Laugh All You Want, But Buzzfest Knows What It's Doing

Blue October's Justin Furstenfeld presses the flesh.
Blue October's Justin Furstenfeld presses the flesh.
Photos by Christi Vest

Buzzfest 35
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
April 16, 2016

Tell someone you’re going to 94.5 The Buzz's Buzzfest, and you will most likely get one of two extreme responses. The first and minority response is one of unbridled excitement, from a person who is either also going to the show or is bummed to be missing it. The second, and more frequent, response is made up of a combination of eye-rolling, the face-scrunch that comes with smelling rotten eggs, and some variation of an exasperated “Why?”

The latter response isn’t particularly surprising. Buzzfest, being the right and proper radio show that it is, is a reflection of the state of rock music at the time it’s happening, and right now most people are going to tell you that rock has fallen on hard times.

But rock music fans aren’t most people, and it could be argued that of the fans of the various music genres out there, rock's are the most devoted of all. After all, no matter how many people scoff at the very idea of Buzzfest, the show sells out every year.

Cage the Elephant
Cage the Elephant

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And these fans are awesome. They show up early. They spend money. They dance in the passing rain showers. They sing loud.

Yes, the lineup for Saturday's Buzzfest, the 35th, leaned heavily on acts who could have been playing Buzzfests back in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, bands whose high-water marks came more than a decade ago, but if all you had to judge from was the crowd response, it would be curious to see if you could tell that was the case.

Toadies
Toadies

Sure, not every band ages well. Sometimes you end up like The Toadies, playing tight, looking effortlessly cool and still sending chills down people’s spines with the end of “Tyler." But sometimes you end up like Everclear, giving your all to some well-written songs with a smile and a voice that sounds perpetually tired.

And then sometimes you end up like Blue October, whom some folks in the crowd very literally grew up with. Justin Furstenfeld was not shy about mentioning the fact that he’s from Houston, and, with the exception of some of the mega-singles from the bands playing after him, the crowd gave him and the band the most enthusiastic response of the day. On this afternoon, Furstenfeld was pure intensity and moved about the stage like a pop star beamed in from a different reality where the famous were allowed to be gritty.

The Offspring
The Offspring

Perhaps mirroring Buzzfest itself, The Offspring never quite get the credit they deserve. Yeah, their best may not be as strong as Green Day’s and their catchy hits not quite as catchy as Blink-182’s, but their catalog is just as strong. Playing a radio fest, for a band like The Offspring at least, means playing the hit parade, and their bench is deep. Sure, that means getting some of their sillier songs, like “Hit That” and “Want You Bad,” but they did throw the true believers a few bones; “Americana” sounds just as relevant now as it did back in 1998.

Buzzfest works, and it’s going to keep working. Cage the Elephant and AWOLNATION, with “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” and “Sail,” respectively, are the type of bands that can headline now and will always have a home at the Pavilion when the Buzz sets up shop, along with countless bands old and new. And the crowds will continue to show up to sing their hearts out and drink overpriced beer. And maybe you look at that and you mourn for the state of rock. Most people will agree with you.

The rest are just glad they don’t have to fight you when it comes time to buy Buzzfest tickets.

AWOLNATION
AWOLNATION

Personal Bias: I’m not saying this was a one-band show for me, but that’s really only because I really dig The Joy Formidable. Yeah, I went to this specifically to see The Offspring, but considering that I one time flew to Chicago to see them, sitting through Buzzfest was nothing, really.

The Crowd: Radio festivals are one of the few cases in which wearing a shirt from the band you’re going to see is, I believe, socially acceptable. I like to think of it as an unofficial straw poll of sorts. Shout-out to the folks wearing the Deftones tour shirts, for you are my people. Double shout-out to the dude two rows in front of me who looked 20 years my senior and was dancing as if he were on some next-level drugs.

The Joy Formidable
The Joy Formidable

Overheard In the Crowd: “It’s a park. They’re not loitering. That’s how parks work, right?” said one person to another, on the subject of whether or not people can hang out outside the Pavilion and listen to the show.

Random Notebook Dump: Dream Offspring tours I would still pay money to see: Green Day/Offspring; Weezer/Offspring; Offspring/Rancid/Bad Religion; Offspring/AFI/The Vandals/Guttermouth.

Random Notebook Dump 2: Props to Blue October for being maybe the only band I’ve ever seen put The Woodlands instead of Houston on the back of their tour shirt.


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