There was literally something for everyone at Bullstock 2012 as an eclectic mix of bands took to the stage Friday at the Meadows for a concert that began at 7 p.m. and didn’t let up until nearly midnight.
ANEW, a rock band composed of USF students with hardcore rock leanings, opened the night but polarized the crowd. Ample use of distortion pedals and a penchant for creative dissonance were perhaps too much in the loud decibels the sound system provided. But anyone standing a comfortable 1,000 feet or so from stage, were treated to a set that was impressively polished and professional for a young, unsigned band.
Another unsigned group followed. Twenty One Pilots, a two-man combo of Josh Dun and Tyler Joseph out of Columbus, Ohio, featured a genre-defying set list that at times tinkered with scaled-down tribal beats and soft, haunting melodies and deeper lyrics than to be expected from a primarily electronic-rap-rock outfit. “Forest” offered quiet-minded meditations that contrasted with a progressive beat.
At other times, frontman Joseph seemed to channel his inner Eminem with an impeccable flow that alternated with an endearing singing voice. “Car Radio” featured Joseph rapping the refrain, “Somebody stole my car radio and now I just sit in silence,” as he sat behind a player piano striking simple chords to a progressive rock backdrop supplied by Dun. The lyrics disclosed a deeper meaning than a stolen car radio, as they inspected the self-discovery that forces itself upon someone stuck in silent solitude.
Checking Twitter and Facebook the following day revealed the group had won several new fans, with more than a few fans proclaiming they had outperformed Cobra Starship, which co-headlined Bullstock 2012, along with Orange County, Calif., band Jack’s Mannequin.
Cobra Starship won mixed reviews at best from those in attendance — a reaction that likely had more to do with frontman Gabe Saporta’s acidic stage personality. Perhaps the best word to describe the otherwise handsome Saporta’s presence is misogynistic. His interactions with band-mate and keytarist Victoria Asher during their opening song “The City is at War” featured faux-slapping and faux-battery to Asher, as well as a mimed bullet to Asher’s head, accompanied by Saporta’s ad-libbed lyrics “Shoot ‘em up b----.”
Saporta further distanced himself from the audience with his annoying habit of
introducing song titles through corny between-song soliloquies. As the band neared the end of their set list, Saporta asked the those in attendance if they would like to hear one or two more songs. One female student beside me cupped her hands to her mouth to shout, “None, just go away.”
Following Cobra Starship’s performance was Jack’s Mannequin. In full disclosure, I have followed frontman Andrew McMahon for a decade from his days fronting Something Corporate, and in many ways credit his emotional singing voice and realistically portrayed takes on topics such as love and survival for making me who I am today. But to give an objective example of Jack’s Mannequin’s impact on the crowd versus Cobra Starship, who were able to leave the stage without complaint, Jack’s Mannequin’s exit following an 11-song set immediately caused chants of “Dark Blue” from a crowd clamoring for the band’s 2005 hit song by the same name.
After a less-than-two-minute delay, McMahon and the band returned to the stage with McMahon announcing through the microphone, “We aren’t done yet,” before launching into the tune the crowd pleaded for.
The set list relied heavily on the band’s most successful album, 2005’s “Everything in Transit,” from which they played six of the album’s 12 songs.
McMahon’s humble and often disarming interaction with the crowd was in stark contrasts to Saporta’s often cocky overtures, and was reflective of the lyrics that define Jack’s Mannequin’s music. “Swim,” “La La Lie,” and “Resolution” each share a survivalist mentality.
“Swim” brought me to tears with lyrics like, “The whole world is watching, you haven’t come this far to fall off the earth. The currents are coming — just keep your head above,” while “Resolution,” with its emphatic chorus, “You hold me down and you got me living in the past, come on lift me up, clear the wreckage from the past,” literally brought me to my knees among the throngs of my fellow Bulls as I sang along, “I’m alive, I don’t need a witness to know that I survived. I’m not looking for forgiveness.”
Visit http://www.usforacle.com/multimedia for a photo gallery of this event.