Local radio station 91x held its annual Wrex the Halls event on Sunday, December 8. The annual concert is a San Diego holiday tradition, and this year was one of the best lineups in recent memory. In the weeks leading up to the show, there was a ton of buzz from local bloggers and 91x about the lineup, and the final result didn’t disappoint. The bands that played were a who’s who of the big names in rock this year. The style of music in the show ebbed and flowed from big British rock to American alternative, indie, and everything between.
Alt-J are a British band on the rise. Touring on the 2012 album An Awesome Wave, they played a blend of rock music mixed with samples, synths, and unique beats. Their show was high energy and had a great percussive flair, with fantastic drumming by Thom Green and guitarist Gwil Sainsbury, who got in on the action with some percussion accessories. This band seems like it’s already big in England with commercial and video game placements, and it’s soon to take off in the States.
Arctic Monkeys were the next band on the bill for the evening. These guys have had an amazing few months, rising in popularity thanks to their latest record, AM. The band is already huge internationally, but they seem to be taking over America at this point as well. The single “Do I Wanna Know” is a major earworm and sounds as if The Black Keys took a holiday to England. These guys put on an amazing show, and the majority of the huge crowd at the front of the stage were devoted Arctic Monkey fans. Frontman Alex Turner is a blast to watch — he plays everything straight to the crowd.
Cage the Elephant, hailing from Bowling Green, KY, quite simply stole the show. Of all the bands on the bill, they were the true highlight, largely due to the the manic live performance they unleashed. This band also rose to fame in England before making it here in the US but sounded a lot different than the other bands on the bill. Vocalist Matt Shultz is a wild man on stage, screaming, diving into the audience, and rolling around the stage, all while singing some great lyrics. These guys elevated the whole arena with their energy, and watching them live was a great experience.
Vampire Weekend are an indie rock band from New York who famously formed at Columbia University. They incorporate interesting rhythms, driving melodies, and big choruses, and their songs have a very loose feel. Their set seemed to go over well as singer/guitarist Ezra Koening beamed at the crowd. Vampire Weekend are touing in support of the 2013 release, Modern Vampires of the City.
Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, marijuana… The headliner for Wrex the Halls 2013 was Queens of the Stone Age, hailing from nearby LA and Palm Desert. These stoner/alt rockers are super well-known — 2002’s Songs for the Deaf is a familiar record to legions of rock fans all over the world.
Singer Josh Homme has been the one constant in the band’s ever-changing lineup and evolving sound, and he seemed cheerful while surveying the San Diego crowd on Sunday. It’s unfortunate that, the last time QOTSA played in San Diego, it was several years ago at another radio show with an equally short hour-long set. Queens of the Stone Age seem to reserve their longer shows in SoCal for smaller venues in LA — they recently playing their new record, …Like Clockwork, in its entirety at several dates.
A highlight of their Wrex the Halls set was new drummer Jon Theodore (formerly of The Mars Volta) playing a rousing version of “Song For the Dead” and closing the show with an extended drum solo. Queens of the Stone Age sounded super tight, and the set was a mix of hits and a few samples from the new record.
By all accounts, Wrex the Halls 2013 was a great a success, and the large, sold out crowd seemed very satisfied with the great lineup that came to visit San Diego for the holidays.