Epicenter Twenty Ten day one

Epicenter Twenty Ten’s first day featured a lot of great moments and a surprise or two.

The first surprise, at least to me, was attendance. While the crowd at the Auto Club Speedway looked to be in the thousands, the venue was not full by any means.

There were two stages at opposite ends of the venue (the main stage and the secondary Monster Energy stage) and the crowd never swelled to go past the halfway point except for Eminem and Kiss but even for Eminem you could get a decent glimpse of him just by weaving through the crowd.

As far as headliners, Kiss put on their entertaining mix of stage theatrics (at one point Gene Simmons was at the top of the Epicenter stage playing guitar and Paul Stanley used wiring to fly over the crowd), blood and catchy songs. From “Love Gun” to “Detroit Rock City” and of course “Rock And Roll All Night,” Kiss knows how to entertain. 

Toward the end of their set, they also gave a check for more than $500,000 to the Wounded Warrior Care Project (which helps injured military members returning from war to get care) and Stanley got the audience to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. 

Stanley also made a point during the show to point out how his band used no vocal backing tracks and played all of their instruments which sounded like a subtle dig at some of the previous acts who didn’t.

Eminem’s performance topped my expectations as I had read how he reportedly rapped over backing vocal tracks during his tour with Jay-Z and I prepared for the worst.

While he did rap over the vocal backing tracks his delivery is so fast and wordy on certain songs (I’ll throw out “Purple Pills” with his group D-12 as a random example) he can get away with it because you don’t really notice it until you see his mouth not matching the lyric you just heard but he’s walking around the stage and waving his hands to get the crowd going.

He also had a backing band, his touring DJ Alchemist and hype man Kon Artis) he brought out D-12 for “Purple Pills” and “Devil’s Night.”

Eminem came out in a black hat, black hooded sweatshirt, gray shirt and black shorts and looked almost malnourished from the audience. He started with material from his latest album “Recovery” (“Won’t Back Down”) and “Relapse” (he performed “3 a.m.”) and just briefly touched on his old hits. He only did the intro to “My Name Is” but did perform a passionate verse of “Without Me” and dedicated “Love The Way You Lie” to all the women who had been in dysfunctional relationships.

He got the largest cheers for his singles “Love The Way You Lie,” “Not Afraid” and his encore “Lose Yourself.”

Bush was also strong as they started with “Machinehead” and lead singer Gavin Rossdale looked like he was having a blast as he shook hands with the crowd, would jump up and down and confidently went into their hits like “Glycerine” and “Comedown.”

Papa Roach’s high energy style brought the crowd mid-day (it had been more than 100 degrees on the hot asphault at the speedway) to their feet and pumping their fists with songs like “Scars,” “Getting Away with Murder,” “Forever” and their last song “Last Resort.” Jacoby Shaddix has really come into his own as a frontman with his constant movement, antics like jumping into the crowd and charisma.

House of Pain, headliners of the Monster Energy Stage, had a strong set at times and weak at others. They started off with Everlast putting on the “Incredible Bongo Band’s “Apache” breakbeat and a live band taking things from there. What is kind of interesting is how Everlast looks now compared with 1992. He has gained some weight, wears glasses and has a gray beard but the incredible voice is still there.

On songs like “Jump Around,” where the band went into the incredible Pete Rock remix version toward the end, and an updated version of “Shamrocks and Shenanigans” he still has it. I bring this up because on the group’s second album, “On Point,” Everlast changed his delivery and deepened his voice into something almost unrecognizable. His fellow House of Pain rhymer Danny Boy also came out for some songs but they also invited La Coka Nostra which seemed to take away some of the group’s energy.

Other groups who have strong sets included The Knux, who I have seen before and recommend, with catchy tracks “Bang! Bang!” “Cappucino” and more. The group features brothers Kentrell “Krispy” Lindsey and Alvin “Joey Le’Strat” Lindsey with Al playing guitar and also rapping. The group also features a drummer and lots of energy. They threw out CDs, cups, posters, beach balls and were able to get the crowd at the secondary stage moving around.

Other acts day one included Suburban Noise hip-hop artist Big B, real name Bryan Mahoney, whose straight ahead hip-hop style with a live band entertained the crowd gathered at the Monster stage. An odd moment was when he was loudly using curse words to describe law enforcement (I can’t repeat it here) and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department was at the venue patrolling all day but they didn’t appear to take in his set. He got the crowd moving to songs like “White Trash Renegade” and “Out Here In Cali.”

Big Boi, of OutKast, was a definite crowd pleaser also. He peformed his verses with a horn section and guitar using some of OutKast’s biggest hits to keep the crowd from thinking about the triple digit heat in the early afternoon, which he also complained about and compared it to being in Georgia (Big Boi is from Savannah). He went through his verses on “Ms. Jackson,” “So Fresh So Clean,” “The Way You Move” and songs from his latest album “Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty” including “Shutterbug.” 

Crash Kings also gave an inspired set early in the day with their use of alternative rock and piano pop. Vocalist and keyboardist Tony Beliveau had strong vocals and playing skills despite a sparse audience.