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Jingle Jam
December 5, 2001
At The Compaq Center
Houston, TX

by Samuel Barker
December 21, 2001

It's the holiday season once again, which means it's time for the Houston 104.5 KRBE Jingle Jam. The event was hosted by Lenny Kravitz, who turned out to be the only marquee, but featured some of the top young artists in music today. One could not help but notice a lack of power from an event that had sported such names as Christina Aguilera, Pink, The Wallflowers, and Destiny’s Child in the past.

The intrigue of this event laid in the possibility of seeing some young raw talents that were destined to become something great. Michelle Branch, who was the first act to go on, was bubbling over with potential. Despite being an attractive teenage girl who many would associate with being a pop singer, Branch is a solid musician who actually writes and plays music. She’s an odd specimen in today’s music world.

As Michelle Branch took the stage with her acoustic guitar strapped on, you could see all the young girls in the audience in amazement that there was a girl their age playing her own instrument and leading a band, not just dressing in rags and flaunting her body. Michelle Branch had a full band assembled and wasted no time in getting everyone involved in the show. She played songs from her new album and even a cover of the Free Radicals hit, You Get What You Give.' The latter of which saw Branch put down her guitar and become a singing front woman. She definitely knew how to work the kids in the audience into a frenzy, which made for a fun night.

As the stage was being set up for LFO, Lenny Kravitz made it to the venue and was finally introduced to crowd. One of the facets of the show I enjoyed the most was that there was never a break. As soon as an artist ended their set, the DJs from 104 were out on the stage, there were interviews on the jumbo screens at the Compaq Center, fashion shows, and there were plenty of giveaways. It was a nice way to keep everyone's focus on the event.

When LFO took the stage, I was interested to see what they did. I knew they were a 3-piece boy "band" but not much else. I was happy to see they brought live musicians with them instead of relying on a taped back track. One of the members even played guitar on the majority of the songs. Lead vocalist, Rich Cronin, was wild on the stage and got everyone involved in the set. He even had the house lights brought up midway through the set so that he could see everyone. At points the songs dragged and people became bored, but Cronin had a knack for pulling the kids back into their set. When all was said and done, this band got the kids excited and poured a lot of energy out.

The next performer up was Craig David. He put on the best performance of the night up to that point, but quickly went over the pre-teens and young teens heads with his call and response techniques. He had a simple set up, a few monitors and a single acoustic guitarist. David laid down some soul, some hip-hop, and some house beats (vocally) that kept the older fans interested in the show, but led to the young ones waiting for something new. He was a bit too advanced for this young crowd.

His radio songs (7 Days, Fill Me In) had some of the kids singing along, but for the rest of the set the kids were left clueless about what to expect. This was in no way a fault with David, who had a fresh sound rarely heard out of the watered down garbage that passes as hip-hop today.

After a brief fashion show, Lifehouse took the stage. They played an amazing set full of radio hits and new tracks the band had been working on. Lifehouse mixed the show up well and definitely displayed their knowledge of rock performance. They had songs which went from slow melodies to hard thrashers. Despite having a pretty boy image, Lifehouse laid down some great riffs which got all the rock starved kids in the house worked up into a frenzy. No cutesy choreography or slick tape backup, just rock n’ roll, pure and simple…something desperately needed in todays music world.

Lifehouse’s set consisted of a good mix of new and old tracks. Playing an abbriated set would make it hard on most bands, but Lifehouse pulled it off well. Staple tracks like ‘Quasimoto’ and ‘Only One’ kept everyone involved and singing along, while the newer songs did their best to get the kids excited for an upcoming release from the band. Good musicians always leave them wanting more.

The 2001 Jingle Jam will definitely go down as one of the better ones to take place. Despite lacking a true marquee performer, this show gave a slight glimpse into the future of popular music and the limitless potential of some fine young artists. The future is looking nice, real instruments, real songs, and no more choreographed dance routines, no more broadway shows masquerading as popular music. Exhale and get back out to the live shows.

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

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