by Steven Sanchez
Generation X: an age group that is synonymous with flannel shirts, Unisonic clear telephones, indie films, and blowing on the bottom of your video game cartridges if they were malfunctioning. But most of all, the one thing that this generation of so-called “slackers” is known for is…the music. Due to the untimely death of Nirvana guitarist/singer, Kurt Cobain, who was perceived as a spokesperson of the era when grunge was its most defining musical genre, what came after was the post-grunge wave. While the city of Seattle was the music Mecca that defined the early 90s, it was Southern California that that kept rock music alive in the late ’90s and into the new millennium. SoCal provided the world with glam metal in the 80s, spandex-wearing men with makeup and big hair. But this time around, a new batch of La-La Land rockers would bring the culture of Angel City to the masses. They would be clad in Vans and graffiti-style tattoos, they would sing moody lyrics similar to grunge but with louder riffs and a lot more energy and garage party vibes. Four of the bands from that era were Alien Ant Farm, Lit, P.O.D., and Buckcherry, and they brought their Gen-X Summer Tour through Fresno.
This quadruple lineup, presented by the online publication, Loudwire, in association with local music promoter Art Silva of The Artourage, took place on September 8 at Full Circle Brewing Co. in downtown Fresno. It was their only California performance and the last stop on the tour. They mostly play indoor venues, but decided to take the festivities outdoors to take advantage of the beautiful fall weather. It had all the makings of a backyard-style barbecue party: meat on the grill, cold beer on tap, mingling, and not having to listen to your older relatives reliving their glory days from high school. Everybody was there for a rock show and that’s what we got.
The poster promoting the tour resembles a throwback Marvel-style cover of an X-Men comic book. To say that these bands were superheroes to me during my pubescent stage in life would be a wild understatement. While I was growing up, the assault of their music felt like an attack from Wolverine’s adamantium claws. Their musicianship was like a superpower, but for me, their greatest strength lay in their lyrics. They taught me how to party, to have fun, but most importantly, how to live.
Local Clovis band, Boozer, who we have featured before, kicked the night off. The young, fresh-out-of-high-school trio brought their surf/skater punk rock to the show and represented the Central Valley. Boozer had won a previous Battle of the Bands contest. They were brought up to the stage by Dave Buckner, the former drummer for Papa Roach. Unfortunately, due to a guitar malfunction they had to cut their set short four songs in.
Next was Alien Ant Farm. The boys from Riverside delivered their humorous brand of metal to the Fresno crowd. Lead singer, Dryden Mitchell, with a beer in his hand, toasted the crowd, which collectively returned the favor. They played familiar hits like “Movies,” and closed out the night with their cover of Michael Jackson’s hit, “Smooth Criminal.”
Then Lit engulfed the stage with their late 90s alternative rock edge. Since I am a millennial (and keeping true to our jargon), I can only think of one word to describe their set: “Lit.” Comprising the Fullerton brothers A. Jay Popoff (lead singer) and Jeremy (lead guitar), they burst onto the scene with their seminal track, “My Own Worst Enemy,” which won the Billboard Music award for Best Modern Rock Track for 1999. They followed it up with “Miserable,” remembered for its stylish music video where a miniature version of the band played on the body of a huge version of “Baywatch” star Pamela Anderson. Recently they have begun to add country to their sound, but while playing live, it was rock through and through. When they busted out their famous single to end their set, they were joined by Dryden. The crowd went completely wild.
Suddenly, P.O.D. (Payable On Death) rushed the stage the way a football team bursts through a paper banner as it storms the field. They struck the audience with “Boom” and, needless to say, everybody felt it. Hailing from San Diego, this quartet was one of the most spiritual and deep bands from that era. Their songs dealt with death, suicide, salvation, and faith, and because of that they have been categorized as a Christian metal band. They fully embrace it, but the delivery of their message was not as monotone as a Sunday sermon. They’re brash and heavy, all in the name of positivity. The lights were flickering, and lead singer, Sonny Sandoval, was erratically pin-balling his way in every direction around the stage like a passionate pastor preaching the power of his Creator. Since the band is one of the beneficiaries of the nu-metal scene (the conglomeration of rap and rock), Sonny was spitting his lyrics like a freestyle rapper trying to K.O. his opponent. During one of their songs, some members from the other bands and roadies were playing a game of cornhole on stage while they were performing. During “Youth of a Nation,” Sonny called up all the kids who were in the audience to line up on the stage. He then dedicated this song to them, since they will become “the leaders of tomorrow,” and that he expects them to “do good in the world.” And of course, they brought the audience to life with “Alive” to close their slot.
This is the band that I would listen to when working out or getting pumped before football games. I had an emotional connection to this band when I was younger, and the songs brought me back to the times of my past. I’m sure the other patrons there must have felt as nostalgic for the first time they heard each band play.
Last but not least, the headliners: Buckcherry. This band makes no excuses for what they are, which is a rock band down to its core. A throwback to the old days of five-member bands, decked out in leather, all tatted up, with a lead singer who oozed sex appeal. That is this band. Their lyrics are self-explanatory, no deeper meaning at all: sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll all the way. Their music makes you want to grab a drink, get yourself a girl, and just rock out. That was their attitude the whole night.
They transformed the rock world with their debut single “Lit Up” in 1999. In 2002, they went on hiatus but re-formed in 2005 and, in 2006, recorded “Crazy Bitch,” and the ballad “Sorry.” They’ve been a consistent touring act ever since. Crunchy guitar riffs and solos, groovin’ drum beats, and lead singer, Josh Todd, foot stomping his way around the stage, smacking his tambourine like it deserved some disciplinary action. Gen-X represents bands from the 90s but their show felt like a 70s concert on the Sunset Strip at The Troubador. They went through their song list of pledges of debauchery like “Slammin’,” “2 Drunk,” “The Vacuum,” and “Gluttony.” They performed their hits, and at the end of the night, everyone went crazy for “Crazy Bitch.”
I was able to move to the side of the stage and enjoy the climax from there. The last song felt endless, in a good way; they were jammin’ for a long while. Then, suddenly, they broke into “Jungle Boogie” mid-way through the song, going from rock to funk and then back to rock. It just kept on building and building, like a sprinter hurtling to the finish line. And then it was all over. I was right by the stage and bumped fists with all the band members; I congratulated them on a great performance. Then I got to take a picture with Sonny, and thanked him for how much his music meant to me.
We had six full hours of partying, throwing the rock horns hand gesture around, and air-guitaring late into the night. Concerts like this defined Generation X, and even after all this time, the bands and the community that came of age with this music are still around. Nights like this show that this music isn’t going anywhere. The legacy will continue on past my generation and into the next one. Whatever new bands come around, they’ll be influenced by these Gen-X bands. And when they do come around again, other rock peers and predecessors and I will be there.