On Dec. 8th 91X’s held its annual Wrex the Halls holiday concert featuring Queens of the Stone Age, Vampire Weekend, Cage the Elephant, Alt-J, Arctic Monkeys, the Silent Comedy and J. Roddy Walston and the Business. This powerhouse lineup released some of the best albums of 2013 (Arctic Monkeys AM, Queens of the Stone Age …Like Clockwork, Vampire Weekend Modern Vampires of the City, Cage the Elephant Melophobia and Alt-J An Awesome Wave). It's no wonder that fans crowded into the Valley View Casino Center for a day filled with music, meet and greets and of course the usual tastes and treats of the average concert-goer.
91X has been around for over 30 years and has maintained its independence for a majority of those years, which allows them to bring as much music, new and old, to the faithful listeners of San Diego and reward them with shows like this twice a year (X-Fest in the Summer and Wrex for the holidays).
The day began with local favorites The Silent Comedy and Tennessee Blues rockers J. Roddy Walston and the Business, and frontman J. Roddy’s vicious attack on the keys gave a great launching point for the day to take off. Also leading off the day was Alt-J who burst onto the music scene after releasing their debut album An Awesome Wave, which is in a category all its own with "Breezeblocks," "Fitzpleasure," and "Tesselate" staying in full rotation on the radio waves. An Awesome Wave is different and the world needs different.
Following one of the crowd favorites, the Arctic Monkeys, were the boys from Bowling Green and Cage the Elephant, who powered through a set of chart toppers "Come a Little Closer" and Cage the Elephant's classic "Aint No Rest for the Wicked" in their usual explosive fashion. Frontman Matt Schultz brought his usual repertoire of explosiveness and onstage shenanigans, which is his tribute to his hero also known for his high-energy performances Kurt Cobain. Their most recent album Melophobia, translated "the fear of music," takes a sidestep from the preceding ‘Thank You Happy Birthday’, which was an onslaught of musical madness and takes their sound into a new, more refined version of their chaotic sound. With the solid foundation of playing a kick ass live show, Cage the Elephant can get away with taking their sound in any direction they please.
After the elephants were caged, Vampire Weekend emerged led by Ezra Koenig with his Babar the Elephant denim jacket. The New Yorkers rolled through their hits from Modern Vampires of the City, which was rated as one of the top albums of the year by Rolling Stone. The thumping beat of "Unbelievers" can force an oil painting to start moving out of its frame and make the firmest of believers reconsider what’s really going on with lyrics like, “We know the fire wastes unbelievers, all of the sinners the same.” After jamming through the rocking riffs of “A-Punk” and "Walcott" Vampire Weekend got out of Cape Cod and set the stage for the Queens of the Stone Age.
It has taken almost six long years for QOTSA to return to San Diego, and as one of the biggest bands in the entire world it's no wonder they were playing for a sold out crowd. After the 91X crew introduced the headliners, the impatient cries of the crowd began to wither but were soon revived by the sight of the smooth and debonair Mr. Josh Homme (aka Ginger Elvis). The Queens started off the show with "Feel Good Hit of the Summer," which, appropriately enough, sent the crowd into a frenzy. Even Santa was in one of the mosh pits. If every person in the arena was not on their feet the second they started tearing through their set packed with hit after tooth rattling hit, then they were most likely no longer breathing. Undoubtedly there were some close to no longer breathing with the arsenal of heart stoppers like "My God is the Sun" and the smooth “gitchy gitchy ooh la la’s” of "If I had a Tail" from …Like Clockwork, their most recently Grammy-nominated album. Closing out the set with "Song for the Dead" was the perfect farewell as the boldest of exclamation points on another successful Wrex the Halls!
Text by Bryan Kelly; Photos by Paula Tripodi
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