Another year has past and with it another Fuzz Fest hosted by 92.1 at the Pavilion at Montage Mountain has come and gone. If one word can be used to describe this show it is simply “growth.” By that I mean each year has brought larger crowds, bigger names and this year being the tip of the proverbial iceburg with Weezer, Panic! at the Disco, AWOLNATION, and returning favorite from last yer Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. While this year differed slightly in the fact that this was part of a routed tour date the addition of AWOLNATION to the line up bolstered an already strong alternative package that has been doing fantastic ticket sales all summer long. The blend of fan-bases between Weezer and Panic! at the Disco translated into a massive crowd that stretched far to the back of the venue, easily the biggest turn out in Fuzz Fest history for those who may have wondered.
The day began with prolific splash of color splattered across the stage as Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness returned to the Fuzz Fest stage once again. McMahon and company stole the show last year and their return was much anticipated by the crowd. Dressed in a paint splattered button down that camouflaged him with the spanning backdrop, Andrew McMahon was the last of the band to walk out with a smile on his face as the massive crowd reflected in his sunglasses. The band warmed up the crowd with the slower, but powerful “All Our Lives” before diving into “Canyon Moon” and “High Dive” to get the crowd dancing on their seats. Included in the set was a nod to McMahon’s fans who have stuck around from the beginning with a performance of “Dark Blue” that has become just a big of a staple to the Wilderness sets as it was for Jack’s Mannequin.
The band debuted a new track called “Fire Escape” that will surely chart on alternative radio when it eventually makes it release in studio quality. During the incredibly catchy new track the stage came to life with massive inflatable arm men dancing around to each beats of the chorus. The set came to a close after seven well-performed songs as Andrew McMahon danced with the crowd on “Synesthesia” before he made his wake back to the piano to finish the set with the biggest single of their debut album, “Cecila and the Satellite.” The set ended just as it began with smiles and a promise that they would be back very soon. In just 1 year Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness have grown tenfold, just as Fuzz Fest has, and with new music on the horizon they continue to remain one of the top must watch groups in the alternative scene.
A quick set changed followed the end of Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness’ set as their backdrop was quickly rushed off stage so the show would stay on schedule. A blue microphone with a seemingly never ending red cord was situated in the center of the stage as fog began to flood the stage from all sides in preparation for AWOLNATION, Fuzz Fest’s special addition for the day’s show. Front man Aaron Bruno appeared on stage moments later behind a purple haze that added to the band’s very much experimental sound as they opened with a chilling performance of “Run.” The colors continued to transition as they moved along into their set with each song being chroma coordinated in way that truly compliment the song being performed. Meanwhile the sun had begun to set over the mountain creating a dazzling burst effect through the fog at one side of the stage as Bruno and his band got the crowd off their feet and dancing early with “Hollow Moon.”
The set though short was very well executed and was one of the best sets I have seen the group put on in recent months. The crowd went absolutely wild for the band and Bruno picked up on this early on as he worked their participation in to nearly every song in the set. Their set ended with a deafening rendition of “Sail” that ended with the band dropping their instruments on the stage and walking off. A truly dramatic, yet fitting end to their artistic set.
With much haste a pale blue curtain was slid across the front portion of the stage as the crowd began the wait for Panic! At the Disco to take the stage. Beers were fetched, food was purchased and a good 25 minutes were killed before the house lights suddenly cut off which signaled the start of what everyone had waited so patiently for. The curtain whipped back to each side of the stage and revealed massive LED screens that had come to life with the band standing in front of them ready to go. The music kicked in for the first song of the set, “Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time,” and soon after the decibel piercing screams of the fans joined in as front man Brendon Urie made his way down the steps from the back of the stage clad in leopard print shirt, leather pants and a glimmering suit jacket that was one of a kind. He danced his way to the front of the stage as the song came to a close and with a quick twirl to his band they kept the night moving along.
As each song ended it seemed like Urie’s stage antics and high pitched but flawless performance couldn’t be topped but then the next song would begin and the bar would get raised higher again. There is no denying that the fans loved hearing “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” late in the set but the real gems of the show were truly some of the new songs off ‘Death of a Bachelor.’ For example “Crazy=Genius” was one of the most fun and upbeat live songs performed all day and the title track was delivered in a way that could be compared to an iconic performance of Frank SInatra. Brendon Urie has truly come into his own as a musician and is the renaissance man of this generation with an unparalleled performing voice. Not to mention the fact that he had the vocal confidence to cover Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and nail every note along the way.
Once again the blue curtain was drawn across the stage but the anticipation was different this time, somehow the energy of the Pavilion had shifted into a nervous excitement as many fans waited to see Weezer take the stage for the very first time. The band’s return to the top of the alternative genre was well deserved as their recently released ‘White Album’ is easily some of their best material since the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Weezer’s raw talent has remained consistent through the years but this new album struck a different chord than others had and resonated home with a very large audience of listeners. This was proved by the roaring response the band was greeted too as they walked out on the stage, now transformed like a coastal beach scene with props and everything.
The night began with a sing along on the new track “California Kids” as Rivers Cuomo commanded the crowd from his mic-stand with his signature guitar in hand. Confetti streamers rained from the sky as the song came to an end and the band dove into “Hash Pipe” as gigantic beach balls were kicked into the crowd as a true summer celebration of music began. The band’s set continued a good variety of classic and contemporary with a nice blend of all the in between too including a flawless crowd sing along on “Perfect Situation” in the middle of the set. At one point Cuomo walked off stage and wheeled a cooler out from the side to get a water as the band just played music as they awaited his return. Fuzz Fest 2016 was a lot of things but it all came together as Weezer headlined the night and closed out what will probably be the biggest event of the year at the Pavilion.