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September 10, 2007

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Kings of Leon, San Diego Sept. 8, 2007

On Saturday, I drove down from LA to the hot blonde-filled SDSU campus to take in two popular rock bands that I was unfamiliar with, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Kings of Leon. Honestly, rock music is probably the genre that I'm least familiar with out of all the radio friendly genres. Rock music has just really never been my thing, despite the fact that I grew up in the Pacific Northwest during the peak of the Nirvana/Pearl Jam grunge rock days (I think I was too busy listening to Sir Mixalot's "Baby Got Back" in my parents' Ford Taurus and waving my hands wildly while I sang "Emotions" by Mariah Carey). Some of my friends had seen this duo perform the night before in LA and told me that I was in for a great show, so after a morning of surfing (AKA Dave Chung falling repeatedly in the water in front of hot women) I was excited to take in some real rock music - not punk rock or pop rock - just rock. As the enthusiastic audience that spawned the first mosh pit I've seen this summer would tell you, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Kings of Leon turned it out on Saturday night with performances that halted all academic activity on the college campus and invited everyone to come down to the Open Air Arena and rock out with the bands.


The second that Black Rebel Motorcycle Club took the stage, the assigned seating area decided that they were going to form their own standing room pit at the very front of the stage. To explain the angles on the pictures, for some reason, the press pit only allowed me to stand at the very edges of the stage (getting yelled at once for running across the middle like a caged lab rat was enough for me). With the BRMC flag hanging in the background, black motorcycle jackets, and cigarette in co-lead vocalist Peter Hayes' mouth, the band's look fit the name and even more, their sound fit it as well - no nonsense, straight rock music.


With their driving guitar melodies, BRMC brought a hard charging rock sound that is reminiscent of days past into the modern decade with some incredible beats by drummer Nick Jago to go with the work on the "ax" and bass by both Peter Hayes and Robert Levon Been, who switch off on guitar/bass and vocals as well. With such a pure rock sound, BRMC attracted a wide age range of listeners to the rail, all of whom were happy to rock out with the band. Throughout their performance, I couldn't help but be shocked that BRMC is just a three man band because their sound was just so big that I thought there had to at least be someone my size hiding in the bass drum.


BRMC has a very pure rock sound that was actually unlike anything I had seen live this summer. With their loud, yet melodic hard rock sound, the band plays music that is just perfect to absolutely rock out to with vocals that really compliment the instrumentals. The band utilized very heavy bass lines to open songs and throughout their performances, and the BRMC faithful knew each track from the first note that the band unleashed from their guitars and cheered loudly throughout the set. It was cool to see how Hayes and Been switched off lead vocals and even lead guitar as they played under constantly strobing stage lights that proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that this was indeed a rock show.


The band's impressive electric guitar runs filled the air at SDSU and I felt sorry for any pocket protector wearing losers who were trying to study on Saturday night instead of being out with BRMC (I can only say that because that would have been me while I was at USC). Nick Jago's drum work was truly something to behold and it really just kept the energy up throughout the performances, as BRMC doesn't really move around the stage like an 80's hair band, hump microphone stands, or gyrate to the lyrics of their songs, which I don't think would be fitting for a band called a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

As BRMC continued on with their set, the makeshift pit at the front of the stage continued growing with every medium to medium-fast rock track that BRMC performed. While I was thankful for Hans Von Earplug for his genius invention years ago because the band was just so loud (not that this was a bad thing), I was really impressed by BRMC's performance and the huge applause they received from the crowd was well deserved. BRMC is a rock band, not happy music for the kids, nor weird punk rock with White guys rapping over the beat ("come my lady, come come my lady, be my butterfly..."), and their commanding guitar riffs paired with nonstop drumming that never ceased to impress made for a performance that was a lot of fun to take in.


Kings of Leon literally came roaring out the gates with their track "Charmer," which features lead singer Caleb Followill's trademark panther-like growl on the verses. Wearing some skin tight jeans that literally looked like they were painted on, I figured that band of Followills probably was "going commando." That is an image that I am still struggling to get out of my head. Listening to Kings of Leon was the easy part, but trying to get into the photo pit was a mess because this asshole (who wasn't a security guy) refused to let me pass by so that I could get into the photo pit because he thought I was trying to take his spot. As a result, I literally had to crawl on my hands and knees under this guy to get into the pit. Even worse, I had to put my face against his Homer Simpson-like sweaty stomach to push him out of the way so I could get into the pit. Let me just tell you, it was much more disgusting than it sounds and I will probably have to pop a couple Pepto tonight so that I don't get sick from thinking about it.


