The Make America Rock Again Tour is billed by promoters as “the tour that ‘trumps’ them all.” With the election three months away, and with nostalgia for '90s and 2000s bands in full effect, you can see where they’re going with this.
This tour, which stops through the Pub Fountains in Stafford on August 10, isn’t particularly noteworthy in a summer packed with major tours from the likes of Guns N’ Roses, Drake and the Dixie Chicks. It’s obviously banking on the Donald Trump Presidential Phenomenon, and the sorry state of mainstream radio-rock, in selling tickets.
I have no issue with this; in fact, I support this wholeheartedly. We live in a capitalist society, and no one should ever be persecuted for pursuing a living through law-abiding means. The Make America Rock Again Tour is populated by the following bands: Trapt, Saliva, Saving Abel, Alien Ant Farm, Crazytown, 12 Stones, Tantric, Drowning Pool (select dates), P.O.D. (select dates), and Puddle of Mudd (select dates).
These bands are linked by two common traits. For starters, their respective commercial primes – inasmuch as some of these bands had one – mostly came around the turn of the century. And second, most of these bands – we’ll get to the exceptions in a bit – are not particularly good. This is not to disparage anyone who attempts to make art through music. Of course, when your biggest – and in many cases only – hits come via any of the following ways, you’re eventually going to get relegated to sharing a nostalgia bill with those of the same ilk:
- Covering Michael Jackson for a novelty pop-rock track — Alien Ant Farm, “Smooth Criminal”
- Drafting a catchy little chorus about getting a blowjob from your old lady — Saving Abel, “Addicted”
- Crafting songs built a little too much about the word “boom” — Saliva, “Click Click Boom”/P.O.D. – “Here Comes the Boom”
- Putting out one of the worst pop-rock tracks of the past quarter-century — Trapt, “Headstrong”/Crazytown, “Butterfly”
This is not to say all bands on the Make America Rock Again tour are of lesser or one-hit-wonder quality. Puddle of Mudd – which won’t be on the bill August 10 but will play its own gig at the Pub Fountains on August 25 – is an exception to that rule. Fronted by the lunatic-fringe Wes Scantlin, Puddle of Mudd’s debut, Come Clean, was a rarity on the mainstream-rock radio scene at the turn of the century. It was just aggressive enough to be rock, just catchy enough to be pop and just melodic enough to get a single – “Blurry,” a great track, by the way — on the local Mix station.
Hell, Alien Ant Farm’s second-biggest hit, “Movies,” is a pretty damn good track unto itself. In fact, it’s disappointing the single didn’t get more run in re-release following the smash that was “Smooth Criminal” (“Movies” was initially released as the lead single from Alien Ant Farm’s 2001 debut, ANThology). Had it done so, perhaps the band’s career trajectory might have gone a different way.
Even Saliva, despite a name that would indicate otherwise, had its moments. “Your Disease” was a perfectly fine lead single, and “Rest in Pieces” is one electric guitar solo away from '80s hall-of-fame power-ballad status. Plus, bonus points for the fact that former front man Josey Scott – who has since left the band to pursue a Christian music career – eerily resembled a more heavyset version of Houston’s own the Undertaker.
Point being, there’s good among the bad at the Make America Rock Again Tour, and even the bad isn’t all that bad.
Sure, Crazytown is going to play “Butterfly,” but that song’s musical backdrop was taken from the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ 1989 tune “Pretty Little Ditty,” and that song is pretty good. Yeah, the fellas from Trapt are gonna totally bro out to “Headstrong,” but if anything, you can peruse the joint and find the guy who is way too into that song, and enjoy yourself for the next four minutes as heads bang. And as it turns out, 12 Stones front man Paul McCoy provided guest vocals to Evanescence’s breakout single, “Bring Me to Life,” so perhaps Amy Lee will make an appearance (note: This will not happen).
Will this tour make America rock again? No, not really. Will it make American rock music great again? That ship sailed a long time ago.
But, for a few hours, those looking to turn back the clock 15 years can check their brains at the Pub Fountains door, indulge in a little nostalgia, and enjoy the days when “come my lady/come come my lady” was damn near as much a part of the pop-culture landscape as “Make America Great Again.”
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.