May 20, 2002


The Q101 Jamboree has always been an interesting barometer of the state of
alternative rock, and the message this Saturday was that change is afoot.

The annual daylong festival drew a large (but not sold-out) crowd to the Tweeter
Center. Listeners battled frigid temperatures that felt more like early March than
mid-May. But in a way it was appropriate.

Of the more than 14 acts, it was New York's Strokes who emerged as the most
potent musical force, and not just to this critic. A sizable number of fans sang
along with every word during their generous set, and many turned out in full '70s
punk and New Wave regalia, in homage to the roots of the band's sound.

The Strokes had something that almost all of the other artists lacked, whether
they were obnoxious, generic rap-rockers grabbing their crotches, or
ultra-sincere, generic punks pouring their hearts out.

The Strokes were cool .

The quintet was all about unrelenting forward propulsion as it drew from its
debut album, "Is This It?," as well as delivering a handful of strong new tunes.
There was no posing and little banter with the audience, just the subway train
rush of those insistent rhythms and the distinctive monotone of Julian
Casablancas' Lou Reed-inspired vocals.

The complete and utter lack of gimmickry represented a startling contrast every
bit as fresh as "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was when it arrived in 1991 amid a sea
of pathetic hair metal.

This isn't to say the Strokes are the next Nirvana (nor are the Hives or the White
Stripes, whose between-set videos were screened to more applause than many
of the live acts). Just that a fresh, energetic and sorely needed new sound is
gaining serious momentum--and god, is it needed.

Much of the day was taken up with ultra-lame white hip-hop (Trik Turner and
Quarashi, who could have been called the wanna-Beasties, except that they
sounded more like 2 Skinee J's imitating the Beastie Boys); refried funk-rock
(Red Hot Chili Peppers imitators Hoobastank); tired guitar-rock (Our Lady
Peace, the REO Speedwagon of a younger generation), and bland and lifeless
corporate-punk (Unwritten Law, Thursday).

There were some other highlights. Billy Corgan's new band, Zwan, played a set
that emphasized their more melodic leanings (shades of the Smashing
Pumpkins' "1979") at the expense of their expansive three-guitar jamming
(though there was some of that, too).

When rock legend Marianne Faithfull joined the group, it was clear that Zwan
could benefit from a more diverse vocal approach, occasionally relieving
listeners from Corgan's whine. It was sad to see Faithfull leave after only one
song, a cover of "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face."

Kid Rock delivered his usual tuneful, high-energy country-rock-goes-rap,
emerging with a bevy of Pamela Anderson clones. Tenacious D brilliantly
parodied the more histrionic elements of classic rock, a sort of joyless,
humorless pomposity that lives on in many nu-metal bands. And Dashboard
Confessional offered a very different kind of acoustic punk, though the subtleties
of its sound were largely wasted on the second stage set up in the Tweeter
parking lot, near the rave tent, and not far from the many corporate promotional

But while the above acts offered fleeting moments of pleasure, none were as
thrilling or invigorating as the Strokes. And none were as cool.

Unfortunately, I missed the opening set by local heroes Local H, and the fault
was entirely the Tweeter Center's.

While I arrived at the arena 20 minutes early (despite construction delays on
Route 57 that are expected to last all summer long), I spent 50 minutes in line
in the parking lot with thousands of other increasingly frustrated fans waiting for
a pat-down security check that bordered on the fascistic.

Security guards confiscated Sharpee markers and plastic water bottles,
prohibited knapsacks, opened eyeglass cases and wallets, and forced people
to turn their cell phones off and then on again, lest they be camouflaged bombs.

All the while, an annoying tape loop endlessly repeated that the venue could
refuse anyone admittance for any reason.

These measures were far more extreme and time-consuming than any I've
encountered at any concert or sporting event post-Sept. 11, but Rich Baylie,
Tweeter Center executive director, defended them as necessary and said they
will continue for every show at the venue this summer.

A warning, then, to concertgoers: If you want to see the opening act, you'd
better leave 90 minutes or two hours early to deal with the traffic and the
security delay. And a note to the Tweeter Center: While we appreciate your
concern for people's safety, there has to be a better way to secure that than by
forcing thousands of customers to miss some of the music they've paid to hear.