STP hits hard at Avila Beach

August 24, 2011


I recently wondered whether there was a better Central Coast concert experience than the Mid-State Fair in July.  Well, Avila Beach in August is not too shabby either.

On a cool, dry, windless summer Sunday evening that overheated Texans would probably turn socialist for, veteran grunge rockers Stone Temple Pilots put in a solid if somewhat pedestrian performance for over a thousand live music junkies outdoors at the Avila Beach Resort.

Touring in support of their recent self-titled album release and making their first appearance since a 2008 show at the fair after their kiss and make-up reforming, the original quartet banged out most of their heavy hits, interspersed with songs no one had ever heard but sounded pretty good anyway.

That’s the trouble with established rock groups these days, nobody buys their new music and new tunes get very little airplay on rock radio. So their live gigs turn into nostalgic greatest hits revues, even for mid-1990s bands.

Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing in a festive, scenic, coastal setting like Avila where the audience just wants to get down and party. And STP displayed an energy that infected the crowd from the opening “Wicked Garden” and “Vaseline.” Even sweater-clad frontman Scott Weiland, looking like a yuppified Conan O’ Brien without the puffy air, kept his flaky stage antics to a minimum, concentrating instead on belting out his dark lyrics as his bandmates pounded out their riffs and beats.

However, when Weiland tries to speak between songs you could swear the heroin has just kicked in. At one point, he marveled at how the sun was setting so late during their early summer shows but now it was getting dark earlier.

What’s that saying? Shut up and sing.

And for the most part he did, one crowd-favorite “Plush” and other faves like “Big Empty,” “Interstate Love Song” and, “Sex Type Thing.’ Still, Stone Temple Pilots signature is the crunchy guitar of Dean DeLeo and the pulsating bass of brother Robert DeLeo. STP is clearly their band and you get the feeling that Weiland is tolerated only for his bad-boy rocker image.

The 85-minute show ended with their minor hit “Trippin on a Hole in a Paper Heart” as the main chorus “not dead and not for sale” flashed on the stage backdrop. That’s also the title of Weiland’s recent autobiography so maybe he gets the last laugh.

Local up-and-comers Truth About Seafood opened the show and seemed genuinely excited about playing for such a big crowd. While their catchy power-pop set didn’t really translate well with the bass heavy sound mix, these guys are definitely a foursome to watch.”
All in all, it was a good evening but not great. For $45 a pop, fans deserved a few more songs like “Creep” and “Sour Girl.”

The same thing happened with short shows by Counting Crows last month and Weezer last year at the Fair.  Bookers and promoters need to grow some balls and demand that headliners play at least an hour and a half.  And like Avis, the bands themselves have gotta try harder.

Still, the SLO live music scene is on the upswing for sure with ambitious bookings like Incubus in October at Avila. Local promoters Otter and Numbskull are tapping into the needs of hungry concertgoers here and that bodes well for the future of rock n’ roll…performance-wise at least.

So put down your cell phones, grab the car keys and raise those lighters.

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Wow! I would have loved to go see them! I did not even hear this promoted… guess that is my fault for not watching local TV and only listening to KVEC here and there.

Dang, I need to get in touch with my surroundings a bit more! If I had crawled out from under my rock, I would have forked over the $45 x 4 and brought the wife & kids.