Thirty Seconds To Mars

KROQ Absolut Almost Acoustic Christmas Night 1 Recap

December 9, 2018

By Ramon Gonzales

The minutes leading up to the first rotation of the KROQ Absolut Almost Acoustic Christmas stage can be emotionally taxing. The excitement under the roof of The Fabulous Forum adds to the kind of anticipation that makes every minute both elation and almost, agony. It’s then that KROQ’s very own DJ Jeremiah Red shined.

DJ Jeremiah Red

In managing to navigate those nerves among the early faithful Jeremiah crafted a diverse set that ranged from Snoop Dogg to The Smiths to Weezer with confidence. Every song was a singalong, easing the swelling impatience while pumping the party. There was even a surprise appearance from "Mugos" from The Kevin & Bean Morning Show.

Badflower

Badflower kicked the evening off by emerging onstage to a KROQ anthem in “Sabotage” from the Beastie Boys. That kind of association ensured they had all the eyes in the building from the get go. Touted among a new generation of modern rock bands with a season sonic swagger, the band delivered a brief, albeit memorable set with singles like their latest “Ghost” before closing strong with “Animal.” Frontman/guitarist Josh Katz gracefully balances soaring melodies with the occasional rock n roll lunch that seem to define the band’s style. It was obvious early that night held all kinds of promise with such an auspicious start.

Related: Badflower on Bare Butts and 'Big Bang Theory' in New 'Heroin' Video (KROQXMAS Interview)

AJR

Daring to be the powerful pop multi-instrumentalists on a bill stacked with rock is likely extra daunting but AJR came equipped with a set of tunes that focused purely on being fun. While singles like “Weak,” “Sober Up,” and “Burn the House Down” are especially effective on record, to watch the band execute these same songs live is something else. What little bias there might have been was quickly broken as the literal band of brothers who were likely making their live introduction for many in the crowd proved especially convincing. If you needed any proof, the amount of head bobbing during “Come Hang Out” sealed it.

The Interrupters with Tim Armstrong

Between strums of his guitar strings and rallying the crowd during the final song of their electric set, Kevin Bivona of The Interrupters commanded the crowd to get involved and mentioned, “That wasn’t how I pictured it when I was 12 years old in my bedroom.” More than a few times the band collectively expressed how important this particular set was for them as Los Angeles natives and they certainly played like it. The Bivona Brothers along with Aimee Interrupter pulled out all the stops in commanding the party. Jams like “She Got Arrested” and “Take Back the Power” were infectious as the entire arena swayed along in unison. Capping their time, the band shared the spotlight with KROQ royalty in Rancid’s Tim Armstrong, as the crew charged through a rousing version of “Time Bomb” and the emphatic collaboration, “Family.”

AFI

Somewhere between menacing and mesmerizing, Davey Havok proved magical both on and off stage. Finishing “I Hope You Suffer” while literally being held up by the AFI devotees, Havok took on his choruses with real a catharsis. The band wasted little time with subtleties as they opened with “Miss Murder” and never relented. From “Love Like Winter” to “Days of the Phoenix” AFI played an unapologetic set for the fans at The Forum. In a set that included ZERO stage banter and nothing in way of pomp and circumstance, the band needed only six songs to unanimously register of the lasting highlights of the evening.

Related: AFI on New Single 'Get Dark': "We Put it Out for KROQ" (KROQXMAS Interview)

Bad Religion

There are few artists that enjoy the kind of longevity of Bad Religion. About :30 seconds into the band’s anthemic, “New Dark Ages” and it becomes clear why. Regarded as punk rock pioneers, the band has spent decades perfecting their craft and still ring relevant. Reiterating that fact, the band charged through their latest single, “My Sanity,” which coaxed some movement in the form of circle pits at a radio show - no small feat. The band even managed to appropriately sneak in one of their holiday songs with “What’s Child Is This?” Which was brilliantly contrasted with a holiday rendition of “F**k You.” Punctuating their stage time with “Infected” Bad Religion never missed.

Related: Bad Religion on New Song 'My Sanity': 'It's About a World Gone Mad' (KROQXMAS Interview)

Greta Van Fleet

Arguably the most anticipated band of the night, Greta Van Fleet’s extended jam rounding out the end of their set would’ve likely been enough to live up to the hype but band delivered nearly 40 minutes of timeless rock brilliance. As the band pun chef out the last few notes of their opening selection, “The Cold Wind,” the roar of the crowd seemed to confirm that THIS was what many fans came for. Between the extended drum solos, the wailing guitars, feather earrings, and soaring vocals, songs like “Black Smoke Rising” and even the band’s ballad in “You’re the One” prompted absolute elation from the arena. In fact, as the band would collective themselves between songs, the environment from the floor to the terrace turned rowdy. Things were no longer polite. The fans wanted volume and GVF delivered with every selection. The band’s finale in “Edge of Darkness” included a marathon jam that functioned as the band’s victory lap. While there was still plenty of evening left, it was clear that this set would be the talk of the nigiht.

Related: Greta Van Fleet React to Grammy Nominations (KROQXMAS Interview)

Third Eye Blind

If there was a particular song that could match the energy in the room at this point in the evening, Third Eye Blind’s “Graduate” was definitely it. Taking to the stage during the latter half of the night, Stephan Jenkins ensured that there was no lull as he nailed fan favorites like “Never Let You Go” and the arena-sized singalong in “Jumper.” Among the more impressive moments of the band’s time however were the subsided stanzas of songs like “Motorcycle Drive By.” It’s brave to go it acoustic and force the audience to pay attention and to watch the thousands of fans go from frenzied to focused was quite a sight. Finishing strong with “Semi Charmed Life” it was obvious why the band continues to be so beloved.

Thirty Seconds To Mars

The Echelon was out in force for night one as the brothers Jared and Shannon Leto of Thirty Seconds to Mars held court over the faithful at The Forum. From “Kings and Queens” to “Rescue Me” to “Walk On Water,” these selections felt less like songs and more like rallying cries. The atmosphere of the rock show never missed a beat but something about these songs resonated as especially meaningful. Leto’s voice soared and it was apparent that as the set continued, this was experience for those passionately follow the band. The standout of the band’s time was their rendition of “The Kill” that fell in line perfectly with the rock theme of the evening. Of course, it wouldn’t be a compete 30STM show without some crowd participation. For the band’s final tune, the stage was full of fans jamming to “Closer to the Edge” alongside the band as the confetti cannons showered the arena.

Smashing Pumpkins

During his introduction, KROQ DJ Stryker chose the word important to describe Smashing Pumpkins and couldn’t have been more accurate. The band’s set included cuts spanning their essential, enduring catalog, opening with a recent song in “Solara” followed immediately by “Zero.” Carefully mixing in new music like “Travels” and even closing with a newer song like “Silvery Sometimes” never felt contrived. Smashing Pumpkins flexed their importance in continuing to create the kind of songs that compliment their catalog, not contrast with the earlier portion of it. Whether it was an iconic single like “Tonight, Tonight” or a cover of Depeche Mode’s “Never Let Me Down Again,” or a particular moving version of “Disarm” the Pumpkins just didn’t miss and proved to be as important as ever by being the kind of artists that continue to add to their legacy instead of having to rely on it.

Related: Billy Corgan Reflects on Fatherhood, Smashing Pumpkins Reunion (KROQXMAS Interview)