94.5 The Buzz "Weenie Roast" feat. Sublime With Rome, 311, Cypress Hill, Pennywise and G. Love & Special Sauce Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion July 27, 2013
Houston radio station 94.5 The Buzz has been hosting large-scale, almost festival-like events at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion for several years now. Mostly focusing on rock and alternative music, these gatherings always attract a huge crowd. Whether it be their biannual Buzzfest or this event, the Bud Light Weenie Roast, they always do a good job at putting together lineups of like-minded bands.
I am usually not attracted to the bands that The Buzz brings to their events - not that they're bad, they're just not my thing. This time around, though, the situation was different with an onslaught of '90s stoner-nostalgia groups. Headliners Sublime with Rome were supported by regular tourmates 311, as well as hip-hop legends Cypress Hill, SoCal punkers Pennywise and Philly funksters G. Love and Special Sauce.
I've seen these groups a combined total of at least 30 times, so familiarity with the subject is not an issue. Being a teen in the '90s who loved the greener things in life also didn't hurt in my knowledge of these bands, either. I can sing lyric for lyric on pretty much every Sublime tune, most Cypress Hill songs and a handful of the rest of the other bands' songs as well. I'm sure I annoyed several people around me when "Hits from the Bong" or "Wrong Way" came on, but cares were something I was far from worrying about at that point in the day.
Yeah, I know that all five of these bands -- who are noticeably aging right along with their music -- were much better in their mid-'90s heyday, and hell, Sublime is only touring with one original member (bassist Eric Wilson), but it's still super-fun to sit out on the hill with a nice buzz on and feel like you're back in high school again. That is, if you weren't one of the many thousands of teeney-boppers in attendance on Saturday night, hearing "Come Original" and "What I Got" for the first time ever.
Sublime with Rome served as the evening's headliners over 311, despite opening for them the last time both bands came through just a year earlier. Their set was pretty much exactly the same as that show as well, but how much can you really change it with only a limited canon of material to work with. Bradley Nowell, Sublime's celebrated singer who passed away in '96, is surely missed, but this group serves as a fitting tribute.
It's unfortunate that founding drummer Bud Gaugh, who originally toured with Sublime with Rome, isn't a part of the band anymore. It kind of takes away from the whole "original members coming back together with a new singer" thing many bands have done both successfully (Journey) and unsuccessfully (every other band I can think of).
They played every hit you can think of, and even touched on a few rarer tracks including covers of Bad Religion's "We're Only Gonna Die For Our Arrogance" and the Grateful Dead's "Scarlet Begonias." Of the four times I've seen them now, this might have been the worst of their performances, though it might just be that their appeal has lost its luster.
It's a cool idea, and a fitting tribute to what could now be considered timeless music, but it seems as if the idea has peaked and it might be time to shelve it.
311, on the other hand, has had the ability to continue to write and release music regularly over the past 20 years with the same group of guys. While I've never been a huge fan of anything they've done since the mid-'90s, they've somehow played on a stage in front of me 15 more times than I ever really wanted them to.
The problem is that they always tour with bands I really want to see -- that, and I do really like about five of their songs. "Down," which they closed their portion of the night with, along with "All Mixed Up," "Come Original," "Amber" and "Beautiful Disaster" are the extent of my love for 311. Yeah, I know they're the hits, but otherwise I kind of feel as if everything else sounds exactly the same.
Cypress Hill was the most fun set of the day by far. I really enjoyed watching the green shirts (security) battle with the green-smokers throughout the entirety of their set. The lawn is anything goes, but when you're in the actual pavilion you have to deal with a security guard every ten feet. They aren't there to kick you out, just to make you obey the rules. And even despite a few overzealous attempts to stop the smokers from smoking their smoke, people still got their buzz on while listening to B-Real and Sen Dog work through the classics.
And the classics sure did come -- hot and heavy right from the get-go. People were bobbing their heads along before they even took the stage in anticipation of "How I Could Just Kill a Man," "I Ain't Going Out Like That," "(Rock) Superstar" and "Insane In The Brain." The best part of their performance came during what was referred to as "Weed Medley" on the set list -- a threesome of ganja-related tunes including "I Wanna Get High," "Dr. Greenthumb" and the aforementioned "Hits From the Bong."
During "Hits," a giant six-foot bong was carted to center stage amongst the loudest cheers of the day, eventually serving as a tool for B-Real's intoxication at the end of the song. All I could wonder is why the green shirts didn't say anything to him.
It was my first time ever seeing Pennywise despite thrashing around to their music throughout the '90s, but it most certainly won't be my last. Their set was by far the best of any of the other bands and definitely wins the award for least phoned-in performance of the day. The crowd was just starting to build as the band made their way through a raucous set of originals, serving as a perfect hangover cure for any of those who had made the most of their Friday night, and seemed to bring up the day's energy from zero to 100 really quick.
Their set consisted of about 12 originals, including a set-closing version of the shoutalong "Broheim," which was written about and dedicated to their original bassist who passed away in '96. They also performed two somewhat random covers: Beastie Boys' "Fight for Your Right to Party" and Nirvana's "Territorial Pissings," the latter kicking all sorts of ass. Front man Jim Lindberg seemed like a dude I'd really like to hang out with for the day. Dude had jokes for days, and had people chuckling along with his banter throughout the entire set.
Unfortunately, due to some issues getting my credentials sorted out, I missed all but the final song of G. Love and Special Sauce. I was bummed too, because I always enjoy them live. They closed their set with a super-bluesy take on their classic "Cold Beverage," but I was too busy getting everything situated upon arrival to really enjoy it. Thankfully they come through Houston quite a bit, so I'll be sure to see them again soon.
With beautiful weather and a solid list of live bands, we made our way through the day with a ton of laughs and a whole bunch of singalongs. Yeah, most of the music played throughout the day has grown somewhat stale over the years, but it's still great to have the chance to revisit it whenever these bands play in town.
I do almost wish that the three earliest bands -- Cypress Hill, Pennywise and G. Love - would have played their own show at a place like House of Blues, but beggars can't be choosers. I have to be thankful that they at least played here at all.
Personal Bias: This was music I became a man listening to. I will always hold a very special place in my heart for all of these bands. I was in 15-year-old Jim heaven for the day.
The Crowd: Slipknot backpacks. Tribal tattooed dudes. Cute little punk-rock couples. Classy stars. Stephen King. Green shirts. Green smokers. Intoxicated women. Vagina-grabbing Army dude. Tiny Dave Matthews. Tank tops. Black leather studded belts. Ariel Castro. Slutty country princesses. Four rubber-band ponytails.
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Overheard In the Crowd: The sound of the dude in front of me drumming along to the entire drum solo during 311's set on his wife's ass.