Review: Projekt Revolution, August 10
The Projekt Revolution Tour, featuring Linkin Park, My Chemical Romance, Taking Back Sunday, Placebo, H.I.M., and others
Sound Advice Ampitheatre
August 10, 2007
View a slideshow of photos from the concert here.
Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance
Photo by Jeffrey Delannoy
Better Than: If you like rock and don’t mind sweating profusely, whatever else you’d be doing during the day on a Friday.
OK, this review is a bit late. But how to easily sum up a looong day of music by such divergent acts as electronic chaos engineers Mindless Self Indulgence, Brit art rockers Placebo, and meaty American former nu-metallers Linkin Park?
A bit of background on the Projekt Revolution tour, the brainchild of the latter, who conceived the tour originally in 2002 as a blend of rock and hip-hop. That first lineup featured Cypress Hill, Adema, and Z-Trip. By 2004, the thing had grown to two stages, featuring everything from the Welsh dark screamo of Funeral For a Friend to the straight-up hip-hop of Wu-Tang Clain’s Ghostface Killah.
After a couple years’ hiatus, Projekt Rev came back this year with a new environmentally conscious spin, and a differently skewed, although still interestingly confusing, lineup. Although Linkin Park is as popular as ever, their less innovative nu-metal peers have more or less disappeared in the intervening years. This year’s tour lineup, then, was heavy on post-post-hardcore with a few grab-bag surprises.
As in 2004, there were two stages. On the Revolution stage: Madina Lake, Styles of Beyond, the Bled, Saosin, and Mindless Self-Indulgence. On the main stage: Julien-K, Placebo, HIM, Taking Back Sunday, My Chemical Romance, and Linkin Park. The common thread? Rather than genre, maybe mood. Whether tending to the heavy, the poppy, or the arty, every band here had a slightly dark, wistful bent, the kind that attracts cultish, diehard fans who shriek at the sight of a band’s guitar tech.
While festival doors opened incredibly early – 12:45 p.m. – it was actually to Linkin Park’s credit. Rather than leaving the up-and-coming acts on the Revolution stage to duke it out with the headliners, all of these acts played first, before the seating of the main stage was even opened. Further, the secondary stage was positioned on the grounds so that one had to walk by immediately upon entry, guaranteeing the transformation of a few curious onlookers into fans.
My day at Projekt Rev was scattered, as I ran back and forth getting interviews (to come later today and tomorrow) with a few of the acts, slowly turning dizzy and delusional from the heat. So here’s a rundown of what I did manage to watch – regardless of my personal taste, I was thoroughly impressed with performance of each.
Mindless Self Indulgence: These self-dubbed “industrial jungle pussy punk” pranksters from New York headlined the Revolution stage, playing at 3:00 to a very young, very caffeinated crowd. The band exploded onto the stage in a flurry of black and day-glo costumes, thrashing in time to a triple-digit BPM. The kids pogoed and pumped their fists to the furious synth runs, a sea of black-nail-polished and jelly-braceleted hands. Frontman Little Jimmy Urine bravely managed to joke about the heat, as I felt my skin poaching like salmon. Fleeing the baking concrete, I caught the beginning raindrops of the day’s second sunshower. Après moi, le deluge.
Julien K: This industrial-rock-ish band features two members of Orgy, another industrial-rock-ish band. Well, they were ostensibly much more electronic, but still had that heavy thumping drive beneath it all. Their performance was slick, but at their set time of 4:15, few people had gathered in the ampitheater’s seats or on the lawn.
Placebo: The appearance of these moody London-based near-legends in South Florida was something of minor history. One of the longest-running, and definitely the least heavy, bands on the lineup, I felt very protective of them, and anxious about their potential reception by the crowd. While the audience watching their set definitely skewed older than some of the other bands’ (say, mid-20s or older as opposed to mid-to-late teens), the band’s straightforward, rocking set seemed to win them more than a few new converts.
In front of a large backdrop of an X-ray of skeletons kissing, frontman Brian Molko appeared looking very petite, but very fresh and clean in a white oxford shirt and black, skinny jeans. Both he and bassist Stefan Olsdal shared the downstage, looking totally pleased and switched on. Eschewing any of their slower compositions, during a 30-minute set they favored a sort of greatest-hits list. All the best crunchy, anthemic numbers were cranked out at 11 – “Pure Morning,” “Because I Want You,” “Meds,” “Nancy Boy.” Molko’s serious guitar chops didn’t stop some shirtless, beefy Linkin Park fans from mocking the entire set, but such is the result of an experimental lineup – some people will just never get it.
H.I.M.: I missed most of the Finnish “love metal” group’s set. But what I did hear was nearly drowned out by the screams of females lusting over Ville Valo, a sort of pretty hard-rock heartthrob. Good for them – perhaps this tour will bring Valo and co. closer to the megastardom they enjoy in Europe.
Taking Back Sunday: By the time the Long Island group took the stage, night was closer to falling, and the temperature had dropped a bit. The crowd had rallied considerably, standing in their seats and mashing up against the general admission lawn’s railings. They were amped, and it turned into an incredible back-and-forth with the band, in which the energy tossed around seemed almost visible, like a beach ball. TBS’ cathartic performance is jaw-dropping – this is a band whose singer once actually managed to knock out the bassist with a swinging microphone.
