Weezer Takes MusikFest 2014 Back To The Shack
By Michael Meade
Photographs by Deborah Meade
Posted 8/16/14 - 4:27 PM ET
Weezer headlined the penultimate SteelStacks Stage concert at MusikFest 2014 to a exuberant and nearly packed crowd of fans. 2014 is MusikFest's thirtieth year and one of the most varied, in terms of musical genres featured on the main stage, to date. The SteelStacks Stage also saw performances from the Craig Thatcher Band with special guests Mike Dugan and The JoEs (they were booked after ZZ Top had to cancel their concert due to Dusty Stone's kidney stone surgery), The All-American Rejects, Jason Derulo, Sheryl Crow, The Moody Blues, Steely Dan, The Avett Brothers with special guests Sister Sparrow and The Dirty Birds, Alan Jackson, and Keith Urban with special guest Brett Eldredge closing out the annual festival held in the heart of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. If I'm not mistaken, the thirtieth year of MusikFest was also one of the best attended overall in recent years. ArtQuest (www.artsquest.org) did a great job in presenting the event's 30th Anniversary.
Opening for Weezer was Public Access T.V. from New York City. Members John, Xan, Max, and Pete took the stage in a very laid back fashion for their set as the sun set on the backs of the gathered fans eagerly awaiting Weezer. For the first few songs of their set the crowd was lukewarm at best to the downtown NYC based quartet, this was largely, this writer feels, to their sound being very similar to Weezer's; even the vocalist sounded like a Rivers Cuomo sound-alike for a little while.
Public Access T.V. - Photo: Deborah Meade
Lyrics were all Public Access T.V. though, though there sound, as stated, was similar to Weezer in the beginning of their set, the band gradually loosened up the more they played and displayed their musical skills more and more and finally won over the crowd by the middle of their set. The band did not share names of their songs though the lead singer did share stories and quips with the audience. The songs were decently dance worthy as the set moved along, never losing an indie rock/alt-pop vibe crossing over into the realm of prep-punk with some pop punk for good measure.
Photo Credit: Deborah Meade
By the fourth song of Public Access T.V.'s set they let loose some higher energy and harder numbers, bringing more pop punk and straight forward punk grit to the audience. If the crowd wasn't enjoying the band thus far, this is the point where that changed decisively. As the end of Public Access T.V.'s performance came around they had scored a somewhat hard won victory and earned new fans from an unwelcoming crowd. The group's has talent, their sound could be a little tighter, the drummer outshines the rest of the band for energy and enthusiasm; at least at this concert he did. But, giving them their due, it's beyond rough to perform at your peak when the sun is blazing in your face and it taking most of your set before the crowd shows any approval and enjoyment.
Patrick Wilson on drums at the beginning of Weezer's long set - Photo: Deborah Meade
Weezer took the stage to thunderous applause and chants of "Rivers! Rivers! Rivers!" as Rivers Cuomo was the first to take the stage in a worksuit and hard hat before stripping it off to a button down t-shirt and slacks as he was handed his guitar and kicked off their concert with "My Name is Jonas" to another round of preemptive applause, beach balls started flying above the crowd as the song progressed and dancing broke out in many of the rows of seats and out into the aisles as the bridge of the song turned into more of a jam session than even the album version of the song contained. At the conclusion of "My Name is Jonas", from the band's Blue Album, they transitioned right into "Hash Pipe" followed by "Perfect Situation". While "Perfect Situation" was not greeted as happily as "Hash Pipe" by the hardcore fans in the crowd, the song is off Make Believe which was a success for Weezer, slightly mixed critically but still a success; the album is also where many fans believe the band began going off track and became overly commercialized in the mid 00's. Despite the lukewarm welcome, many people in the crowd, including this writer, were singing along to the ballad about failing to follow through on a romantic moment. The album did spawn some of the most lucrative singles for Weezer and should be appreciated for that, and speaking as a fan and reviewer; the band retained most if not all of the musical style and sensibilities that gave them their cult favorite status. Except "Beverly Hills", "Beverly Hills" did not so much make fun of the Hollywood Establish as it came across as aggrandizing it in the very lyrics meant to parody the celebrity lifestyle if not listened to carefully.
Foreground: Scott Shriner on bass. Background: Patrick Wilson on drums.
