Sample-heavy headliner Linkin Park was the clear crowd fave.

Pennywise, which opened its riotous set with a turbo-charged “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” was the only group to tackle a holiday song. The quartet also played one of its most potent local sets in recent memory and also offered a tongue-in-cheek, double-time take on “Hey Ya!” by Outkast. They then dragged KROQ jock Stryker out of the pit to sing during their traditional set closer “Bro Hymn,” a tribute to their original bass player.

Puddle of Mudd had the misfortune of following Pennywise and group’s Nirvana-inspired hard rock was of little interest to most attendees. The goth-punk outfit AFI — which released one of alt-rock’s best albums of 2003 –impressed with epic tales of death and despair. Davey Hovak’s voice was just about shot by set’s end, however, somewhat dulling the impact of their closing hit song “Girl’s Not Grey.”

The Offspring, which released a new album last week, hired the USC marching band to parade around the Amphitheater’s center aisle, then launched into a solid set of pop-punk, though the introduction of some pre-programmed samples seemed once or twice to throw the players out of sync with one another. Linkin Park leaned on samples as well, and also introduced a couple unreleased songs, including a stripped-down “Breaking the Habit,” which opened simply with keyboards and only one of their two vocalists.

Sunday boasted such KROQ faves as 311, Blink-182, Jane’s Addiction and Korn, plus up-and-comers Jet and Brand New. Trapt, one of the year’s breakthrough artists, played solid versions of their hits “Echo” and “Headstrong.”

Rancid, which these days is struggling to retain credibility with its longtime fans after signing a new deal with Warner Bros., played an inspired 30-minute set, featuring mostly older songs like the Clash-inspired “Ruby Soho” and “Roots Radical.” Staind was a deflating mid-set presence, as it stuck with ballads and mid-tempo songs referencing singer Aaron Lewis’ tough upbringing.

Show came back to vibrant life with a typically strong set of both new (current single “Beyond the Grey Sky”) and old songs (“Feels So Good,” “Down”) from hybrid-rockers 311. Jane’s Addiction’s otherwise solid offering was marred by apparent friction between singer Perry Farrell and his three bandmates: The band began playing recent single “Just Because” while Farrell was still talking to the crowd, so Farrell responded by refusing to sing, resulting in likely the first instrumental perf of the track.

Orgs benefiting from this year’s proceeds include Children of the Night, the Al Wooten Heritage Center and Inner-City Arts.

2003 Almost Acoustic Christmas

Universal Amphitheater; 6,200 capacity, $64

  • Production: Presented by KROQ Reviewed Dec. 13 and 14, 2003.
  • Crew:
  • Cast: <b>Bands:</b> (Night No. 1) Linkin Park, the Offspring, P.O.D., AFI, Puddle of Mudd, Pennywise, Chevelle, The Distillers, Thrice; (Night No. 2) Korn, Blink-182, Jane's Addiction, 311, Staind, Rancid, Trapt, Jet, Brand New.
  • Music By: