Rock may have been shut out of the main categories at next year’s Grammy Awards, but as the sold-out crowd at the opening night (Dec. 10) of the annual KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas proved, there is still a loyal throng for guitar-led hooks.
Just take opening band Strumbellas, who have scored two radio hits this year with the brilliant sing-along “Spirits” and the follow up, “We Don’t Know.” A largely unknown entity going into 2016, the Toronto band became one of the breakout alternative acts of the year, playing numerous festivals, including Lollapalooza, Life Is Beautiful and Austin City Limits, among others. So they were a perfect group to kick off the two-night festival that recaps the year in alternative radio live.
Headliners Blink-182, who were nominated for Best Rock Album at this year’s Grammys, were arguably rock’s biggest act this year, hitting No. 1 on their return to the charts with California and selling out arenas around the country. Their hour-plus headlining set, which ranged from the Blink anthems like “I Miss You,” dedicated to all the ladies, “The Rock Show” and “What’s My Age Again,” as well as new songs such as “Bored to Death” and the closing “Los Angeles,” was the celebratory culmination of a triumphant year.
It showed too as the band had a lot of fun, bringing out an actual Christmas song in “I Won’t Be Home For Christmas,” a song Mark Hoppus said they only played at Almost Acoustic Christmas in honor of the fact the song was written for a Christmas collection from KROQ morning show team Kevin and Bean. And before the encore Hoppus, quipped they would play three more songs because they were “contractually obligated to do so.”
Jimmy Eat World were the other band to play a Christmas tune, covering Wham’s underrated “Last Christmas,” one of multiple highlights from their set, which predictably earned the biggest applause for “The Middle.” Similarly to Jimmy, Kings of Leon busted out new material, but the loudest singing and screaming came for tracks like “Use Somebody” and “Sex on Fire.”
While the majority of the night was a year in review feel, there is some looking ahead to 2017, this year courtesy of AFI, who previewed two new songs, “Snow Cats” and “White Offerings,” from their January release, AFI (The Blood Album). After their superb set, arguably the strongest of the night, frontman Davey Havok told Billboard “‘Snow Cats’ was a delight, it was so exciting to play. I did see people singing to ‘Snow Cats,’ that is so gratifying.” Mixed in to their set of course were hits “Miss Murder” and “17 Crimes.”
Fans come to radio station shows to hear the greatest hits of their favorite bands, to scream along and to relive their year in music. In that respect, KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas night one, delivered on every aspect, as usual.