PHILADELPHIA There were lessons to be learned at the SnoCore Rock festival stop Sunday at the Electric Factory.
Headliners Alien Ant Farm spent a portion of their lively, engaging and hard-rocking set educating the audience.
"We're not a heavy metal band,'' frontman Dryden Mitchell said. "With long hair I look like a girl and the heavy metal thing isn't happening anymore.''
Not angry enough for nü-metal, too smart for punk and too happy for hardcore, Alien Ant Farm seem to be building a stylistic anthill unto themselves. The quartet can deliver sweeping sonic blasts of sound, which it did Sunday on such songs as "Stranded" and "Summer." There was also a jazzy interlude when the band found a hep acoustic groove on "Solitude," and "Calico" had a thundering waltz time.
Perhaps what really sets the group (which also includes guitarist Terry Corso, bassist Tye Zamora and drummer Mike Cosgrove) apart is the band's sense of humor and dry wit. Zamora's stage antics included continuous facial mugging, playing his bass with one hand and slapping his belly with the other, and drooling. Mitchell, who wore a black T-shirt, black work pants and a white ski cap, more often than not assumed an arms-akimbo stance while singing, and often came out with non sequiturs between songs. At one point he advised the audience to listen to Philadelphia soul singer Jill Scott, an advisory all but lost on the largely teenage hard rock audience. Referring to the band's surprise hit cover of Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal," Mitchell said, "You hated Michael Jackson, but now you like him. If you still hate him go back and listen to him, because I like him!"
"They're not just musicians up there, that's an act," said SnoCore attendee Bill Griffith, 37, of Egg Harbor, New Jersey.
Later in the set, Alien Ant Farm delivered the hits "Movies" and "Smooth Criminal" from their DreamWorks Records debut, ANThology; a new rocker called "Bug Bytes" that, according to the band, will appear in the upcoming "Spider-Man" movie; and a track from their independently released debut, Greatest Hits, titled "S.S. Recognize."
The other bands on the festival bill taught the crowd a few things as well.
Local H, an Illinois alternative rock group known primarily for its mid-'90s hit, "Bound for the Floor," immediately preceded Alien Ant Farm. The group, technically a duo but accompanied by two other musicians live, will be releasing its first album in several years, Here Comes the Zoo, on March 5. Original drummer Joe Daniels has been replaced by Brian St. Clair, and the band rocked out on its old tracks and new songs such as "Half-Life," which demonstrated that group leader Scott Lucas is still edgy, angry and able to create a tuneful explosion of angst.
Local H fans were happy. "The new drummer is faster," said Jason McCollam, 27, of Washington, D.C. "I hope now more people will listen to them."
The New York group Glassjaw performed their set in front of a banner that pictured the twin towers.
"Pay a little respect for what that beautiful city stands for," lead singer Daryl Palumbo said.
The group, a noisy mish-mosh of dissonance, clangs and Palumbo's off-key yelps, performed songs from its Roadrunner Records release Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Silence and an upcoming June release.
While Glassjaw fans were happy with the set, others in the audience were not.
"I couldn't hear the difference between the bass, guitar and vocals," said Amber Florence, 16, of Egg Harbor. "It sounded like my two-year-old sister playing with the pots and pans."
Los Angeles' Apex Theory performed a short set of material from their album Topsy-Turvy, due April 16. The quintet is a refreshing mix of emotional intensity, swirling rhythms and aural nuance, stemming from, in part, the band's Mediterranean influence. Explosive, throbbing rockers such as "Mucus Shifters" and "Shhh ... (Hope Diggy)" sent the crowd into a mosh.
Earshot are a new Warner Bros. band that combines the musical intensity of nü-metal with the good looks of a Calvin Klein model. Lead singer Wil Martin had a lesson about the future of the group's lead single, "Get Away," which was performed Sunday.
"It will be on the radio," he said.
Fenix TX were originally scheduled to be on the bill, but dropped off shortly before the tour began. Apex Theory were their replacement. A spokesperson for MCA Records, Fenix TX's label, said the band is planning a spring club tour instead.
This year's SnoCore Rock Tour has dates scheduled through March 30. Adema will join the outing March 1 in New York.
For the second year in a row, there is also a SnoCore Icicle Ball for more jam-oriented bands. That tour featuring Karl Denson's Tiny Universe runs through April 1.
Read about all of the shows we've recently covered in Tour Reports.