It was a good summer for music at the California Mid State Fair. Veteran rockers Sammy Hagar and Aerosmith made appearances, Toby Keith and Keith Urban represented the country music spectrum and modern rockers 311 and The Offspring even shared a night on stage. The show that got me most excited (and no, I’m not talking about Justin Beiber) was the last acts to be added, Weezer and All Time Low.
Pop-punk rockers All Time Low were definitely not the main draw for the night of July 29th in Paso Robles, California, but by the end of the show I had some serious respect for the band. At first they awkwardly tried to rouse fans from their seats since they had never played a show without a crazy pit up in the front, but the crowd wasn’t having it. Eventually, their high energy stage antics and a march through the aisles by guitarist, Jack Barakat caught the crowd’s attention and soon everyone was up on their feet…Even a man in his late 60’s with a foot-long margarita glass and one of those hats with fake hair sewn in got to dancing and singing along. Their set list was fun and energetic including hits like “Weightless”, “Dear Maria, Count Me In”, and “Six Feet Under The Stars”, but it was their comedy and goofy shenanigans that were the most entertaining. Lead vocalist/guitarist, Alex Gaskarth had the crowd believing the only reason they were slotted before Weezer was that he was actually Rivers Cuomo’s younger sister, and they ended the show by tossing their guitars to their sound guys who continued playing flawlessly while the band members ran through the audience. Fun show, and definitely got the crowd more amped for the band to follow.
Once the stage was set, all members of Weezer began an instrumental power-rock intro, minus lead singer Rivers Cuomo. Standing at only five feet six inches, but armed with his puffy vest and nerd-rock glasses, Cuomo triumphantly swaggered onto the stage to cheers and “W” hand signs to belt out the lyrics to their opening track, “Hash Pipe”, off their 2000 Green Album. Always the entertaining frontman, Cuomo led his band in all the big singles and fan favorites over their sixteen year career, and with so much going on onstage, it was difficult to decide where to look. One minute Cuomo would be stealing truckers hats from fans to wear and holding little kids up so they could sing into the microphone, the next he would be up amongst the cheap seats leading a posse of fans in the lyrics of “Beverly Hills”. All the while on stage, Brian Bell and Pat Wilson on guitar, Scott Shriner on bass, and touring drummer Josh Freese would be laying down the riffs and frequently changing instruments with each other just to keep things interesting.
At one point in the show Cuomo, who I thought was joking, remarked about how scary it was flying into Paso Robles on an eight person private jet, because he realized the guy sitting next to him was Jorge Garcia, (from TV’s Lost), but then rocking out on the side of the stage was none other Hurley himself. The crowd was as diverse and fun to watch as Weezer’s past seven albums have been. Young and old were throwing up the “W” signs and dancing along, and I even saw a little girl who couldn’t have been more than six, wearing a “Can’t Stop Partyin’” T-shirt and singing along with every line. Brian Bell sung lead vocals for Cuomo on “Dope Nose” while he was busy shredding on his guitar and throwing toilet paper rolls into the crowd, and then Cuomo took the mic back just in time for leading the crowd in “hep-heps” on “Island in the Sun”, complete with beach balls and smashing ukulele’s.
Though the show itself was only about an hour or so long, it was completely entertaining, and there was never a dull moment. Their debut Blue Album was probably the disc getting the most song-play of the evening with throwback tunes like “Buddy Holly”, “My Name is Jonas”, and “Say It Ain’t So”, but every single album got representation including indie faves Maladroit and Pinkerton. The four song encore started off with the high energy 2009 Raditude first single “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To” and then segued into a great mash-up cover of MGMT’s “Kids” and Lady Gaga’s “Pokerface” where Cuomo jumped off the drum stand sporting a blonde ladies wig. The crowd was very into it, up until the minute the lights kicked back on after a five-minute closing drum solo where each of the band members hammered on a piece of Freese’s kit manically to cheers and applause.