WHFS Holiday Nutcracker - live in Washington, DC (Cover Artwork)

WHFS Holiday Nutcracker

live in Washington, DC (2002)

live show

A radio festival show reviewed on a punk site? Given the mainstream-ification of punk music these days, this isn't as out of place as you might think. In fact, a decent amount of crowdmembers were donning punk band t-shirts, to say nothing of the scores of 11-13 year olds in Good Charlotte shirts.

The first band on was The Distillers. Being the leadoff band, they had the misfortune of playing while the sound guys were still trying to set everything up, so their songs came out espcially bad-sounding. However, they had the requisite energy to get the crowd moving, and they didn't mess up anything, so I'm inclined to give them a thumbs up.

It was with great interest that I viewed the next band, the Vines. Having only heard the radio singles, I was interested in seeing if the other material, as well as the live show, could live up to the comparisons to the White Stripes and the Hives. However, the next half-hour was a huge dissappointment. For all the blather about the Vines being the "Next Nirvana," most of the songs they played were slower, almost ballad-like songs. The crowd went off for "Get Free," but the rest of the set was a definite thumbs down.

Next up, Queens Of the Stoneage. These guys were just badass, and they put on a hell of a rock show. Though their intricate sound lost something in the cavernous MCI Center (muddy sound was a common theme throughout the show), QOTSA just piled it on, and played wonderfully. Also, Nick Oliveri looks even freakier in person. Thumbs way up.

Unfortunately, rather than capitalize on the crowd excitement following QOTSA, they decided to put Zwan on stage next. My friend told me they played 4 long-ass songs, all of them sounding the same, and it felt like hours. I'm going to have to take his word on it, because I fell asleep at the start of the second song and woke up in the middle of this long-ass outro. Smashing Pumpkins were great, but Billy Corgan has clearly lost his magic touch. Thumbs down.

Next up was the highlight of the night, as James Brown took the stage for a special appearance, with the Pietasters as his backing band for the night. My only quibble was that he only performed two songs, rather than a full set. "I Feel Good" had the entire building singing and dancing along, and "Sex Machine (Get On Up)" tore down the house. Amazingly, despite his age, James hasn't lost a step, as he showed in his dancing. The atmosphere was electric, with everyone in awe of this legend and his amazing performance. Thumbs as far up as you can reach.

The band with the unenviable task of following James Brown was New Found Glory. The crowd reacted very well to them though, and NFG performed quite well. Unlike most bands that have no clue what to do when on such a huge stage (both figuratively and literally), bandmembers were constantly jumping around, moving across the stage, and NFG's sound is well-suited to arena rock. The only negative to this performance was vocalis Jordan Pundik's tendancy to hold the mic to the crowd to sing along to certain parts of songs. A decent amount of the crowd was singing, but because of the size of the building, it hardly made a sound in the mic. Aside from that, great performance, thumbs up.

After NFG came Boxcar Racer and Coldplay, but...well, it's Boxcar Racer and Coldplay, would you have stayed?

Overall, that's four thumbs up to two thumbs down. That alone would be enough to praise this show, but when you factor in the amazing James Brown, I can't help but rave about it. By all means, please, do yourself a favor and see James Brown live. Even a jaded punk rocker will love it.