Weezer Takes MusikFest 2014 Back To The Shack
By Michael Meade
Photography 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 due, 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 longtime fans believe the band began going off track and became overly commercialized in the mid 2000s; much like Metallica when they dropped the black album in the early 1990s. 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 in the last decade 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 Establishment as it came across as aggrandizing it in the very lyrics meant to parody the celebrity lifestyle many secretly and not so secretly crave, 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 days in 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 and to the left of me began smoking pot. Skunk weed too, I have no problem with pot, all for legalizing even though I don't partake, if you're going to make people around you at a concert smell your second hand marijuana smoke, at least bring the good stuff and not cheap skunk weed.
I digress, I expected people to light up during "Hash Pipe" if at all; 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 staff as a whole right now actually), making me 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 few 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 video had Odette Annable (nee Yustman) in it and that's... well, that's just plain alright. "El Scorcho" was another great addition to the night's set list, but it seemed to confuse the section I was sitting in, I 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 comfortably breezy August night.