Tucked away in the steeps hills in Irvine’s Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, rock fans young and old alike tailgated to enjoy the last day of summer. As summer winds down, so does KROQ’s list of annual summer festivals. On the last day of summer, KROQ threw the Epicenter Music Festival, where they’ve filled the bill with such bands as FIDLAR, A Day To Remember, Pennywise and The Offspring.
Egging the crowd to start getting wild, FIDLAR took to the Ernie Ball Stage, diving right into “Cheap Beer.” Of course it wouldn’t be a complete FIDLAR without the brewsky break in between songs from their first, self-titled album, FIDLAR. Their catchy punk lyrics to the drunk anthem had both new and old fans chatting, “I drink cheap beer! So what?! F— you!” Known for their rambunctious energy onstage and drunk antics, FIDLAR handled their forty five minute set with beers to go along. Their angsty façade shared similarities with renowned punks The Replacements. “White on White” really got the crowd going, as vocalist and guitarist Zac Carper called out the crowd for not rocking hard enough. Without missing a beat, the crowd challenged the statement, immediately opening a mosh pit as FIDLAR’s clean, shrill vocals rang. With bleeding, scabbed knees and hangovers to match, the band projected their punk rock garage band persona that had the festival goers walking away pleased to see punk was still alive in the new upcoming band. FIDLAR just wanted another beer.
“I want to see you set that fire in your gut!” exclaimed The Wonder Years frontman Dan “Soupy” Campbell as the Philadelphia group welcomed the California crowd. Fans of the band all jumped and shoved forward as they sang along to “Melrose Diner,” which immediately provoked crowd surfing, before transitioning to “My Life As A Pigeon.” Synchronized jumping and perfect “posi-jumps” were sprinkled throughout the set. The Wonder Years’ interaction with the crowd surpassed the set beforehand, as Campbell climbed and shared choruses with the crowd below. Their harmonious melodies and fun rhythms camouflage lyrics about social awkwardness, broken hearts and missing friends. Stay posi, pop punk kids, stay posi.
As the day progressed, bands went from performing on the Ernie Ball side stage to the main stage within the Verizon Amphitheater. Left and right, young scene girls with neon hair and guys in Hot Topic apparel harassed security to get closer to the pit. No luck this time around. Unlike other festivals where the general public can muscle their way into the pit, the amphitheater is assigned seating. All Time Low bounced out on stage and already took note of the predicament, even daring the large mass up on the lawn to just ram through security. By the second song, guitarist Jack Barakat jumped off stage and proceeded to run through the amphitheater, continuing to play “Lost in Stereo” on his wireless electric guitar. However, fans really lost it during “A Love Like War,” when Pierce the Veil frontman Vic Fuentes came out to assist ATL’s vocalist Alex Gaskarth. Nothing could have felt more nostalgic, however, than when they closed their set with 2007 hit, “Dear Maria, Count Me In.”
Three large, disconnected letters, “P T V,” lit up the stage. Pierce The Veil was up next. The tween punk girls went crazy for the San Diegans as they high-fived outstretched arms. Clearly a fan favorite of the young punks in the pit, PTV utilized all of their stage space and performed with lots of energy. Frontman Vic Fuentes caused an uproar and had to dodge bras being thrown on stage during “Bulletproof Love.” Nothing compared to A Day To Remember’s vocalist Jeremy McKinnon performing on “Caraphernelia.” It was obvious that the whole band truly appreciated performing for their Southland natives.
An older crowd started to pour in as the original punk rock bands got closer to their set times. Seated neighbors swapped stories of their show experiences, as Pennywise and Bad Religion were the veterans up next. “They’re gonna kick ass, but man, you should have seen them back in the day,” assured an older gentleman with salt and pepper hair who had probably seen his fair share of punk shows. Pennywise fans of all ages pushed their way to the front and hugged after each song, showing what rock and roll is all about. Frontman James Lindberg demanded middle fingers high up in the air to “Fuck Authority” and the crowd was more than happy to oblige. Pennywise stayed true, satisfying everyone’s tastes by playing fan favorites “Pennywise” and “Wouldn’t it Be Nice.” Lindbreg reached out to the crowd for a song request from the pit and “Alien” was a winner. Pennywise truly made the amphitheater alive with roaring cheers for the Southern California band.
Fresh off the Riot Music Festival dates, Bad Religion came back to their California roots with open arms. All in their late forties and fifties, the rock and roll legends reminded all why they were still touring successfully. Starting with “Past Is Dead” off their newly released album True North, vocalist Gregg Graffin and guitarist Brett Gurewitz fed off each other’s energy and the energy of the crowd. Although they sounded just as good a decade and a half ago, a few hiccups with their stage lighting caused confusion with fans, as the stage lights went out for a minute or so. Bad Religion continued thrashing through their forty-five minute set, playing more familiar hits that implemented their staple political lyrics such as “Los Angeles Is Burning,” “21st Century” and “No Direction.”
During the set change, A Day To Remember’s stage crew started wheeling out some goodies from their headlining House Party Tour. Turning towards the lawn of the amphitheater, small moshing fire pits formed-– oh, the life of a young anarchist. Little did anyone realize, those small flames were just a precursor for what ADTR had in store. By this time in the night, there was a mix of all age groups in the pit and faces lit up as ADTR blasted fireworks from back of the stage. ADTR’s combination of breakdowns and melodic verses brought everyone to their feet. Performing songs off their 2009 album Homesick, giant flamethrowers heated up the stage as lead singer Jeremy McKinnon snarled, “Disrespect your surroundings.” ADTR provided a fierceness that made the Pennywise and Offspring fans appreciate this new trend in alternative music. Before the end of the night, McKinnon voiced his appreciation to share the stage with California punk rock legends-– all of which he recognized influenced the Florida band as a whole.
Not needing an introduction, a simple white flamed skull appeared over a platformed drum kit. The heavily packed amphitheater broke out in an uproar, chanting “Offspring! Offspring!” Vocalist Dexter Holland and his iconic platinum blonde spiked ‘do appeared onstage, welcoming the calls. The band acknowledged the level of success that people on the lawn were achieving with their bonfires. The audience obeyed Holland as he chanted, “Dance f—cker dance,” opening with “You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid.” At one point, guitarist Noodles brought out his “roadie” for the evening. Entering stage left, Noodle’s father, Papa Noodles, appeared to swap guitars with his son, and Noodles informed the crowd it was his father’s 75th birthday. Dedicated their song, “Days Go By,” from their 2012 summer album with the same title. Whether you were able to recognize The Offspring’s old nineties tunes like “All I Want” or only knew the lyrics to “Pretty Fly (For A White Guy),” everyone went away happy. At the end of the night, the most special thing about KROQ’s Epicenter Music Festival proved to be the success of blending young and old rock enthusiasts.