Anyone who attended last year’s show will tell you. Moving its annual birthday party/summer kickoff concert downtown, to digs that take up the State, the Fox and a makeshift outdoor stage in between, was probably one of the coolest things 89x radio has ever done. It was hot, hands were wrapped around sudsy, 20-ounce diuretics, and the momentary kings of new rock alternative were screaming in the sunlight. While the show’s lineup stretched the definition of “solid,” at least everyone can say they saw a lot of suburban skin giving it away at Woodward and Montcalm.
It’s the same setup for this year’s birthday bash (the radio station’s 15th). Two theaters, three stages, 33 beer tubs and a lineup like a modern rock ice cream truck — most flavors are available, but some melt quicker than others.
Dashboard head Chris Carrabba hasn’t been heard from since 2004 and the plodding Spider-Man 2 soundtrack entry “Vindicated.” But there’s a new Dashboard record out June 27 called Dusk and Summer, and if its lead single, “Don’t Wait,” is any indication — it sounds like a high school yearbook testimonial put to the tune from “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer — Carrabba’s current take on emo is to muddle the genre’s usual anthems for the unloved with the schmaltz of a thousand Sandra Bullock movies. Good luck with all that.
8p.m., Fox Stage
The band’s new record Decemberunderground is a perfectly preposterous mix of approximately 4,000 current genres. And the amazing thing is that they sort of get away with it. Frontman Davey Havok looks and sounds like the DNA lovechild of Glenn Danzig and Conor Oberst, and his group’s high-concept clash of Cure fetishism and studio-afflicted punk-pop is too slick and pretentious to ignore. It’s even pretty catchy sometimes. “Miss Murder” — the descendant of “Miss Misery?”
9:45 p.m., Woodward Stage
The Sure Things:
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
The shouty hype surrounding Yeah Yeah Yeahs has faded some since the late March release of their second full-length, but that’s not to say Show Your Bones doesn’t have great singles. “Gold Lion” was killer; “Phenomena” should have been bigger; and “Cheated Hearts” proves again Karen O’s ability to make a mantra out of a yelp and thin air. “Sometimes I think I’m bigger than the sound!” Plus, live, the cheeky sway of “Phenomena” should make the early evening sun feel like an after-hours strobe light.
8:15 p.m., Woodward Stage
Joe Pisapia is just happy to be helping out. “I came from a trio with my brother,” Guster’s newest member says by phone from his home in Nashville. “And when you’re a trio, everybody has to do so much. You’re playing with both your feet and your hands, and singing, and you just start wishing that you didn’t have to worry about all of it.” Pisapia’s skills as multi-instrumentalist, singer and producer are put to great use on Guster’s new album Ganging Up on the Sun — his deft touch fills out the parts of the group’s sound that needed a bit of touching up after four albums. Guster used to impress with little more than hand percussion, a skeletal guitar line and Ryan Miller’s smartly confessional lyrics. But on the Ganging Up tracks “Satellite,” the single “One Man Wrecking Machine” and “New Underground” (which feels like a brighter, less bearded My Morning Jacket), there’s a newfound breadth. They’re showing the Frays of the world that mature, accessible pop songwriting means more than a vocal tic and a string of clichés. There’s been some dissention among the Guster diehards, of course.
“Yeah, I’ve been hearing about the polarity over this record [on the message boards],” Pisapia says. “And even when we were recording it, we were like, ‘I don’t know what people are going to think about this.’” But he’s confident that those pining for the days of bongos exclusively will get over it. Besides, vibrant shows have a way of curing the hardest hate, and Guster is great live.
9:45 p.m., State Stage
The Rest of the Pack:
Local boys Love Arcade (formerly Snowhite) are finally unleashing their self-titled major label debut. It’s too tweaked and way too clean, like a Quicktime stream instead of real humans singing and playing instruments. But with lyrics like “Keep it cracking like a bubble/Pop! Pop! Pop!” and song titles as giddy as “Going Down,” “Party,” “Sweet Thing” and “Tease Me,” how can you not wish you were as young and precious as these guys?
As for the rest of the lineup, it seems like there’s something for everyone. Hawthorne Heights will model the latest in perfectly uneven haircuts, Windsor’s Ashes of Soma will play their capable version of post-grunge trudge, and We Are Scientists … well, they seem like they’d put their own record on if they were at your party. But you should check out their set anyway, as well as those from Mindless Self Indulgence, the Stills, Say Anything and Thousand Foot Krutch. And remember: good is a matter of personal taste at the 89x Birthday Bash.
3 p.m. Sunday, June 18 at the Fox Theatre, State Theatre and Woodward Avenue outdoor stage. Visit 89xradio.com for complete lineup and set time information.Johnny Loftus is Metro Times music editor. Send comments to [email protected].