Los Angeles alt-rock radio station KROQ 106.7 FM may pride itself on breaking new bands, but it seemed to revive its old tagline, "Roq of the ’90s," for this year's KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas annual benefit, held Dec. 10 and 11 at L.A.'s Forum. The weekend's nostalgic headliners included ’90s titans Green Day, Beck, Weezer, Jimmy Eat World, Blink-182, and AFI — and Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello and No Doubt's Tony Kanal and Adrian Young even made surprise cameos.
"'Loser,' [Weezer's] The Blue Album, and [Green Day's] Dookie all came out a couple weeks apart," Beck reminisced onstage Sunday night. “It’s some kind of cosmic convergence for us all to be together again.” (Side note: Beck's backing band featured Jason Falkner on guitar and Roger Joseph Manning Jr. on keys, which is possibly the closest we'll ever get to a reunion of power pop band Jellyfish's original 1990 lineup.)
Beck got the ’90s dance party going straight away with the double-wallop opener of "Loser" and "Devil's Haircut" — which he proudly mentioned were recorded in Los Angeles — and added a little ’80s flavor with snippets of David Bowie/Iggy Pop's "China Girl" and Prince's "1999." (Beck noted that the last time he'd been inside the Forum, it had been to attend one of the concerts from Prince's famous 25-night residency in 2011.) However, the 2015 Album of the Year Grammy winner proved his relevance once again by playing his recent singles — last year's "Dreams" and this year's "Wow" — before closing with an extended jam of the Odelay rumpshaker "Where It's At." Beck is definitely still where it's at. Hopefully this guy gets a new full album out in 2017.
Weezer, playing their third KROQ Xmas show in a row (guitarist Brian Bell joked that the event has become their own "office Christmas party"), went lighter on the ’90s classics, favoring midperiod hits like "Hash Pipe," "Pork and Beans," "Beverly Hills," and "Island in the Sun" but capped off their set with the Blue Album crowd-pleasers "Say It Ain’t So" and "Buddy Holly."
The real stars of the weekend, however, were Green Day, introduced by No Doubt's Kanal and Young. Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and Tré Cool were in fine, ferocious form — and while Dookie hits like "Longview," "Basket Case," and "When I Come Around" were roaringly received, it was the American Idiot material that packed the greatest punk-rock punch. Who would have thought a 2004 album inspired by the Bush administration would be more relevant than ever in 2016?
"This is one of those times when we have to take care of each other," frontman Armstrong, who had earlier namechecked Donald Trump during the bullhorn breakdown of "Holiday," told the crowd. "I want some peace and love. I'm sick of the chaos." The Bay Area band also dedicated their performance to those who perished in last week's tragic Ghost Ship club fire in Oakland, saying, "We're the freaks, and we're the losers, and we're the weirdos. And we've got to stick together!"
Other retro highlights of the KROQ holiday weekend included Blink-182 performing "I Won't Be Home for Christmas," which the band originally recorded for KROQ morning DJs Kevin and Bean's Last Christmas compilation in 1999; Jimmy Eat World breaking out their requisite cover of Wham!'s '80s holiday standard "Last Christmas"; and RATM's Morello joining new-school pop rockers X Ambassadors for their recent collaboration, "Collider."
Along with X Ambassadors, other new, or newish, artists on the bill included the Head and the Heart, Bishop Briggs, Bastille, M83, Phantogram, and Kings of Leon. But it was the veterans who really owned the weekend as they evoked the ghosts of '90s Christmases past. "This is my high school band, baby," Armstrong declared, grinning as he looked up at Green Day’s wall-sized logo on the video screen behind him. "And it lasted 30 years."