Photo: Deborah Meade
Next up another one of the band's more recent songs, "Troublemaker" from The Red Album. A fan and personal favorite off the 2007 album, again dancing and general revelry kicked up a substantial notch and rightly so, this song is one of the songs that saw a return to Weezer's early energy from their early days in the 1994. Following "Troublemaker" came a song off The Green Album; "Island In The Sun", surprisingly this is also where a fellow a few seats in front of me and to the left began smoking pot. Skunk weed too, if you're going to make people around you at a concert smell your second hand marijuana, at least bring the good stuff and not cheap skunk weed. I digress, I expected people to light up during "Hash Pipe"; granted the song isn't about lighting up, but by virtue of the name and most people not really listening to lyrics closely. "Beverly Hills" and a few other hits followed "Island In The Sun".
Guitarist Brian Bell - Photo: Deborah Meade
After the eighth song of Weezer's mega set, "Say It Ain't So", another crowd pleaser; the band performed the first single, "Back To The Shack", off their upcoming album Everything Will Be Alright In The End. The new album is due for release October 7 of this year, "Back To The Shack" is already receiving a decent amount of radio play on rock stations. "Back To The Shack" upped the already substantial energy of the crowd considerably, this writer included. In many ways, the single is universal in its theme of being true to oneself and not walking away from the core of that truth. It strikes a chord in many and in this writer (Tastes Like Rock as a whole right now actually), making look forward to the new album very much both as a music journalist and a fan.
Album cover art from Everything Will Be Alright In The End - Courtesy Republic Records
After some slight pumping of the new album, it has to be said Rivers was cool about not droning on here, he said his piece and then thanked everyone for their support and rolled with the rest of the band to a more songs up to my personal favorite off their Raditude album... say what you will, both the album and this song were pretty heavily bashed by fans, it has got some tight power pop hooks and catchy lyrics. Not vouching for the rest of the album, but this song was fun plus the music had Odette Annable (nee Yustman) in it and that's, well that's just plain alright. "El Scorcho" which seemed to confuse the section I was sitting in, guess this one is for those of us that still buy full albums instead of cherry picking stuff that gets radio play. The band, however, never lost their enthusiasm for playing that night comfortably breezy August night.
L-R: Brian Bell and Rivers Cuomo - Photo: Deborah Meade
The gathered crowd perked back up for "Pork and Beans". Here's where things got really fun, Rivers Cuomo and Patrick Wilson traded instruments (Cuomo taking drums and Wilson taking up guitar) and turning the song into a massive jam session! The instrument garnered rounds of cheering and applause from the fans as the whole amphitheater set up of the SteelStacks Stage, even the more low key and reserved sections started jamming, dancing, and singing along as the quartet kept adding more energy into their playing as they rocketed toward the finale of their massive set of songs. Transitioning into their sixteenth song, that's right sixteenth, with a cover of blur's "Song 2" to close out night to the biggest round of cheers, screaming, and chants of "we want more!" with Cuomos still on drums and all four members supplying vocals through the end of "Song 2". The song ended with a big drum solo by Rivers Cuomo as Brian Bell, Scott Shriner, and Patrick Wilson stepped out of the spotlight to shed their instruments while Rivers continued to jam on Wilson's drums. Solo concluded all four men ran off stage while the chants for an encore continued for five minutes as the only light shed on the crowd was from the giant W raised above the drum rig continued to shine.
Upon going dark, the band ran back and kicked off their two song encore with an awesome and sprawling performance of "Undone - The Sweater Song", which also elicited more pot smoking in the section I was sitting in, a lot more in fact. Once more Weezer turned the song into a jam session to the joy of the crowd, beach balls flying, dancing in the aisles, and singing along as loud as possible all kicked back into overdrive. Many were prepared for this to be the only encore the band provided, but then to the, probably, largest and loudest applause of the night they started their final song; "Buddy Holly". Understandably so, this is the song that brought them most of their first taste of mainstream radio play and mainstream fame; and they gave one hell of a performance of "Buddy Holly"! Ending in a massive group drum solo that left the crowd hoarse from cheering well after the band had taken their final bow and ran off the stage for their tour bus. Weezer had to be one of the highlights of MusikFest 2014 not only for their massive eighteen song set list, but for the heart and they put into their performance. This writer has been a Weezer fan for close to sixteen years, this was the first time having the privilege to see them live and it is a show that they will be hard pressed to top the next time I get to see them perform, be it just for fun or for Tastes Like Rock.