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Buzzfest VIII
November 17, 2001
At The Woodlands Pavilion
Woodlands, TX

by Samuel Barker
December 4, 2001

After the insidious summer festival run, I was feeling relieved knowing it'd be a good while before I'd have to suffer through a sweltering summer's day walking between two stages watching bands play an abbreviated set and still not give it their all. Well, Houston's 94.5 "The Buzz" ruined that all by scheduling the first ever Fall Buzzfest.

In all honesty, this was the best set up festival show I've been to. Being in November, even in this age of global warming, the weather was ideal for an all day show. The line-up was choked full of Alternative top 40 darlings, teen heart-throb boy bands with guitars, and some up and coming bands who actually came to play.

The first band of the day was Pressure 4-5. These guys were done a disservice by being put on as the opening act of the entire festival as well as the side stage. This band was off the hook. Lead vocalist, Adam Rich, was throwing himself around and singing with pure emotion. It was one of the few moments during the day where you got to visibly see someone pouring them self out on the stage. Some of the best moments were during their first couple of popular tracks, "Melt Me Down" and "Beat The World." Surprisingly, they had a large crowd who were all enjoying the set. Even the kids outside the gate in line came up to the fence to get a better look at this band.

The cool thing about Pressure 4-5 was that they were patrolling the entire grounds all day signing things, talking to people, and enjoying the show themselves. It's nice to see that there are bands that are still fans.

Now it was time to head over to the main stage to see Remy Zero. This band has a cool story that got me stoked to see them. Apparently the majority of their songs come from recordings done by a man named Remy Zero, who recorded some demos a long time ago, and they got the tapes handed down to them.

Well, that's about as cool as this band got for me. They were completely dead on stage. No movement, no energy, they seemed like they were just walking through the motions. This may have been due to the band playing a club gig in town the night before and playing this set less than 12 hours after that show ended, but you can't make excuses for being a lazy performer. The final nail was the last song when the lead singer asked everyone to stand up, then he removed the mic from the mic stand implying he was actually going to move but ended up standing in one spot just holding the mic. Needless to say, by the end of the song most were sitting back down or heading to see The Apex Theory finish setting up on the side stage.

The Apex Theory was my favorite side stage band of the day. They were just wild. The music was hard at times and then went off in some little weird tangents with arpeggiated chords and strange bass lines. Lead vocalist, Andy Khachaturian, was climbing up the side of the stage and going insane. The entire band came to play and did just that. On one song, Dryden Mitchell, lead vocalist of Alien Ant Farm, performed as second vocals. He even had a "Side Stage 4 Life!" shirt to give props to all the people who are trying to make a name for them selves by playing the side stage.

As with the Pressure 4-5 set, a lot of people made it over to the side stage to watch The Apex Theory and rock out. You could see the happiness in the younger fans' eyes to actually be seeing a live band instead of kids singing over a tape recording. For a lot of these fans that were into boy bands and pop garbage, it was the first real live music experience they've had.

As The Apex Theory ended, everyone marched back to the main stage to see The Calling. These guys were clones of Lifehouse. The lead singer was hideous. He kept doing this Eddie Vedder to Steve Perry vocal ranges in the middle of words. It just didn't work. Their lead guitarist got wild at times. He was the first person to really move at all on the main stage.

After suffering through this set, I needed some time away from music to regain perspective. During this time I walked around some of the merch booths and games set up around the pavilion. A lot of people lose sight that the festival show is an event that is beyond music; there are usually a lot of other activities taking place so that everyone can do something besides being a spectator. I was sickened to see a sticker booth where they were charging $5 for small stickers of Crass and other anti-commercialism bands...sometimes you NEED to copyright to protect your fans.

After my stroll through the lane it was time to see Canada's first contribution to the festival, Joydrop. Joydrop came to play more than the prior main stage bands. Lead vocalist, Tara Slone, moved and got people into the set very well. The music wasn't too dynamic or amazing, but they worked well together and kept the sound tight. The highlight of the set was "Sometimes I Want To Die," which had everyone who knew the songs singing along in unison...finally, someone worth a damn on the main stage.

