The KROQ Weenie Roast has generally been a gauge of modern-rock trends, but this year’s fest saw not the beginning of a new movement, but a whimpering, extended end to an old one. The lack of superstar power on the bill all but spelled out a clear message: The reign of nu-metal testosterone rock on Modern Rock radio is over, and no one — not even the industry giant KROQ — knows what’s coming next.
That’s not to say the genre wasn’t represented; it just wasn’t well received. Though the Deftones have always been among current metal’s more forward-thinking bands, its esoteric rock was met with shrugs, and Godsmack’s evening-closing set ended with the huge, sold-out amphitheater more than half-empty. Alt-metal newcomers Evanescence were scheduled to play but cancelled at the last minute, which meant that the only survivor was Staind, whose take on the genre has always had as much in common with sensitive-guy sad sacks like Coldplay as it has with the backwards-baseball-cap contingent.
Front man Aaron Lewis delivered hits like “Outside” with the conviction his peers all but lack; he’s a believable, honest singer, an Ozzfest-ready rarity.
Nu-metal’s absence left room for all the rest of radio’s subgenres, from current one-hit-wonder emo bands, represented in early sets from Finch and Thrice, to pop-punk, with Sum 41 leading the way through an ear-busting half hour of power.
MTV hosts Good Charlotte were also represented, playing up their weak points in a four-song acoustic set. Even though their performance was lackluster, AFI faired a bit better; the veteran goth-influenced punkers have been picking up momentum and were one of the few new-to-KROQ acts on the bill with potential future headlining status.
Garage rock also was a strong force on the bill, with Interpol and Hot Hot Heat delivering mid-afternoon second-stage sets that barely capitalized on either band’s massive buzz.
The White Stripes, however, nearly stole the show when singer Jack White played an impromptu keyboard-only version of “Mr. Cellophane,” from the musical and movie “Chicago.”
He was taking a chance on the sun-soaked crowd, but the tease was met with cheers, and the duo only picked up momentum from there, playing boogie-blues and chunky riffs with their now-trademark childlike glee.
The lack of a clear trend marked a few lulls in the day, too: Springsteenish troubadour Pete Yorn was decidedly out of place, as was Blur’s African-laced Brit-pop.
The bands that were clearly at home were the veterans: Surprise sets from former Weenie Roast headliners Jane’s Addiction and Warped Tour stalwarts Rancid were uniformly well received. A one-song guest spot from Pink, who sang 2001’s ubiquitous “Get This Party Started” backed by the Transplants, didn’t go over as well, but that’s to be expected: The KROQ audience isn’t exactly the pop singer’s demographic, no matter how “punk” her dyed hair may be.
The night really belonged to another veteran act, the Foo Fighters, who made their second Weenie appearance with a one-hour set, the night’s longest. Dave Grohl and his crew blasted through a series of their greatest hits, a potent reminder that the force of a good song can break through genre barriers, creating an impression that many of the bands on this bill strive for but only a small few actually achieve.