Upon Weezer’s announcement as headliner of Riot Fest, there was much scoffing and dismissive hand gesturing in the world of music nerds. I should know; I was one of the naysayers. Part of that has to do with Riot Fest being an ostensibly “punk” festival, featuring myriad bands who many of us thought lost to time, the rest of us still wearing their t-shirts on a weekly basis. Weezer, especially with regard to the band’s later catalogue, does not fit that mold. To many, promoters might as well have booked Gucci Mane (pending imprisonment) to headline at Congress this past Sunday.
But from everything I’ve seen this weekend at Congress, the merits of each night’s headliner has had nothing to do with staying punk, or embodying any particular genre. If that were the case, no one would have been at Danzig on Friday. The real excitement of Riot Fest lies in the multigenerational, resiliently relevant fanbase that each of these bands seems to have accrued. To use Danzig’s term, it’s about “legacy.” While the Descendents and Danzig crowds may have been more monochromatic, at least in wardrobe, Weezer seemed to play to a chunk of fans from each year of their almost two-decade career. And no one was rolling their eyes.
Despite the sudden passing of former bassist Mikey Welsh on Saturday night, Weezer brought a now-typical surplus of goofy fun to the Congress on Sunday. With powerhouse touring drummer Josh Freese on the kit, the band plowed through a career-spanning set of hits. Pat Wilson joined Rivers and Brian Bell on guitar, occasionally shredding through solos with commendable proficiency—the weirdly impeccable “Paranoid Android” cover best exhibited this.
Welsh’s lone contribution to the Weezer discography, the Green album, got its fair share of representation. “Hash Pipe” set the Congress ablaze, and “Island in the Sun” received a somber treatment, with Rivers kicking off the song solo and his bandmates joining him piece-by-piece.
Every member of Weezer has figured out how to sing exactly like Rivers Cuomo. As the bespectacled, soccer-shirt-and-khakis wearing frontman made his way around the stage, introducing the band, each did a dead-on impression of the rock star. If you looked away, you would’ve thought Rivers to be the only man onstage.
To condemn Rivers of egomania, as he guitarlessly jumped up and down during songs off Raditude, minutes after playing the stellar Pinkerton b-side “I Just Kicked Out the Love of My Dreams,” was certainly the operative gut reaction. But when he returned to the stage after a brief intermission, dressed head-to-toe in the same outfit from the Blue album cover (sans glasses, mind you), we remembered why we loved this band in the first place.
Like a lot of people—and certainly a lot of people sitting with me in the mezzanine for both sets—I’ve followed Weezer’s career “arc” with an ever-evolving grimace on my face. Unfortunately, and a bit ironically, my distaste for the new material has driven me further and further away from the early records I’ve always loved. Blue, in particular, has fallen victim both to time and my increasing hatred of the “Sweater Song.”