The 26th annual Weenie Roast rocked Los Angeles over the weekend (May 12) – and if you have no idea what that means, it’s time to get familiar with KROQ, the historic California radio station responsible for the influential festival. For more than four decades, the LA staple has earned a reputation for introducing the world to emerging artists that have gone on to become some of the biggest names in the industry (No Doubt, Sublime and Rage Against the Machine among them) – which is why Saturday’s day-long celebration was peppered with praise and gratitude from featured musicians.
London-born singer Bishop Briggs (née Sarah Grace McLaughlin) emotionally told the afternoon crowd that gracing the festival’s main stage was a career milestone. “The KROQ Weenie Roast was the first festival I ever played two years ago,” she told hosts Kevin Ryder and Allie Mackay earlier in the day. “I want to to make clear I only had like three songs out, so it would take someone… a little bit crazy… but someone to believe in me.”
Leading up to Briggs’ main-stage debut was a solid lineup of side-stage performances from acts including Mt. Joy, Nothing But Thieves, Alice Merton, and James Bay. The first half of the day, however, wrapped up with another patented KROQ first: Mike Shinoda’s inaugural solo performance following the 2017 death of his Linkin Park bandmate Chester Bennington. Midway through the upbeat but poignant performance, Shinoda took to the piano to deliver a pared-back version of the group’s hit, “In The End,” inviting the crowd to belt out Bennington’s lyrics, which fans eagerly executed.
As the sun set on the StubHub Center, the day’s main acts took to the stage, kicking things up a notch – and, in some cases, 12. Following Briggs and fellow early performers, Manchester Orchestra and DJ Jeremiah Red, AWOLNATION, The War on Drugs, and Cold War Kids brought a variety of styles and sounds that fluctuated between gritty hardcore and melodic dreaminess.
But it was the night’s final trifecta of radio royalty that elevated the event to a level few festivals achieve. Thirty Seconds to Mars delivered enough high-octane energy to propel frontman Jared Leto off the stage and into the crowd before inviting scores of fans to join him in a stage-wide dance party that culminated in a confetti cannon showering the stadium.
Not to be outdone, Panic! at the Disco dove directly into a nonstop set of back-to-back bangers, including singer and sole permanent member Brendon Urie’s pitch-perfect cover of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. The musician, fresh off his Broadway debut and on the brink of a nationwide tour to support the upcoming album, ‘Pray for the Wicked’, seamlessly transitioned between Sinatra smoothness and his own signature timbre (with a heavy dose of pyrotechnics and a perfect backflip for good measure). Panic!’s set spanned the decade-plus length of the band’s discography, maintaining a freshness to KROQ early find, ‘I Write Sins Not Tragedies’, and ushering in a new era with the recent release, ‘Say Amen (Saturday Night)’.
Fittingly, five-time Weenie Roast veterans Blink-182 capped off the night; a band that’s paved the way for acts like Panic! and owes much of its early success to KROQ. Following a random but riveting five-minute stalling session from Ryder and Bob Saget, the revamped trio (guitarist and vocalist Matt Skiba replaced original member Tom DeLonge in 2015) jumped into action. Bassist and vocalist Mark Hoppus infused the 50-minute set with old-school juvenile humour while Travis Barker defended his title as the best drummer in the business. But save for intermittent dad jokes and two-minutes of bleep-able content courtesy of ‘Family Reunion’ (just Google the lyrics), this was a decidedly more mature Blink, one that’s prepping for an eighth studio album and Las Vegas residency. The boys are still boys, but they’ve matured from their early roots and left the door open for the next wave of fresh talent — a crop of future stars KROQ will more than likely be the first to spotlight on the Weenie Roast stage.
Words: Michelle Konstantinovsky