If you've never heard Kings of Leon, or you're less than familiar with them like I was, I highly suggest checking them out live. While their studio tracks sound good, they pale in comparison to how great the band sounds in person. Though my ears are less trained to rock music, Kings of Leon truly has a unique sound that is different than anything I've ever heard before (in a good way). The band varies melodies from track to track and while the instrumentals often take songs over, Caleb's clear, commanding vocals sound great live and they keep the band from ever getting away from their unique sound.

All night, fans cheered loudly at the beginning of each song and Kings of Leon rewarded their enthusiasm. With some of the coolest rhythmic stage lights that I've seen all summer, the band really brought it on Saturday night and left many in the crowd to spontaneously high-five each other at the beginning and end of each track, while others could not stop bouncing up and down like we were at a hip-hop concert and a select few were headbanging away like it was the early 1990's. Kings of Leon clearly appeals to a wide range of listeners and it was obvious on Saturday night.   


Kings of Leon's performance of "Fans" was one of my favorite on the night. While the song is really pretty simple overall compared to other Leon songs that vary tempos and even test the waters of different genres within the track, "Fans" is just so unique and catchy at the same time. By this point, the standing room makeshift pit had gotten enormous and puffs of marijuana smoke kept spontaneously appearing and the occasional student would go crowd surfing over the masses. People really came to see Kings of Leon on Saturday night and based on the crowd's reaction to every song, you would think that we were at some huge reunion show of some kind.


Even when Kings of Leon slows down their tempo a bit, they have beats courtesy of drummer Nathan Followil that would literally make you flip over backwards in a rocking chair. In songs like "Camaro," Kings of Leon proved that they're happy to absolutely rock out on choruses. In "McFearless," which was played under some Pokemon-seizure enducing yellow lights, the band featured some unreal drum solos and made a medium tempo song feel like it was much faster than it was because of the energetic instrumentals (which they managed to do at various points throughout the night).

The band's performance of "The Bucket" turned the Open Air Arena into a crowd of backup singers and "Milk" showed that the band would be fully capable of pulling off slow rock songs if they ever wanted to, before the band stepped on the gas once again with the instrumentals to speed up one of the coolest tracks of the night.


The highlight of the night was the band's performance of "On Call," where Kings of Leon asked the audience to sing along (not that anyone needed any encouragement) with them. The crowd absolutely came alive during this performance and the energy coming from the crowd literally gave me goosebumps to be a part of. People were singing at the top of their lungs, bouncing around, literally jumping, and taking their shirts off (all dudes, unfortunately),. It was one of the most electric performances that I've had a chance to witness all summer long and it's something that I won't soon forget.


While I came into Saturday night largely unfamiliar with both Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Kings of Leon, the bands made the two hour drive down to San Diego from LA more than worth my while. BRMC proved that straight rock is not even close to dead and Kings of Leon made a point to show that there are still some really unique rock bands out there that can gather and deserve a huge following. Both bands were great in their own respective ways and while I was taken out of my genre on Saturday night, I'd go there again if it was with these two bands.

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Great review. That is some dedication just to get pics!


Man, that sweaty stomach man is gross. You should have eye gouged him. I hope you had your hair all crazy to fit in! Did you drive back all the way to LA after the show? Crazy man, I would have fallen dead asleep about 20 minutes into the drive. Props!!


i listened to this Kings of Leon song called California Waiting a bunch when i was in dallas and really wanted to move back to LA. If they didnt play it at the concert i suggest you check it out. Its really a cool song. "L.A. face with the Oakland Booty!!! "


Nice photos






I love BRMC's albums but their live show for me ... meh, not so much. Don't know why it just doesn't kick so much ass live as you'd think. Nice pics!


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Black Rebel Motorcycle Club formed in 1998 the band was originally called The Elements, but after discovering that another band had the same name, they changed the name to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

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