KROQ held the first night of its annual Almost Acoustic Christmas on Saturday at the Forum, and from new punk to ska to classics from the ’90s, the Los Angeles institution served up a formidable line-up.
Smashing Pumpkins got top billing at the concert, joining groups like 30 Seconds to Mars, Bad Religion, Greta Van Fleet, and the Interrupters. Read highlights from night one of Almost Acoustic Christmas below:
Thirty Seconds to Mars and Smashing Pumpkins were the final two acts of the night, following up a line-up that proved to be eclectic. Thirty Seconds to Mars was the group to really get the crowd on its feet, however. Frontman Jared Leto, as he often does, made the whole set interactive, whether balloons were being launched into the crowd or he was inviting more than a dozen audience members on stage to dance. And even if it comes off as aggressive sometimes, it does work.
From one famous leading man to another, Leto gave way to Billy Corgan, who took the stage in a flowing red, white, and gold ensemble — for Christmas, we can only assume. It’s of course memorable when Smashing Pumpkins rolls through hits like “Today” and “Tonight, Tonight,” but guitarist James Ida really stole the show when he handled vocals on the band’s cover of the Cure’s “Friday I’m in Love.”
Young and Hungry
There’s a lot to be said about being able to nab top talent and big names for an event like Almost Acoustic Christmas. But at its best, you’d hope there’d be an aspect of discovery for a radio station tasked with being a tastemaker in the L.A. area. Night one had no shortage of that, luckily, as it highlighted young bands that may have a single out, but aren’t necessarily household names.
Badflower was a solid choice to open the night, as local band put on a good-old-fashioned rock show. As singer/guitarist Josh Katz marveled, “I haven’t the slightest clue why we’re here… We can’t even get 10 friends to come see us at the Viper Room.” They were followed by AJR, whose “Sober Up” has seen some well-deserved radio play, and performed a presentation on how they produce songs on stage — a charming change of pace. When it came to raw energy, though, it’s hard to beat the Interrupters, the ska band that joined up with Rancid’s Tim Armstrong for a surprise rendition of “Tomb Bomb.”
The Great Greta
Greta Van Fleet who were just nominated for four Grammys on Friday including best new artist, stunned the crowd, fans and newcomers alike. The young group rocked the crowd with their Zeppelin-inspired sound (thanks in large part to Josh Kiszka’s vocals) and undeniable energy.
Each member had their moment to shine — guitarist Jake Kiszka played the instrument from behind his head at one point, and drummer Danny Wagner had an impressive solo in the beginning of their performance — and the combination of the group’s young energy and classic style led to a refreshing set. A highlight from this highlight: the soothing, romantic, almost dreamy “You’re the One.”
Tried and True
KROQ has its share of regular performers at its annual shows — but hey, they’re staples for a reason. Bad Religion threw a true-blue punk show, toning down the theatrics of some of the previous bands and still finding time for a Christmas song (because yes, Bad Religion really does love Christmas music). AFI had glam rock appeal and frontman Davey Havok, well, wreaked havoc with an impressive crowd-surf.
And while Third Eye Blind had the unenviable task of following Greta Van Fleet, it was hard not to join in as the crowd sang every word to “Jumper” and “Semi-Charmed Life” — to the point where lead singer Stephan Jenkins once just crossed his arms and let the fans do the work. He noted that they were just there to “f— around” that night, and they seemed to have fun with the gig, which was infectious.
Kroq’s Almost Acoustic Christmas continues on Sunday. Check back on Variety.com to read the review.