River Rave 2K2
Salt, Sweat, and Music Draw Punk, Rock, and Hip-Hop Fans
WBCN’s River Rave 2K2 gathered twenty-two artists and 30,000 fans for a lot of loud, live music in and around the vast new CMGI stadium in Foxboro. The artists were separated by style into three categories with corresponding venues. Larger rock and hip-hop acts such as Our Lady Peace and Outkast performed for the majority of the audience from the main stage. Smaller crowds gathered in the parking lot, which hosted a rave tent for spinners like Paul Oakenfold, and a small stage for indie bands like A New Found Glory and Abandoned Pools.
The parking lot also featured a few carnival attractions (e.g. greasy food stands and a climbing tower) as well as the usual merchandise stands and a constantly mobbed autograph booth where artists were scheduled to appear and sign their CDs. A halfpipe, where skateboarders performed aerial tricks, catered to fans of the X games, and offered a chance to win an Xbox. The popular SoBe and Dunkin’ Donuts stands gave out free drink samples which nearly offset the highway robbery of five-dollar bottles of water. Thankfully, the pleasantly warm weather never reached the dangerous 100-degree-plus temperatures of last summer’s Vans Warped Tour, so fans survived and artists had to work up a sweat.
Though the bands on the smaller stage were more obscure than those in the stadium, they still infused their sets with plenty of energy. Simple Plan won over the crowd with its charisma, self-deprecating humor, and accessibility, as well as a clean, solid performance. The lead singer declared to the audience, “If I just happen to jump, catch me,” and managed to get in a bit of crowd surfing. The band’s songs were all upbeat, with well-intoned vocal harmonies and perfectly timed jumps in rhythm to music like the catchy “Don’t Mean Anything To Me.”
Simple Plan catered well to the predominantly teenage crowd with the song “The Worst Day Ever,” which lead singer Pierre introduced by yelling “Let’s say ‘Fuck Monday!’”after polling the audience as to whether they had to go to school or work the next day. Simple Plan’s music had an infectious quality, a combination of rebelliousness and innocence that captured every teenager’s “The sky’s the limit” outlook on life with songs like “One Day.” The band’s genuine enjoyment of performing showed in their omnipresent smiles and enthusiasm, as well as their willingness to meet their fans face-to-face outside the autograph booth.
On the main stage, the wildly popular rock band Our Lady Peace gave a lukewarm performance. The stark contrast between the high-energy performances of other artists and the studio-session calm of Our Lady Peace made it seem as though the band was giving nothing to an audience who was giving everything. The huge crowd moshed and sang along to unembellished hits like “Superman’s Dead,” “Clumsy,” and “Starseed,” with nothing offered in return but a perfunctory stunt from lead singer Rain Maida, who climbed a tall metal column at the front of the stage with a microphone in his hand but didn’t break a sweat throughout the whole performance.
Our Lady Peace’s set could not have been more different from Tenacious D’s. With their dual gifts of comedic and musical talent, the dynamic pair of Jack Black and Kyle Gass was born for live performances. Armed with only acoustic guitars and their own voices, they assaulted the audience with a crude, hilarious medley of impromptu humor and music.
In between numbers from their self-titled release, Black asserted his Napoleonic complex by competing with Gass in a pedestal size contest, and loudly declaring his search for “backstage Bettys.” He solemnly introduced the saxaboom, a toy saxophone on which he feigned playing a short solo, then sang a silly version of the original Star Trek theme that elicited confused but enthusiastic cheers from the relatively young audience. None of this tomfoolery dimmed the pair’s impressive musical talent, exemplified by Gass’ formidable skills on the guitar and Black’s all-out, perfectly intonated vocal style, which raged from falsetto balladeering to forceful belting.
Jimmy Eat World gave an equally intense but significantly more introverted performance. The band appeared to be somewhat intimidated by the huge, wild audience -- a supposition confirmed later by band leader Jim Adkins’ assertion that he’d never thought a band he was in would be playing to massive crowds with girls wearing marijuana leaves sitting atop guys’ shoulders. Adkins introduced the band with a simple “Good afternoon,” before launching immediately into “Praise Chorus,” “Bleed American,” “If You Don’t, Don’t,” “Get It Faster,” “The Authority Song,” “Lucky Denver Mint,” and “No Sensitivity,” without so much as a breath between songs. He added a timid, “Thank you very much,” before, “Goodbye Sky Harbor,” after which the audience’s loud, enthusiastic encouragement finally sank in and the band began to loosen up.
The tight vocal harmonies between lead guitarists/vocalists Adkins and Tom Linton meshed with three guitars (including bassist Rick Burch) and drums (Zach Lind) for a gripping, crystalline punk-rock sound. The band capped off its set intelligently, rousing the audience’s voices with the 1980s-esque “Whoah-oh-oh-oh-oh”s of “Sweetness” and finishing with the hit song “The Middle.”
The energy and clarity of Sum 41’s performance engaged the crowd, for a standout set. The bandmembers jumped, ran around, and even allowed “The Ladies Man” (who appeared to be a roadie) to play the drums. Guitarist Dave Brownsound, leaped atop an amplifier in the middle of the stage and played a behind-the-neck solo, to his fans’ delight. Sum 41 finished its performance with “Fat Lip,” its hit off the American Pie 2 soundtrack and the album All Killer No Filler.
The Strokes’ stylish, composed stage presence initially seemed to mimic that of Our Lady Peace, but it soon became evident that this New York club band was a significant force to be reckoned with, or at least introduced on The Ed Sullivan Show. Sporting vintage haircuts, slim pants and close-fitting jackets on waiflike bodies, the band made a blast-from-the-past fashion statement that might have been ridiculous had their formidable musical talent not blown away any nonbelievers. The band’s deliciously addictive sound combined 1970s influences and quick, sharp hooks with lead singer Julian Casablancas’ modern, microphone-clutching vocals in songs like “Take It Or Leave It,” “Soma,” and “Barely Legal.”
The gritty, understated vocals of dreary-eyed, pretty-faced Casablancas were inaudible in the din of overamplified instruments, but the projection monitors on the sides of the stage revealed his brow contorting with the internalized labor of working himself up to the throat-tearing “Last Night.” Albert Hammond Jr.’s hyperkinetic guitar solos threatened (nicely) to turn into “Johnny B. Goode,” while Nick Valensi made short, memorable declarations with his guitar. Nikolai Fraiture brooded over his bass and Fabrizio Moretti went fabulously insane, his body conducting the complex beats and rhythms of his drum set.
Papa Roach began its performance with one of its hits, "Between Insects and Angels.” Lead singer Jacoby Shaddix’s voice didn’t project over the loud distortion created by the amplifier, a problem that turned to be advantageous for Papa Roach, because the crowd knew enough of the lyrics to sing for him. At “Last Resort,” Shaddix stopped singing altogether, and no one seemed to care.
This year’s River Rave comprised nine memorable hours of sweat, commercialism, raving, screaming, and, last, but not least, music (including a surprise appearance by early 90s rap act Public Enemy). The amplified instruments and voices of established, new, and rising stars bestowed not only temporary deafness but a deep, albeit hot and sticky, satisfaction on the thousands of people who made their way to Foxboro with expectations for old favorites and left having heard new ones, and who look forward to next year’s similarly varied showcase of punk, rock, and hip-hop.