MOUNTAIN VIEW -- The truth about summer music festivals is that they're as much about summer
as they are about music, which might explain why the main stage acts of KAMP
KOME faced a somewhat subdued crowd for much of the day on Saturday
(September 13). The San Jose radio station KOME's finale to festival-season
'97 may have come when the reality of summer's end was already too real for
many of the attendees -- after all, the majority of them have spent the last
couple weeks sitting in classrooms. Since the
up-to-the-stage seating at Shoreline Amphitheater (south of San Francisco) ruled out moshing as a
means of release for all that repressed adolescent energy, better options
were to flock out to the second stage where open space allowed that necessary
act of crowdship, or better, to head out to the boot camp stations for wall
climbing, sumo wrestling, velcro olympics and bungee running.
The lack of hyperfestivity toward the main stage really can't be blamed on
the lineup, which included Smash Mouth, Fiona Apple, Social Distortion, Third
Eye Blind and others. Though, with the exception of Apple (if you were
paying attention) and Smash Mouth, there wasn't anything resembling a
blow-away performance. Still, no set was a disappointment, either.
Naturally there were waves of crowd upsurge, too, many of which came while
the first four main stage bands -- Local H, Matchbox 20, Dance Hall Crashers
and Cake -- played, as coteries arrived with their we're-here-let's-rage
'tudes. But by the time Fiona Apple, who turned 20 Saturday, took the stage,
the excitement had fallen to a pretty heavy lull. And let's face it: she's an
exceptional performer, but she's the Lilith not Lollapalooza kind. Her series
of personal statements were embraced by the seated, talked over by the
standing. And with the emotional weight her performance bears, it's almost
disturbing that anyone even moves, much more speaks.
Following Apple was Sugar Ray, which made the girlies go gaga with a
self-indulgent performance style that likely made everyone but those boppers
want to yack. Vocalist Mark McGrath complained about being compared to
Vanilla Ice but a few songs later the band launched into the
Kick-it-One-Time-Boy's hit, "Ice Ice Baby." Still, "Fly" was a point-proving
finale - Sugar Ray can write a really catchy pop song that fully threatens to
stick in your head ALL day long.
Ben Harper paid the most severe price on the second stage (formally called
the Dysfunctional Stage), which was then occupied by local band Buck O Nine.
He and Apple shared essentially the same hamper, exposing talents big and
beautiful, but too demanding of respect for a rock-heavy festival. Crowd
pleasers the Violent Femmes brought some life back into the stadium again by
balancing their newer, less known tunes with plenty of their goofy good-time
classics like "Blister in the Sun," "Add It Up," and "Kiss Off."
Third Eye Blind brought the vibe higher, fueled in part by vocalist singer
Stephan Jenkins' emphasis that playing Kamp KOME was a big deal for them
because, "we're from here; we went to school here; we started out here; and
now we're back here, and you're here!" Touring has tightened up the power pop quartet considerably. Their set was highlighted, of course, by the hits, "Semi-Charmed Life" and "Graduate."
With two bands left, the KOME omen was sealed. And though many were
exhausted from all that sumo wrestling and temporary tattooing, Social
Distortion brought the crowd to a boil with an unrelenting blaze of its
complex rockabilly punk.
Finally, local pride peaked as San Jose's own Smash
Mouth (straight off a club tour with Sugar Ray) laid claim to the stage as
headliner and gave a darn-near-earthmoving performance. Playing primarily
from Fush Yu Mang, the group's debut of songs that were all written on
acoustic guitar before they were infused with ska-rock clamor, Smash Mouth
appropriately struck gold without even trying.
So the Kamp KOME main stage eventually triumphed. All that was left was that mass
exodus from the venue and that long walk to the parking lot. And you know,
now that it's the middle of September, those Urban Outfitter tank tops are
just too damn cold. And, shit, then it was back to school on Monday.