CalJam 10/7/17

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CalJam was billed as a “daylong marathon of eating, drinking and rocking” modeled in the vain of the famed CalJam festivals at Ontario Motor Speedway back in 1974 and 1978. Who better to bring some semblance of this nostalgia back than Dave Grohl? “In addition to 12 hours of rock and roll good times, CalJam offers camping, carnival rides, a water park, attractions, a mobile recording studio & so much more. On Friday night, October 6, campers will also experience the world’s best Go-Go band Big Tony & Trouble Funk, an outdoor movie theater and many other surprises.” Besides the great lineup I loved that this was unabashedly a rock and roll festival. No DJ’s, no bullshit, just pure rock and roll.

I convinced Luke to go after I convinced Tom to go and our camping passes arrived in a super cool paper CalJam RV with a silk CalJam flag. Unfortunately only after we bought a camping pass did we learn that for some reason unbeknownst to us in order to camp you had to arrive on Friday night by 11:30…even though the show was all day Saturday??? Once we arrived we quickly understood why the organizers made campers show up the night before. There were just too many people that would have needed to be handled at the same time as all the people that did not camp. It was extremely well organized and we were not the least bit upset with the extra safety precautions that were taken. Having been to a couple similar “camping” situations I have to say it was refreshing to have grass on our little piece of the pie. It was also a very nice touch to have Christmas lights strewn over the entire campground to light up our night and give a little ambiance. After setting up shop, having some beer and watching a small part of “Yellow Submarine” at the outdoor movie screen we called it a night because we had a long 100 degree day in front of us. I especially liked the setup Tom had which consisted of an air mattress that blew up to fit perfectly in the bed of his truck.

Much to my detriment it did not take long the next morning to re-ignite the flame from the night before. A paltry breakfast of turkey bacon and potato chips did little to equalize said flame. Our first order of business was to go down the water slides located within the campgrounds. We thought this would be a suitable equivalent to a shower and besides why wouldn’t you want to go down a water slide after drinking a little? It seems we were just a tad early so we were turned away and told to come back at 11. Fast forward a couple hours and we were granted entrance into the majestic water park where almost immediately upon arrival we overheard someone say that Dave Grohl was there and had just gone down the water slide. Someone spotted him and I took the opportunity to go fan boy and shake his hand as he was trying to escape. What a cool guy. He was walking around with no posse or bodyguards. Just a down to earth guy that everyone wants to have a beer with.

After wrapping my hand in plastic and vowing to never wash it again (I kid) and going down the water slide we went back to the campsite to chill for a bit since the first band on the bill that we cared about were The Struts who did not start until 2. It was back at the campsite that our neighboring camper decided to offer us the leftover mushrooms that she had. This amounted to several stems and a couple caps. I would say I was surprised but this sort of thing seems to find me on occasion. The idea was to split it up between three people. Hold that thought.

I knew nothing of The Struts except that the singer slightly resembled Freddie Mercury and they had quite a buzz surrounding them. They had a good energy about them but were not really my cup of tea. Since the entire affair was a rare General Admission event we were free to roam about anywhere in the crowd and watch them up close.

Next up and the first band I really, really wanted to see was Royal Blood. I had just seen them for the first time ever less than two months before this but they were awesome again. It was obviously not as intimate as the last time I saw them but their aura still translated well to the amphitheater setting. Still hard to believe all that sound is coming from just two dudes.

There was a short intermission before Babes in Toyland were to play so we seized this opportunity to continue double fisting beers on a 100 degree day after drinking since 8 am plus Friday night. *THIS IS NOT A GOOD IDEA.* It was about this time we lost Luke. He apparently decided to break from the group without any communication to go ride the ferris wheel. Cell phone service is terrible with that many people in a concentrated area so this was the last we would see of him. I only saw Babes one other time way back in 1995 when they opened for White Zombie. This time they were playing the second stage back in an area that I did not even know existed. It could have been the beer and heat combination but I felt like there were not that many people watching them. I was very close to the stage and entranced by these three ladies doing their thing. They simply rocked.

It was around this time that I lost Tom and apparently my phone as well. Hot. Mess. Express. Although I was now without both people I came with or a phone to aid me in finding them, I did still manage to have my cookie and the mushrooms on me. So I did what any (in)sane person would do and ate it all. I do remember some of Cage the Elephant’s performance and remember thinking how improved they were over the one other time I had seen them about six years before this when they opened for Foo Fighters. I also remember enjoying the one song I actually like of theirs “Mess Around.”

Somehow this was only the third time I had seen Queens of the Stone Age and the last time had been almost a decade before. They were here in support of their newest album Villains that was released a little over a month before this and were pretty badass as expected but I felt like I watched them from outer space due to the circumstances. Even though I could have gone to the floor I found more solace in the lawn section due to my state of affairs so I’m sure I looked like a lunatic being all by myself. I remember being there but still had a “come to” moment right as the Foo Fighters came on.

