Ah, summer, how well you treat us entertainment junkies. This is the time of year when people across the nation make lengthy treks to the hundreds of shows and festivals being presented by the music industry. School is over and the madness of Warped Tour, Lollapalooza and other grand showcases bring out everyone from casual listeners to hardcore fanatics to rock out and get sunburned.
Undaunted by the oppressive heat, long lines and high ticket prices, alternative music fans have made it a point to sell out Linkin Park's "Projekt Revolution Tour," a nation-spanning festival that brings the band together with other popular young groups like Taking Back Sunday and My Chemical Romance as well as shock rock veterans like Mindless Self-Indulgence. The tour itself lasts close to twelve hours at each stop, from California to Maryland, and is filled with all sorts of exclusive booths and merchandise for those interested in taking home some memories.
Since the event was quite long and the heat conditions were pretty extreme, we decided to only cover the first six hours of the festival. We weren't disappointed though, as the lesser-known bands still brought the house down at every opportunity.
Kicking off the event on the smaller of two stages was Art of Chaos, whose website professes the group "a transformation of nu-metal design". I'm not so sure how transforming or revolutionary this hard-hitting five piece is, but they sure know how to get a crowd pumped up. Lead singer Brian, whose last names is hidden somewhere in the dark crevices of The Internets, brings a strange vocal styling to mix. It's was a bit too whiny for my tastes, but the crowd seemed to get into it. After a 35-minute set full of screaming and head-banging, I was ready to hear something a little more eclectic and a little less distorted.
Up next on the list were Chicago natives Madina Lake, whose sound could best be described as Yellowcard-esque, without the violin (of course). There was a definite leap forward in showmanship as Nathan, the lead singer, prompted the crowd to pump fists and sing along with his catchy melodies. The group's harmonies are impeccable, and the group seems to love pleasing long-time fans by playing older songs and talking to everyone they can after a show.
Vagrant Records vets The Bled took the stage at 1:45 pm. The group continued on the theme of pumping fists and banging heads, adding squealing guitars into the already heavy mix. Middle-fingers flew from all parts of the stage as the band slammed into "The Last American Cowboy", which seemed to be a crowd favorite. It's understandable, as the furious finger work that guitarists Jeremy Talley and Ross Ott put into the songs is almost worth the price of admission itself. The Bled's performance was gutsy and brutal, without sacrificing style or substance. These guys have a flair for putting on a show, and the Dallas crowd was excited to see it.
Post-melodic hardcore princes Saosin blasted in the Smirnoff Center parking lot at around 2:15. Still promoting their 2006 self-titled Capitol Records release, the group saw it fit to counteract the cooling weather with some face-melting tracks from their last few years of playing together. First up was "Collapse", a anthem which the crowd seemed to be with familiar with. "We are the only ones, but we'll get up," sang Cover Reber, the bands musical protagonist. Throughout the set, drummer Alex Rodriguez backed up his bandmates with thunderous drumming that was continuously spot-on. Halfway through the set, Reber kindly asked the crowd to produce "the biggest mosh pit ever." Most listeners obliged, and those who weren't busy dancing contributed to a literal sea of hands that spurned Saosin on to the end of the set.
If there had been a large group of people near the stage before Mindless Self Indulgence staggered on stage, that number quadrupled as the techno shock squad entered the area. Having heard MSI albums before, but never seen them play live, I expected electronic-laden sarcastic screech rock. As Johnny Urine and the crew walked on in outfits which seemed better suited for a Marilyn Manson cover band, the crowd went absolutely ape crazy. While Urine's stage antics ranged from immature ("I'll talk slow like you're retarded") to the lewd (pulling down his pants to the chants of the crowd), there is no doubt that this guy knows how to entertain. This group should get an award for "Best Smaller Band" of the tour. Fans of electronic music looking to be shocked and rolled should catch MSI in concert ASAP.
Wrapping up my time at the Dallas stop of the Projekt Revolution tour, I caught alt-rock legends Placebo, who seem to be reformulating the band's image in an attempt to reach a younger audience. The three-piece was kicking the main stage segment of the concert off right, with the biggest bands following them. "We come in peace!" lead vocalist and guitarist Brian Molko exclaimed to the hot, sweaty crowd. Moments later, Placebo launched into "A Friend In Need", a rock-steady song with a super-catchy chorus.
Although the crowd wasn't completely into the pop leanings of Placebo, that didn't stop them from proving plenty of claps and cheers between songs to welcome the London based group back to the States. A stirring piano intro to "Meds" laid a more somber mood on the proceedings. "Baby, did you forget to take your meds?" Molko crooned, hands drifting around his small frame. Placebo chose to end their solid set with "The Bitter End", a track that slowly builds from a rumbling synth beat into a driving guitar attack, made even more potent by Molko's quick strumming and fret work.
The first half of the Projekt Revolution tour is not something to be missed. While many of the bands in this part of the day don't have the "star power" of bands like My Chemical Romance and Linkin Park, the showmanship and musicianship of all the bands playing make up for it.
Projekt Revolution Tickets are now available at M&Cís Ticket Database.