Now it was time for my last side stage band of the day, Default. Default was definitely a band that has a strong chance of being a main stage band in the future. They rocked, but their songs were well written and listener friendly. They really had something for everyone. You couldn't help but enjoy this set. Smart rock, I know, it sounds like an oxymoron, but it does exist.

As everyone walked back to the main stage, the consensus was that the side stage was producing the better sets of the day...so much so that one fan said he'd probably miss the next bands to get ready for 8stops7, which unfortunately I had to miss.

The home stretch has arrived! The main stage line-up was just starting to get to the strong part. Tantric took the stage next and played a decent set. It was the best of the day on the main stage to that point, but they didn't have a lot of competition. The set was tight, but most of the kids weren't too familiar with a lot of their songs. This band had a lot of promise and would definitely be served well by having a few more hits to get the fans into more of their set.

Alien Ant Farm came up next on the main stage. This band did what no other band did all day; they used the stage and went crazy. They opened with the first track off ANThology, "Courage," and never once looked back. Dryden Mitchell had some very humorous moments where he commented on how he loved beer so much that beer is his new girl friend and then proceeded to go through a dialogue between himself and beer. It was quite funny since everyone there was waving their beer at him. As always, the rest of the band was everywhere. Tye Zamora is insane, he plays some crazy bass lines and still has the ability to play under his leg, and do all sorts of interesting. Terry Corso climbed up on the speaker and broke off some nice riffs...it was a complete set.

The kids in attendance got up when AAF went into their first and now, third single off of ANThology, "Movies." The band went wild; the kids danced and sang along. It was a wonderful sight. As expected, the band closed with a lighter song, their adaptation Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal." Everyone agreed that this was the first set to put the main stage above the side stage, which had been superior by far to that point.

After a short break, Saliva took the stage. They opened with their single, "Click, Click, Boom." This song instantly got everyone singing along and moving. It was a smart way to open the set. The only problem with the set was that they were WAY too loud. There is a point in music where it's just painful it's so loud, and that was the point this band reached. They were wild, belligerent, full of southern pride, and also did the customary pro-America banter that has become a standard since 9/11. The set was fun, but way too loud to truly be enjoyed.

Nickelback...what can I say? I had subzero expectations for this band. I had seen the video; I knew the singer was Mr. Pretty Boy volumized hair guy, but I was essentially kicked in the ass and shown the error in judging someone off their commercial release. This band came out and rocked...no questions asked.

Lead vocalist/guitarist Chad Kroeger laid down some sweet riffs that were excellently complemented by lead guitarist, Ryan Peake. This band really came to play and made an impact with me. A highlight for me was when Chad dedicated a cover of Rage Against The Machine's version of Bruce Springsteen's "Ghost Of Tom Joad " to himself for his birthday. It was a rocker that complemented their set very well. As expected they closed with souped up version of their current single, "How You Remind Me."

Finally, it was time for the final act of the night. After an extended break which saw the emergence of a background structure and some various props, it was time for Fuel to take the stage. I've never been a fan of this band, and didn't become much more of one after this set, but I can't deny that lead vocalist, , has the rock star thing down. He's totally perfect for the role of lead vocalist. You can see some of the experience he picked up touring with Aerosmith has helped shape him stronger.

The set opened well, with guitarist, , coming out on stilts so that he looked about 7 feet tall. This shocked a few of the people who had ever seen that band before. The set rolled through most of their singles, including "Hemorrhage", "Scar", "Bad Day" and "Last Time." In the end, the set had a lot of cool effects, but I just can't get into their pop laden rock sound. The fans really loved them and got into their set, but I ended up with majority of the fans that weren't Fuel fans, heading for the exit early.

Overall, this Fall Buzzfest had everything the Summer Buzzfest has, except the unbearable heat. This made it a lot more appealing to spend the entire day out at the woodlands and enjoy the music. Hopefully they'll notice the amount off all day warriors and try this again, it worked well. Until next time, turn your radio off and go see some music in person.

Samuel Barker is Senior Editor. Contact him at suma@rockzone.com.

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