I’ve lived in Southern California for 26 years of my life, and the fact that I just attended my first KROQ Weenie Roast is bizarre. I don’t even know how it has taken this long. Some years they have great lineups, too, but the thing sells out so fast that you have to really want to go to get in. Towards the end of Saturday night’s event, a 300-pound black security officer who had been jovial and pleasant all day turned to me and said, “These people sure love their weenie roasts, every year they fill this place.” Indeed, as colleague Alyssa Pereira pointed out, the KROQ Weenie Roast is actually the longest continuous running radio festival in the country, beginning in 1993. Driving that point home was the late add of Beck to the bill, who played his first Weenie Roast 20 years earlier in 1994.
So, with no basis of comparison, I can say that KROQ knows what it’s doing with the event itself. It almost always takes place at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine, though it has gone as big in the past to host at Angel Stadium, and the event runs smoothly as can be hoped. Tight sets flow into each other with a rotating stage, and the press and radio winners even got access to some random VIP party that had free hot dogs. Though a Live Nation venue, KROQ rules the day, and the atmosphere is all the more relaxed because of it, which matters little to most people, but, well, it makes dealing with the likes of some of the bands that were booked more tolerable.
And that’s the thing, for as bad as many of the bands playing the Weenie Roast are, the fact that the event still managed to be fun says a lot for the event itself. The music is not really KROQ’s fault. They’re just booking what is available and what people are into right now. The listeners who make this shit popular are just as much to blame as the record labels and the bands themselves. But the people who sold this thing out, or who regardless are complacent enough to put up with Imagine Dragons and somehow are still holding strong to their affection for Linkin Park and The Offspring and Sublime and whatever else KROQ plays. It all cycles in waves, and just this last Christmas, their show had Arcade Fire and Lorde and Vampire Weekend and Arctic Monkeys and Queens of the Stone Age, so, this Weenie Roast was just bad luck, probably.
But the recurring thought throughout the event, was why? Music discovery and personal choice have never been better facilitated, and sometimes you don’t have to do any work to find new music that both suits you and is of high quality. That so much of the music on display on Saturday was mundane, boring, unenthusiastically performed, and safe-as-can-be speaks volumes about the current radio audience. You wouldn’t think that internet music fans and radio music fans would be that different, but it’s like we come from completely different worlds. If there was one saving grace, it was that the fans were older than any other festival outside of country- or folk-related events that I have recently attended. The 30+ contingent didn’t dominate but were healthy in their representation and more abundant than the under-18 faction. Does this mean the radio isn’t as appealing to younger listeners or that KROQ is losing touch with them? That seems to be why they booked AVICII to headline what’s traditionally a rock show.
In all, though, the Weenie Roast is healthy in its execution, and band quality will always ebb and flow. If you ever have an interest in the bands set to play one of these, drop the cash and go, as it is well worth the time and effort. But here is a rundown of what was seen this year. Just a fair warning, it wasn’t pretty.