L.A. radio station KROQ’s Weenie Roast y Fiesta should have been an unabashed celebration. The 20th anniversary of the annual summertime concert took place on Cinco de Mayo and was headlined by Coldplay, who were putting the finishing touch on a week of three triumphant sold-out shows at the Hollywood Bowl. In addition, it featured several longtime KROQ favorites like Incubus and Pennywise, as well as old friends Garbage, Silversun Pickups and the Offspring, all with new music on the horizon. The second stage featured up-and-comers such as AWOL Nation, Of Monsters and Men and Grouplove.
But even with surprise guests Soundgarden adding to the festivities, there was a pall over the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater that wasn’t hard to figure out. The death of the Beastie Boys’ Adam Yauch just the day before was on the minds of many. The Beasties were veterans themselves of the Weenie Roast and KROQ had spent much of Friday paying tribute to the late Yauch with remembrances and long sets of Beasties music.
Several acts on the bill picked up those tributes. Coldplay, who debuted their piano rendition of the Beastie Boys’ “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party),” at the Bowl on Friday night, also included it in their hour-plus closing set.
“We’re gonna have a moment for them because I also aspired to be in a band and have a lot of fun like they did,” said Angels and Airwaves’ Tom DeLonge, while Grouplove dedicated “Slow” to Yauch. The Dirty Heads dedicated their whole set to Yauch, and Dustin Bushnell (Duddy B) sported a Beastie Boys Check Your Head t-shirt.
Even those who didn’t make their thoughts of Yauch public were clearly thinking of him. “When I heard he died, it broke my heart because he was definitely a voice for my generation,” AWOLNATION’s Aaron Bruno told Rolling Stone. “I’ve been asked a lot, if you could be in any band who would it be? And I’ve answered Beastie Boys a couple of times because they got away with murder. They were a white hip-hop group that were respected by all different colors and all different genres. They were a punk rock band first, which I can identify with. And then they were one of the most successful hip-hop groups of all time while keeping their integrity somehow.”
Proving Bruno’s point about the group’s wide-reaching influence, Arnar Rosenkranz Hilmarsson from Of Monsters and Men was also a huge Beasties’ fan growing up in Iceland. “I was very said to hear the news,” he told us. “When I heard ‘Intergalactic’ for the first time, I was in my sister’s room and I just started dancing. It was awesome, probably my favorite song by the Beastie Boys.”
Despite the sadness evident in the building, there were still nearly 20,000 fans on hand ready to celebrate, and in between paying their respects they enjoyed several highlights. Starting early in the day, where fans withstood the sun to check out the second stage, Of Monsters and Men’s crowd was positively buoyant, while Grouplove got the audience singing along energetically to “Tongue Tied” and their cover of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” When Bruno challenged the throng to see who would be the first to crowd surf, several answered the call in the midst of the pogoing fans.
Garbage kicked off the main stage with a superb set that included a cover of Patti Smith’s “Because the Night” and wrapped up with their haunting, slowed-down version of “Only Happy When It Rains.” Among the other high points were Soundgarden, who came out to a heroes’ greeting as the unannounced special guest and played several hits, along with “Live To Rise” from the Avengers soundtrack; Incubus, always L.A. faves; and Silversun Pickups’ set, which was heavy on the new material off Neck of the Woods.
The unquestioned crowd favorite of the night was Coldplay, who’d already made L.A. theirs this week, with fans and critics alike extolling their three sold-out Bowl shows, praising their showmanship and energy. Coldplay brought both qualities to Verizon, as well as the confetti, neon lights and hits like “Scientist,” “Viva la Vida” and the sing-along anthem “Fix You.”
And they captured what everyone was thinking when, during their rendition of “Fight For Your Right,” Coldplay stopped at the line “Mom, you’re just jealous, it’s the Beastie Boys,” and let the crowd sing “Beastie Boys” multiple times.
It was a fitting moment. The night may have belonged to Coldplay musically, but the Beastie Boys were never very far from anyone’s thoughts.