This time seeing Foo Fighters was much different than the last time I saw them when Dave was literally rocking a cast from a throne. Not only was Dave mobile but they had the new album Concrete and Gold that was less than a month old. I very much enjoyed one of my favorite tracks from the new album “Dirty Water” as well as a scorching version of one of my favorite Foo songs of all time “White Limo.” Besides the new songs they had a couple other surprises up their sleeve. The first was Rick Rolling everyone with Rick Astley himself as Foo Fighters played the most rocking version of “Never Gonna Give You Up” I have ever heard. The next was bringing out Joe Perry for a spot on cover of “Draw the Line” and a cover of “Come Together” with Liam Gallagher singing. These motherfuckers played from 9:45 to midnight and I loved every second of it. Dave hinted at the possibility of this becoming an annual affair. Sign me up!

SETLIST: Times Like These, All My Life, Learn to Fly, The Pretender, The Sky is a Neighborhood, La Dee Da, Walk, These Days, My Hero, Sunday Rain, White Limo, Arlandria, Rope, Dirty Water, This Is a Call, Misirlou/Cat Scratch Fever/Another One Bites the Dust/Smoke on the Water/Day O mash up during band introductions, Monkey Wrench, Run, Never Gonna Give You Up, Best of You, Draw the Line, Come Together, Everlong

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Royal Blood 8/15/17

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A couple years ago a rare radio listen (I never listen to the radio) introduced me to “Out of the Black” which I immediately dug. This was the first “new” band I had been excited about for quite some time. That excitement grew once I found out all that sound was coming from just two dudes. What sent me even farther over the edge is when I found out Mike Kerr was essentially doing what Scott from Local H does but on a bass guitar (he is playing guitar and bass simultaneously on a bass and it sounds so fucking cool)!

I had no idea they were coming to town until the same coworker that recently hooked me up with Chevelle tickets clued me in. I also had no idea that they had released a new album on June 16th called How Did We Get So Dark? I had never seen Royal Blood and I had also never attended a concert at the Observatory North Park Theatre. After a couple failed attempts at buying tickets at the box office to save some coin this show was a done and done.

After Bob picked me up and we passed a wrap around line to park in a clusterfuck of a beehive garage across the street from the venue, we walked over to a newer eatery called Street Car Merchants to meet up with our fellow attendee JD. Once we were told it would be an hour wait for food we wisely walked across the street to Crazee Burger where I enjoyed a cajun burger with onion rings, a Dead Pan Pilsner and a “cookie” – wink wink. We had just enough time after this to live out our bum fantasy of brown bagging a tall boy Pacifico from the liquor store and walking down “memory lane” where Bob used to live.

The Observatory adjoins the West Coast Tavern and shares a bar/bathroom so I had severe déjà vu the second we walked in to use the restroom. Once Bob kept the tall boy train rolling by ordering a round of PBR we walked down to properly claim a spot to watch. We skipped the opening band Welles and by this time we were mere minutes away from show time so the place was packed. We managed to get a spot in the very back of the lowest section, which I’m sure made a lot of people happy since all three of us are over six feet tall.

Royal Blood’s stage show was the exact one that you see in their video for “Hook, Line & Sinker.” Two dudes and a backdrop consisting of a series of poles that light up in different configurations. They sounded exactly as good as they sounded on their albums and that is not a bad thing: straight ahead rock but with a unique setup. I’m sure the second round of PBR tall boys courtesy of JD did not hurt anything either. The only problem with the tall boys was that JD was ready for my round way before me and we had not yet heard “Loose Change,” “Figure It Out,” or “Out of the Black.” Of course right after I said, “let me wait until after I hear which song they will play next,” they ripped into “Figure It Out.” I thought I could sneak back to the bar immediately when they finished so started heading that way and what comes on? “Loose Change” – the song I wanted to hear the most! Then who do I see on the way to the bar? That’s right, my coworker with her fiancé that I had never met but felt like I had from all the chatter about him. I did manage to catch about a minute of the song and all was right with the world. My favorite moment came about here when Mike said, “Let me introduce you to the rest of the band,” then left the perfect amount of comedic timing beats followed by “Ben Thatcher on drums.” Then Ben came out from behind his drum kit and did this thing where he walked fairly far into the crowd on the hands of people holding him up…awesome. The show fittingly ended where my exposure to Royal Blood first started – with “Out of the Black.”

The next day I text my buddy Ross a picture from this show and he text me right back saying he was literally watching them on James Corden right at that moment and they were wearing the same clothes. My guess is that they filmed in L.A. and came down after the taping…or maybe they only own one set of clothes. Either way pretty random.

SETLIST: Where Are You Now?, Lights Out, Come on Over, I Only Lie When I Love You, Little Monster, Hook, Line & Sinker, Blood Hands, She’s Creeping, Hold in Your Heart, Figure It Out, Loose Change, Ten Tonne Skeleton, Out of the Black