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Limp Bizkit, Staind, Papa Roach and Others, Rock Epicenter Festival

Charles Epting

After just two years, the Epicenter music festival has established itself as a Southern California classic.

Epicenter 2011 featured 12 hours of music and 15 bands on two stages, including Limp Bizkit, Staind, Papa Roach, Five Finger Death Punch, Buckcherry, Puddle of Mudd, Skillet, Everlast, Red, P.O.D., Asking Alexandria, Redlight King, Middle Class Rut, Crossfade and Drive A.

A lot of the buzz in the place was clearly driven by the fact that it was headliner Limp Bizkit’s first Cali show in over a decade and their first American live performance of 2011. They didn’t disappoint, but they were still just one band in raucous day that thrilled the all-but sold out house.

Outside the amphitheater, surrounding the Monster stage, a late-summer festival atmosphere was evident with lots of open-air food tents, bright sunshine, merch booths and promos being put on by show sponsor 106.7 KROQ-FM.

P.O.D., Crossfade, Redlight King, Middle Class Rut, Asking Alexandra and Drive A all cranked out 30-40 sets which got the crowd good and ready for the fireworks on the big stage.

At around 4 p.m., the Nashville-based melodic rockers Red kicked things off from there and there was no looking back.

Next came Everlast (also of House of Pain). After showcasing a few songs from his ’98 smash ‘Whitey Ford Sings the Blues’ album and his new simmering-with-bad-economy-rage single ‘I Get By,’ he refused to leave the stage at his appointed time, instead bringing out his House of Pain partner DJ Lethal (also of Limp Bizkit) to do a frantic version of their ’92 hit ‘Jump Around.’ The crowd ate up every second of it, bouncing around like they were at a proper hip hop show.

Next up was the Christian rock sensation Skillet, who energized the crowd with a tight, theatrical set highlighting tunes from their ’09 effort, ‘Awake.’ Led by the husband-wife team of John and Korey Cooper, Skillet used their time to entertain and also weave in some positive messaging about all of the temptations in the world today.

Watch ‘Blurry (Live From Epicenter 2011)’ From Puddle of Mudd

Kansas City sludge rockers Puddle of Mudd were next, playing through some on stage mixing issues to still deliver a solid set that climaxed with their new single, a cover of the Rolling Stones classic, ‘Gimme Shelter.’

Then came three bands that created a sort of California-love bond for the surging crowd, whose energy was clearly building with each feature act. Buckcherry, Papa Roach and Five Finger Death Punch are all from the area, and all seemed to understand exactly what to deliver on this cool, late-summer night in the Southland.

Buckcherry lead singer Josh Todd, who went to high school nearby, was his usual dervish, wildly bucking self. Closing their set with ‘Sorry’ and ‘Crazy Bitch,’ the crowd was starting to peak in the massive energy rush that is any Buckcherry show.

Before the audience could take a breath, Five Finger Death Punch, the night’s heaviest act, came out took the mob by the throat. Lead singer Ivan Moody was at his angriest, intense, confrontational best, at one point stopping the show as he watched security start to remove a woman from the front orchestra. Calling out the guards, he said the band was finished playing if the woman was tossed. After a tense moment, the guards relented and allowed her to return to her seat. And the crowd exploded.

Papa Roach brought Epicenter back to the party it was intended to be with a rousing, strutting set that gave lead singer Jacoby Shaddix more than enough opportunity to take the crowd in the palm of his hand and set the table for a big Epicenter finish. Shaddix was on fire, as was the rest of the band, but as high as he set the mood for rest of the night, the second to last band, Staind, reset the levels with an intense, focused, but far-more low-key offering.

Charles Epting

But that, after all, is Staind, which made for a bit of an odd fit. Staind frontman Aaron Lewis is known for his slow burn growl and (relatively) low energy showmanship, still it seemed a strange mesh at Epicenter. There was some awkard energy between the crowd and Staind, as strong as the music was, because up until that point that roller coaster had been set loose by the previous performers, and Staind quieted things down considerably. The set ended abruptly to light applause; a strange moment in an otherwise electric evening.

Then it was time for Limp Bizkit, who reclaimed the evening’s electricity with a pounding, 11-song set that thrilled the crowd from the first notes of ‘My Generation.’ Fronted by lead singer Fred Durst, Limp also features original members Wes Borland on lead guitar and John Otto on drums, with Sam Rivers on bass, and the aforementioned DJ Lethal on turntables and keys.

Charles Epting

Durst, who still seems to be at the top of his game despite a light touring schedule, was all over the stage, and all over the orchestra section, taking multiple trips into the crowd while appearing to drive security guards crazy as they worked to ease him through the throngs of adoring fans.

Cranking through hits such as ‘Livin’ It Up,’ ‘My Way,’ and their famed George Michael cover tune, ‘Faith,’ they closed with 2000′s ‘Rollin’ (Air Raid Vehicle)’ to wild applause.

In just three years, Epicenter seems to have established itself as a premier Southern California event, that no doubt will arrive strong next year as well.

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