System of a Down, Incubus, Mr. Bungle snowblind Hollywood
There's no powder at the Hollywood Palladium, but that didn't stop Sno-Core. Originally conceived as a package tour that would bring music to the mountains, this year's bundle -- which touched down Thursday night in Los Angeles -- counts nary a resort among its thirty-two stops. Though last year's shows were mostly urban-based, tour organizers compensated by donating part of the proceeds to Board Aid and including games, gear and even a grinding rail for boarders' sliding pleasure.
This year, perhaps due to the rushed schedule -- the lineup of System of a Down, Incubus, Mr. Bungle and Puya wasn't finalized until mid-December -- the setup was far less extravagant. In fact, only the presence of a couple video games suggested that this was supposed to be some sort of sports-themed event.
Musically, Sno-Core 2000 deviated from the standard Korn and Bizkit rock menu. All the participants were plenty heavy, but they strayed from popular metal forms with ethnic influences -- namely the Puerto Rico-bred Puya's Afro-Cuban/Caribbean/salsa rhythms -- dynamic shifts and interrupted melodies.
Mr. Bungle, the once-side project of Faith No More's Mike Patton, gleefully and willfully confused the crowd with their carnivalesque pastiche, zipping through bits and pieces of klezmer, rockabilly and thrash-metal without fully developing any one of them. Not even the potentially poppy "Sweet Charity" came off as a complete song. Opening with a lounge-y rendition of Burt Bacharach's "What the World Needs Now," the band came out dressed like the Village People, with Patton as white-capped sailor man. Sticking with the theme, Patton baited the predominantly macho crowd with goofy innuendoes. "Did you all see the lunar eclipse tonight?" he asked the booing crowd. "I thought it looked like a big butt cheek. That's what's inside all these baggy pants here tonight. What's that? A middle finger? Be careful where you put that thing -- you might enjoy it!" Patton also got a rise out of the Sno-Corers by ripping on some L.A. heroes ("Red Hot Junkie Peppers" and "Rage Inside the Mansion").
Luckily for Incubus, a twenty-minute snow sports film separated the sets, so by the time the Calabasas, Calif.-band took the stage, things were a little more temperate. With Mike Einziger's shimmering guitar work and DJ Chris Kilmore busy at the turntables, washes of sound and echo-like scratching gave a moody feel to the band's neo-metal. At times, when Einziger got lost in his effects pedals, Incubus could have been the hard rock cousin of Slowdive, as swirls of feedback in "The Warmth" looped around the melodies, squalling and chirping like birds. Singer Brandon Boyd did double duty as a percussionist, with a bongo secured around his waist during half the set, as his shirt threatened to come off, inching up higher and higher until he tore it off in the midst of "Pardon Me." Swaying as if he were about to fall over, he looked as impassioned as he sounded, tilting as far back as his body would allow, limber as a rag doll.
But where Incubus seemed to captivate the crowd when at their gentlest, System of a Down coaxed out the inner thrasher in all, indulging in joke Slayer riffs and a cover of Black Sabbath's "Snowblind." Looking like a mad Rasputin in his traditional Armenian garb, frontman Serj Tankian stomped, sneered and howled through his songs about sex, drugs and politics. Body-painted guitarist Daron Malakian, bassist Shavo Odadjian and Tankian constantly played off each other, at times simulating whipping each other. Tankian's hand movements, hands clasped as if in prayer, gave an odd sense of reverence to the herky-jerky guitar lines. It wasn't until after they had dispensed with the pit-inducing "Sugar," though, that Tankian began his vaguely political rant (something to do with the CIA and how living a nine-to-five existence deadens the soul), getting the crowd to chant a "fuck the system" mantra with him repeatedly, with Puya singer Sergio Curbelo joining him at the mic.
There's nothing like an enraged mob mentality to make a concert seem like a sporting event.
Written by JENNIFER VINEYARD for RollingStone.com News