"Raise your hands if this is your first Metallica show!" James Hetfield said with a smile as a majority of hands went up at Saturday's annual KROQ Weenie Roast, sponsored by the influential modern rock station in Los Angeles. "Now you're part of the family. You'll have to keep coming back!" The concert at the Verizon Amphitheater in Irvine, California, amounted to another show and another smallish venue this week for Metallica, just days after headlining an even smaller room to benefit Flea's Silverlake Conservatory, where the metal champions delivered a mostly straight-ahead hard-rock show. At the Weenie Roast, the band offered two hours of broader range and variety, mixing early speed-metal material with later songs of depth, emotion and volume.
There were again no clues from the band's upcoming new album, but total chaos erupted in the moshpit during "Master of Puppets," as Hetfield fell to his knees midsong to pluck a solo before erupting again at full bore. He picked up an acoustic guitar on "The Unforgiven," trading elegant, explosive melodies with Kirk Hammett on electric, while Robert Trujillo squatted like Quasimodo with his bass so low that it nearly scraped the floor. On "Creeping Death" (from 1984), Lars Ulrich made scary jackhammer beats somehow warm and friendly.
Metallica was loud, but Jack White made sure his 45-minute set with the Raconteurs was just as wild and noisy, adding Zeppelin-size blues explosions and epic slabs of feedback on "Blue Veins" and other songs. "There's a constant buzzing in my ears!" he wailed during "Consoler of the Lonely," the title song from the band's new album. The band has only grown heavier with time, adding real muscle and stuttering guitar spasms even to the quirky pop of "Level" and "Steady As She Goes." Everything was delivered with a blistering intensity, even if that meant overwhelming the wistful, McCartney-esque romance of "Many Shades of Black." All of it was stretched out and cranked up, tapping deeply into the wild-man force of White's other band.
The Offspring were not nearly so crazed, appearing as the same no-frills punk quartet they've always been, opening with "Come Out and Play." The band previewed two new songs from their upcoming album, Rise, Fall Rage and Grace. Leaning on many of the same ingredients of the Offspring's punk-rock hit machine, "Hammerhead" offered drama and thunder along a rolling bassline to inspire some crowd surfing. Then came a nod to the headliners: "Motherfuckin' Metallica!" declared guitarist Noodles Wasserman. "I'll ride on their coattails any fucking day!"
Scars On Broadway, the System of a Down offshoot headed by guitarist Daron Malakian and drummer John Dolmayan, unleashed hard-rock songs from the band's upcoming Interscope debut, set for release July 28. Songs were aggressive and melodic, shifting from Sabbath-style riffs to the dreamier, driving rock of "They Say."
The rest of the day was filled by other sounds from the KROQ playlist, from MGMT and Flobots to the angry antiwar rants of Pennywise and epic screams of Rise Against. A couple of security guys in bright yellow shirts got tossed around the moshpit during Pennywise, and inflated condoms bounced through the crowd. The Weenie Roast band with the longest connection to KROQ was Bad Religion, formed in suburban L.A. after singer Greg Graffin and guitarist Brett Gurewitz attended a 1979 Ramones concert as teens together. By the Nineties, Bad Religion was as much a fixture on the station's influential playlist as Nirvana, with the outraged anthems "Infected" and "American Jesus." At the Weenie Roast, the band's three thundering guitars ignited songs from the upcoming reissue of last year's New Maps From Hell, and dedicated "Sorrow" to the people of Burma.
Bassist Jay Bentley wore a kilt, and a sombrero quickly bounced off the bald head of guitarist Greg Hetson, who hopped like a tick for the full set. Backstage before their show, Gurewitz said, "I grew up on KROQ. It was very formative in our young enthusiasm for punk rock. We're now virtually the KROQ house band, and this is like our sixth Weenie Roast. It's really come full circle."