Friday’s set was injury-free, but frontman Adam Lazzara and crew seemed to be experiencing an exorcism. He flailed his skinny body, long hair pasted to his red face with sweat, veins popping out of his neck – and Lazzara doesn’t scream. He sings, and quite melodically, an act of impressive control. For the rest of the band, it was as though the process of playing a note was a function of the entire body; a strummed chord necessitated something like a full convulsion. But luckily, it’s all genuine – TBS leaves aside gimmicky choreographed jumps and the whole thing is organic. Let’s just hope they have a good chiropractor.
My Chemical Romance: New Jersey’s MCR rose from that state’s post-hardcore scene, but have evolved into a much more nuanced, impressive act. They’ve managed to become bona fide rock stars while still keeping a loveably honest underdog vibe. They’ve created an entire world, a dark but hopeful aesthetic and mythology that is theatrical and intelligent, bordering on Bowie-esque. And their fans love them for it. No, really, really love them for it. They’re probably on this page right now, thanks to Google, looking for every shred of the set’s details. So I will try to sum them up, as much as I managed to write down and remember.
First, the set. The constraints of a festival set barred the full Black Parade deal with changing backdrops. Instead there was a giant backdrop of the band’s logo, surrounded by a pixellated illustration of charging, fierce wolves. The rotating drum kit was perched atop a corrugated metal riser, painted white with the words “She loves you” scrawled in spray paint across the front. Like the band’s music, kind of bleak, but kind of hopeful.
In the 15 minutes or so before the band’s start time, random group screams reverberated through the ampitheater. But when the stage darkened, and there were the opening strains of piano music, the screaming started in earnest. There was an almost simultaneous thud of arena seats hitting their backs as the MC army rose to its feet. There was a spray of fog. Suddenly, flames shot up from either side of the drum kit, and frontman Gerard Way ran onto the stage, the only member wearing the Black Parade tour’s dark marching band jacket. (Again, the problem with the heat). With the numbers “605” curiously scrawled on his neck, from the front of the stage he addressed the audience. “Florida: We’re going to get you … TOTALLY FUCKING NAKED!”
With that began a high-energy, sometimes melodramatic trip through material culled entirely from the band’s second and third albums, 2004’s Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge and last year’s The Black Parade. Way is one of the most compelling frontmen in contemporary rock. As he prowled back and forth across the stage, he brooded and gesticulated amid the conflagration of flashing lights and pyrotechnics, a vortex of energy. His intense dark eyes seem to radiate heat; with his extreme preposession, he’s like the conductor of his own dark orchestra. But not to say he’s humorless – in fact, his stage patter stands in stark contrast with the heavy nature of his songs, peppered with jokes and sweet nothings for the audience.
The most striking thing about seeing My Chemical Romance live is the tribal, community spirit that arises. It’s aided by the songs’ sweet, anthemic passages, and Way occasionally gave himself a respite by letting the crowd fill in the gaps of the chorus. “Famous Last Words,” which came surprisingly early in the set, fostered one such transcendent moment. Way introduced it thusly: “This is for somebody I love.” From The Black Parade, it’s a bittersweet tale from the point of view of a dying cancer patient. But then there’s that life-affirming chorus. “I am not afraid to keep on living,” it begins. Hearing that echoing across a field of thousands, most of them singing along, was an almost creepy sublime moment. And a testament to My Chemical Romance’s intense magnetic pull.
-“This is How I Disappear”
-“The Sharpest Lives”
-“I’m Not Okay (I Promise)”
-“Famous Last Words”
-“Give ‘Em Hell, Kid”
-“House of Wolves”
-“Welcome to the Black Parade”
-“You Know What They Do to Guys Like Us in Prison”
Linkin Park: By the end of the day, this was very obviously very much Linkin Park’s crowd. Their entrance was suitably dramatic: The lights went up on a large white sheet, illuminating from behind the shadowy silhouettes of the drummer. The anticipation was palpable, and at the first note, the sheet dropped and both band and audience exploded. Visually, they had dropped most of the rap-rock pretensions. The DJ was still visible, and an integral part of the sound, but in overall style and demeanor, Linkin Park now seem much more like normal guys. Pacing back and forth in front of a vaguely Asian-looking series of latticework risers, vocalist Chester Bennington let out an aggressive spray of spittle with every word, appearing to hover at the edge of an apoplectic fit. Fellow vocalist Mike Shinoda was more subdued, spending time playing a guitar behind a stationary mike stand. But eventually he dropped his contraints and traveled the stage for his MC breakdowns. Yes, they played all their hits, and yes, the audience loved it. What else is there to say? It was the end of a very long and loud day. -- Arielle Castillo
1)Placebo has been one of my favorite bands for almost a decade. My decision to check out the show was based almost solely on their appearance.
2) Although I was skeptical at first, I saw My Chemical Romance on their Black Parade tour and have since become completely besotted with them.
3) I never really liked Linkin Park’s … milieu.
Random Detail: The heat index pushed past a soul-destroying 100 degrees. The crowd wilted early on. Being a slightly gloomy type in South Florida during the summer requires stringent application and reapplication of waterproof hair and eye product.
By the Way: The Bled, who played early in the day on the Revolution stage, return to South Florida on September 4, opening for the Used at Club Cinema in Pompano Beach.