Rejects Rock Orange County
It lets mainstream listeners think that creativity is still critical, and that contemporary music makers are budding and flourishing. In reality, modern rock is contrived pap; guys such as the Rejects cobble together songs based on what music was like half a century ago, and the results are frighteningly uninspired. If listeners don’t protest, it’s because they're too lazy or tasteless to care. Bands shell out swill for the same reasons, and fans are deemed too clueless to nurture anything new or remotely evolutionary.
That’s one way of looking at it.
But something far more important was happening last night at the Orange County Fair amphitheatre. Hundreds of teens were figuring out how they have fun.
They discovered how to crack jokes in each others’ ears over the rancor of a PA system. They were feeling out how to rock their shoulders to a beat, and conducted experiments concerning what to do with their hands. They screamed, laughed and sang along with every song, radiating pure excitement through mouths full of braces and cheeks soft with baby fat. Many felt cool. Some made out.
It didn’t matter that frontman Tyson Ritter does a comically poor impersonation of Mick Jagger, accidentally knocking over mics as he bounded his svelte tush around the stage. When he said, “You’re so pretty, I just want to touch you,” 11th-grader Sharon Lopez’s entire skeleton shuddered with joy.
Alexandra Stettner, also a high school junior, said the Rejects show was the third she’s ever attended. Of course she loved it, and of course she’ll be seeing more in the future.
When t-shirts commemorating the show flood into classrooms this afternoon, it’s the vibrancy of the successful concert experience being cherished more than any particular band. The performance was very much a big joke — each ticket was worth one free ride on the park’s Ferris Wheel, concertgoers consumed literal buckets of lemonade. Ritter dropped the f-bomb a total of nine times, and lead guitarist Nick Wheeler swapped out no fewer than eight guitars over the course of the evening. This is Spinal Tap territory. But it got the job done.
The teamwork required to make the show a success was admirable. Towards the background but rarely forgotten were rhythm guitarist Mike Kennerty (giving off a strong Blink-182 vibe) and Matt Rubano, formerly of Taking Back Sunday, who smiled while playing bass like a half-breed of Chris Kattan and Tim the Toolman Taylor. Chris Gaylor kept the drum beats steady, revealing almost no emotion behind his Chuck Klosterman/Brian Posehn look. Simply managing the amphitheater’s sprawling mess of a parking complex required the collective efforts of a double-digit crew, a feat that went off with notable smoothness.
Last night’s show might not have been a hit with Theodor Adorno, or anyone else who sees danger behind market-ready melodies. But for the kids who wanted to shout, laugh and then get picked up by mom — the girl flaunting bra straps under a wife-beater, loitering near the tour bus with giggly hopes of “ripping Tyson’s pants off” — the gawky 16-year-old who’s never felt as anxious or exhilarated as he does with his homely date, tittering as they hurry to make it home by curfew. For them, this was the real thing.
1) Dirty Little Secret
2) The Beekeeper’s Daughter
3) My Paper Heart
4) Fallin’ Apart
5) Fast & Slow
6) I Wanna
7) Walk Over Me
8) Stab My Back
9) Swing, Swing
10) I For You
11) Mona Lisa
12) Someday’s Gone
13) It Ends Tonight
15) Move Along
16) Kids in the Street
17) Heartbeat Slowing Down
18) Gives You Hell