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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Alternative Press Tour - Review + Pics

w/ The Rocket Summer, The Matches, All Time Low, Forever The Sickest Kids, Sonny

3.25.08 - Fonda Theatre - Los Angeles
by Joe Cortez
photos by Adriana Torres

Here's a thought: when several hundred screaming teenagers are all packed under one roof for a concert, does it really matter what they're listening to? That idea was tested at Hollywood's Henry Fonda Theater as the annual Alternative Press Tour rolled into town delivering a healthy dose of solid rock to the masses. With it's fresh lineup, low ticket prices and cross promotional marketing tie-ins, the event was clearly aimed at a young audience and that's a great thing-in theory. With so little emphasis being placed on the actual music in today's download-to-device music industry, it's important for teens just discovering music to have something to actually hold onto and associate with their favorite bands (beyond a $30 t-shirt, that is). A concert itself may be no more tangible than an MP3, but atleast there's an experience to be had that simply cannot be matched by listening to an iPod with your headphones cranked up to 11.

Rock is the music of the young and it's great to see it return to some prominence within today's teenybopper set after a long period dormant as pop and hip hop battled for playground supremacy. But doesn't the kind of rock being played matter? Maybe it's just me and maybe I'm still stuck in a 90's musical head-space but the bands featured on this year's AP Tour line up actually felt more like boy bands in post-punk drag, their guitars draped around their bodies like a prop. Oh sure, there was the occasional f-bomb dropped here and there by the bands on stage and maybe even a bra or two thrown about but where was the risk? The rebellion? Even the parents in the back seemed to be more jaded than appalled by any of the antics of the bands on stage.

I'm sure by now you've noticed that I've gotten this far in the review without actually talking about the music itself. Image and attitude go along way in selling a particular band's sound, it's a performance you're witnessing after all. The bands on the lineup, which included Forever the Sickest Kids, The Matches, The Rocket Summer and All Time Low, all looked the part convincingly enough and fit well together on the same bill but were all so mired in creating an accessible, radio friendly sound that they for got to be dangerous. That said, I was probably the only person in the Fonda that felt this way as kids on the floor ate up every band on stage.

Show openers Forever The Sickest Kids, hailing from Dallas, brought a unique sound to the set with their decidedly country flavored vocal harmonies and poptastic hooks. They were followed by Sonny Moore's band, aptly named Sonny, who urged the crowd to "make some fucking noise" about 17 times during their set.

The one band that truly embraced this cleaned up ethos of rock was The Rocket Summer. Just hearing the crowd of mostly young girls chant the band's name over and over before they took the stage turned the Fonda into a real rock concert venue and the band delivered with their brand of polished pop rock so clean that it would be difficult to imagine them sounding much different on disc as they do live. The most surprising moment of the set was when the lead singer took to creating a song all by himself through the miracle of looping elements recorded live before the audience to which the crowd responded by singing along on the fly. The band that closed the show, All Time Low, was a disappointment and actually wound up leaving a bitter taste after the show ended. Most of their songs were trite and juvenile although they did close their set with a near ballad that, while I'm sure intended as heartfelt, came off as insincere when preceded by their early work.

I'm sure this was the first concert for many kids in attendance and for them I hope it will lead to other more important shows in their concert going lives, but for me the AP Tour was just another show.



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