Otherwise: “Last year, we were spectators,” singer Adrian Patrick said, and it was easy to see the genuine enthusiasm that would inspire these hometown boys to attend a local rock festival for fun. Thanks to some last-minute shuffling of the Las Rageous schedule, Otherwise ended up with a slightly better time slot on the larger U Stage at the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center, and it made the most of it, playing in front of a decent-size crowd for so early in the evening. The band even got the crowd singing along, although it didn’t really take at first (on “Die for You”). But by the time Otherwise got to 2011 radio hit “Soldiers,” enough people seemed to know the words that Patrick could let the audience take the lead. Patrick also walked along the causeway in the middle of the crowd, interacting with fans, and brought out his young son as he introduced set closer “Won’t Stop.” The band put enough energy into its 27 minutes onstage to propel an entire headlining set.
Clutch: Like Eagles of Death Metal at last year’s festival, these guys sounded a bit out of place with their psychedelic stoner rock at a festival mostly focused on heavier, more confrontational sounds, but the set was a highlight of the day, a pleasant, laid-back run-through of catchy, melodic tunes, with impressive guitar work from Tim Sult. The band weathered a few technical mishaps (sound that cut out entirely for about a second at a time during several songs; drummer Jean-Paul Gaster having to replace a rickety seat; singer Neil Fallon switching microphones) with good humor, and Fallon had a perfect line about the melting pot of international weirdness that is Las Vegas (and a Las Vegas music festival): “It’s good to be back at Mos Eisley spaceport.” Or maybe he just liked talking about space, since he introduced “Crucial Velocity” by saying, “This number’s about driving a hot rod through outer space—personal experience of mine.” Either way, the songs sounded strong, and bluesy closer “Electric Worry” even justified its extended cowbell solo from Fallon (yes, some dude behind me yelled “More cowbell!”).
A Day to Remember: My early impression was that this Florida quintet was a poor replacement for Ghost, which backed out of the festival for unspecified reasons not long after the lineup was first announced. But judging by the size of the crowd at the secondary F Stage and the intensity of the fan sing-alongs, I might be the only one who felt that way. (Going by T-shirt volume, it seems likely that far more people were disappointed to miss Beartooth, which canceled its appearance just a few days before the festival, after a member abruptly left the band.)
“How many people just saw us like a month ago?” singer Jeremy McKinnon asked, referring to the band’s late-February show at the Joint, and enough hands went up to label a majority of the crowd die-hard ADTR fans. Despite a truly dreadful combination of the worst qualities of pop-punk and metalcore, ADTR’s music has proved surprisingly durable, with 15 years of annoying anthems for fans to sing along with. This is not a band that shies away from cheesy rock-star antics, which here included throwing both giant beach balls and what looked like rolls of toilet paper (but might have just been tissue paper) into the crowd. Guitarist Kevin Skaff got so into the performance that he mistimed a jump and broke off part of his guitar, and McKinnon didn’t miss a beat even after his microphone stopped working for an entire song early in the set. By the last song, people were rushing back over to the U Stage to catch A Perfect Circle, but that didn’t stop them from singing along to irritating hit “The Plot to Bomb the Panhandle.”
A Perfect Circle: Singer Maynard James Keenan joked that fans might have missed the release of APC’s new album Eat the Elephant (its first in 14 years) because they were all stoned for 4/20, but that didn’t stop the band from filling its set with new songs, most of which seemed to go over well with the crowd. And while Elephant is a bit sparse and subdued, songs like “The Contrarian” and “The Doomed” sounded fuller and more powerful live, with some extra emphasis on the guitars. Even so, guitarist Greg Edwards (filling in for the absent James Iha, who’s busy getting ready for a tour with the reunited Smashing Pumpkins) spent as much time playing keyboards as he did on the guitar, and lead guitarist Billy Howerdel and bassist Matt McJunkins joined him at various points as well.
The band’s 75-minute set could have run a little longer and included a few more older tunes, but it’s hard to blame the members for wanting to focus on new songs after so many years of playing the same material. Keenan was uncharacteristically earnest in his thanks to the fans for their years of patience and appreciation, asking how many people in the crowd were between the ages of 27 and 30, and then pointing out that those people have waited roughly half their lives for a new APC album. Although Keenan kept to the shadows onstage as always (and even the rest of the band members were often shrouded in fog and/or darkness), his performance was warm and inviting, and his voice is as powerful and haunting as ever. It’s hard to predict what the enigmatic Keenan will do at any given time, but for now, it’s great to have APC back at full force.