Alien Ant Farm & Smashmouth

So, hot on the heels of Crowded House, I also went to see Alien Ant Farm & Smashmouth on Thursday night, down at the Ann Sobrato Performing Arts Center down in Morgan Hill (on the way to Gilroy). I noticed of course that the venue was where it was, and I of course hadn’t heard of it, but I figured it’d be fine, whatever. Turns out, it’s a high school. A very very swanky setup, granted, but still a high school. My first clue was that it just ‘so happened’ to be situated right behind a high school, I noticed as I drove in. Then there were the sixteen year olds managing the car parking. And the sixteen year olds on the gate. Followed by the sixteen year olds everywhere else. Argh!

So, that was kinda weird and embarrassing… at first it seemed like I was the only guy there that wasn’t either a student or a parent, and I got there right on time which was of course too early, so, I had to kill half an hour by trying to turn myself invisible by sheer force of will. ;)

Compounding this was the fact that they had four huge grandstands which were completely empty – I’m not sure if they were ever meant to be filled, anyway, but still, it added to the effect – along with the sparsely populated seating anyway – that the turnout was not nearly as good as they’d hoped.

I mean, I know I’m completely out of touch with pretty much everything these days, but when did Alien Ant Farm and Smashmouth fall off the edge of the planet and start doing the stereotypical fundraiser and backwater gigs in middle-American towns where there’s a chicken-wire screen on the stage? :)

Nonetheless, the gear was completely pro – the stage was big and had all the amenities, they had the full pair of hanging speaker stacks along with – actually somewhat unusual from what I’ve seen otherwise, here – big bass stacks underneath as well.

There were also a bunch of girls – I first saw four at the entrance, but there were about a dozen in total – all dressed in haphazardly-similar black semi-formal dresses and high heels looking smokin’ hot and possibly even breaking 20 or so, too… and it took me forever to figure out WTF they were about; as noted some were standing around aimlessly at the entrance, and through Alien Ant Farm a group of most of them just stood together off to the side, down the front, just… I dunno – it looked like they were groupies waiting to get a hand on one or other or both the bands; it seemed they’d way over-dressed to ensure they’d be at the front and have the best chance of getting back stage.

That’s what I figured, at least. However, once Alien Ant Farm finished up their real purpose was revealed – they actually all lined up on stage while the roadies did their stuff, and informed everyone they were cheerleaders or somesuch for someone’s somewhere something lacrosse team… I nearly laughed out loud, for so many reasons… firstly that they’d have cheerleaders for lacrosse – that must be the most try-hard way to try and convince people it’s a real sport, pfft – and yet again at the whole fact that they were way over-dressed, and had probably hoped for a bigger audience too. Though I guess they were dressed pretty perfectly for the demographic groups present – the over-sexed teenage boys, the teenage girls with porcelain confidence over their self-image, and the dirty old men that were ostensibly there to supervise the aforementioned teenagers. :)

For some reason I now feel compelled to go check out a lacrosse game or two, sometime. Completely inexplicable. ;)

Anyway, I’m way off focus – Alien Ant Farm. I was surprised back when I checked out their whole album on the iTMS that they’re actually pretty good; not just the two-hit wonders that you might think from their ‘Smooth Criminal’ cover and ‘Movies’. Indeed, I bought their album. And I was pleasantly surprised that they were actually pretty good live – they sounded great, and the bass guitarist was amusingly disturbing – completely normal otherwise, but while playing he just spent his whole time pulling faces and generally acting like a gorilla with down syndrome. :D [[ sorry, not PC or whatever, but, pfft ]]

So they played for an hour, and I recognised a fair few of the songs, though not all – they too probably have more albums out that I’ve never heard of yet; I should check at some point.

Anyway, the sound for them was pretty good – open air concert, pro setup, all that. At various points they seemed to mess up the mix balances, though – the lead dude’s mic was way too soft in several of their songs towards the end, for some reason.

For their last few songs, a few alpha teenagers moved up onto the fence in front of the stage, and trying to get others to stand up and join them… and when Alien Ant Farm encouraged this pretty much all of the kids present went up there. It actually looked a bit more impressive when they did that, from my point of view at least – there was now a visibly sizeable crowd in front of the stage, with sufficient density for the smaller kids to crowd surf as well. And they had way too much energy, as them damn hooligan teenagers have these days, so it was probably really good for the performers as an offset to the otherwise seemingly-disappointing attendance.

So anyway, once all the kids were up the front it was revealed – by way of being those still seated – who all the old farts were, myself included. And I didn’t feel so bad then, because there were clearly older people that weren’t there merely because they had kids there, but as fans of one or other of the bands.

Smashmouth… they were pretty good, though the singing in quite a few of their songs was a bit rough – not in a “I’m gonna put a spin on this ’cause we’re live” way, but more a “I’m not really going for anything so whatever” kind of thing. :/ The sound was also cranked up way too high for them, in contrast to Alien Ant Farm were it was about right, so instead of the nice, loud but quality sound of Alien Ant Farm, Smashmouth were just washed out by the static from the speakers – what do you call it, “peaking”? “being overdriven”?… whatever, anyway, sucking.

So, yeah, that was a shame. They played for quite a while, and also did some covers at the end of a few good songs – their performance of those covers ranged from okay to fairly impressive – but I was kinda itching to leave by the end; I’d had enough of braindead sound control.

So yes, a reasonable night nonetheless, and the bands were better than the attendance would indicate – especially Alien Ant Farm – but coming off the back of Crowded House it was just no contest, let alone a fair one. And yes, as noted going from approximately the youngest person there (Wednesday night) to approximately the oldest was amusing if only for the awkwardness. :)

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