Written by Helen M. Ryan
Ever heard of a little band called blink-182? How about 30 Seconds to Mars, or Rise Against? Do a few notes of House of Pain’s “Jump Around” (“jump, jump, jump, jump!) ever get stuck in your head? If so, then the Epicenter Twenty Ten music festival in Fontana would have been the perfect spot for you.
In a place where rock music legends KISS and passionate rapper Eminem’s worlds collided, the Epicenter festival featured a hard-hitting selection of some of the biggest names in rock, alt rock, hip hop and punk.
Fiery Performances Despite the Heat
55,000 fans braved triple digit temperatures at Auto Club Raceway to hear their favorite bands, some of whose only Southern California tour stops was Epicenter. This two-day musical extravaganza was cleverly designed to mix old with new, and the diverse bill was impressive despite the newness of the festival itself.
From punk rock to alt rock and hip hop, plenty of lesser-known bands and artists had their own moments under the blazing sun both afternoons before the headlining acts took to the stage as the sun went down.
KISS Wanted to Rock and Roll All Night
Saturday’s headliner proved that showmanship is not dead. KISS burst onto stage after Eminem, wearing their trademark kabuki makeup, impossibly high platforms and full-on costumes. All fire and brimstone, KISS kept the audience’s attention with their on-stage presence, which included lots of flames and fake blood. For sheer entertainment value, it doesn’t get much livelier than KISS.
Though much of the Eminem-inspired crowd left after Eminem’s performance, larger-than-life singer-bassist Gene Simmons took his famous tongue and soared high above the stage to a small perch where he performed to the crowd far below. Paul Stanley, singer-guitarist, also took flight during their anthem, “I Was Made for Loving You”. Say what you want about KISS – it’s not easy for anyone to drag their fully-costumed bodies and heavily platformed feet around the stage for 90 minutes.
Guess Who’s Back?
Emimen rapped it with a clear-eyed and energetic performance. With the sun just setting over Fontana, Eminem finally seemed comfortable in his own skin. Playing to a packed and rapt audience, he covered all the basics with his only Southern California performance for 2010 (and his first official west coast performance in years).
The audience was mesmerized as Eminem journeyed them through his career, from the early bitter days to his recently released 7th studio album “Recovery”, which includes “Not Afraid” and the Billboard Hot 100 number 1 hit, “Love the Way You Lie” (featuring Rihanna).
An Electic, but Exciting, Mix of Rock and Hip Hop
Two stages were spread at either end of the blacktop at Epicenter, with the larger acts performing on the main stage and the many other groups showing their stuff on the Monster Energy stage. Musical acts were scheduled so as not to overlap, and though it was blazingly hot, the walk between the stages was not undoable.
Saturday’s pre-headliner bands included a somewhat reunited Bush (featuring lead singer Gavin Rossdale), the 90s grunge band who is releasing a new album this year. Papa Roach, Big Boi, Crash Kings, Deuce, House of Pain, Big B, The Knux, Smile Empty Soul, Kinda Major and The Envy all rounded out what made for a musically eventful Saturday.
The Kings and Queens of Alt Rock
Sunday sported more big bands in the alternative rock world. Earlier in the day the oppressive heat made for lesser crowds, which let fans to get very close to the stage and their idols. Bad Religion, the punk rock band founded in 1979, were strong. Against Me!, A Day To Remember, The Academy Is, Suicidal Tendencies, The Black Pacific, New Politics, Black Veil Brides and Biffy Clyro all played to hot and tired fans.
30 Seconds to Mars arrived on the scene as the temperatures slowly started to wain and Jared Leto, a self-proclaimed “desert rat” with a bleached blond do, made the best of a hot and tired crowd. He aimed an industrial-sized hose at the audience to cool them off, and in the end invited a large group of fans on stage to sing with him.
Rise Against ignited their 75 minute set with passion and intensity. The crowd thickened and throbbed with anticipation as lead singer Tim McIlrath took fans on a tour of the magical world of alternative rock. Never disappointing, McIlrath’s voice handled everything he threw at it from the hardhitting “world gone wrong” songs to the quiet and powerful acoustic melodies of “Swing Life Away” and “Hero of War.” Rise Against was another group, in addition to KISS and Eminem, that made Epicenter their only Southern California stop for 2010.
Blink-182 closed out the evening with a sense of humor to go along with their music. Fans wearing blink-182 apparel were seen throughout the event all day Sunday, possibly because lead singer Travis Barker was born in Fontana. When the band arrived on stage the house was still full, and blink-182 played most of their fans’ favorites, putting a fitting close on the two-day festival.
Not to Be Missed
Epicenter Twenty Ten brought together some big names in a small city. Mixing alternative rock with hip hop gave the upstart musical festival an exciting edge. The initial Epicenter festival started out in Pomona in 2009 (featuring Linkin Park and Tool) but this year moved to the larger Auto Club Speedway. The only thing conspicuously missing from the otherwise perfect weekend was a strong female influence. Joan Jett could have rocked the house with the big boys. Just saying.
Epicenter concert photography by Helen M. Ryan
Helen M. Ryan is a music and fitness writer. Follow her on Twitter.