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[whitespace] Papa Roach brings the noise at LIVE 105's Not So Silent Night

By Sarah Quelland

PARKING WAS SCARCE in San Francisco last Friday (Dec. 15), and after tiring of driving in circles to no avail, my companion and I took our chances in an inconspicuous red zone and dashed into the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, where LIVE 105's Not So Silent Night benefit concert was already in progress.

A holiday tradition in the Bay Area, this year's show--broadcast live on KITS (105.3-FM)--centered on regional success stories Green Day, Papa Roach, Deftones and A.F.I. (Disturbed had to cancel), and the proceeds were slated for Music in Schools Today and the Popular Noise Foundation.

By the time we got inside, A.F.I. had exited the stage, and Deftones was in the middle of its set. Even with the cover of Weezer's "Say It Ain't So" worked into the band's epic rager "7 Words" (from 1995's Adrenaline), I'm still not fond of Deftones' droning vocal style (although watching frontman Chino Moreno backstage doting on his young son, who was apparently in need of a nap, tugged at my heartstrings).

I positioned myself in anticipation of finally seeing Papa Roach's stage show after Limp Bizkit canceled the San Jose Arena stop of the Anger Management Tour last month. Samuel L. Jackson's Ezekiel 25:17 speech from Pulp Fiction ("And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger ...") thundered out of the speakers before the band entered a darkened stage and launched into "Blood Brothers" from its smash DreamWorks debut Infest.

Live, vocalist Coby Dick is like a conductor, and the audience--which he works into a frenzy--is his orchestra. While bassist Tobin Esperance plays with style, putting his entire body into his instrument, guitarist Jerry Horton plays with a fierce controlled intensity. Towering over the stage on a drum riser lifted several feet off the stage, drummer Dave Buckner, looking better than ever, keeps the beats going.

Despite its tremendous success, this Vacaville four-piece still seems totally down-to-earth. Dick has always been outgoing with P-Roach's fans. In the early days, after club shows, he was the guy on the sidewalk shaking hands, giving kids hugs, schmoozing with other bands and, more often than not, selling a few independently produced CDs out of a cardboard box.

At the Not So Silent Night concert, Dick made contact with fans in front and announced, "I feel very blessed to be able to be here with you tonight."

His stripped-down, soul-baring lyrics and rowdy youthful charisma are part of the reason people connect so solidly with P-Roach's music. With themes culled from Dick's own experiences, P-Roach's songs address materialism ("Between Angels and Insects"), alcoholism ("Binge"), divorce ("Broken Home") and suicide ("Last Resort").

True to form, Dick repeatedly jumped into the pit and ran all around the stage bounding with unstoppable energy. At one point, he climbed on top of a speaker next to the Not So Silent Night pine tree air-freshener sign, toyed with it and chucked it unceremoniously behind him to the dismay of the stage crew. It's those kind of unpredictable antics that make a rock concert entertaining and make fans feel like they're part of something special.

The band, which has always infused its big rock hip-hop/metal with a severe punk-rock edge, spruced up its stage show with sound clips. A disturbing domestic fight--which came from an audition tape for the video--aired overhead signifying the beginning of "Broken Home." During "Thrown Away," Dick threw in a little of Seal's hit "Crazy," singing, "No we're never gonna survive unless we get a little crazy."

LIVE 105 gave P-Roach support when Infest first came out, and the band brought LIVE 105's DJ With No Name (from local band the Flames) onstage for a cameo drum solo.

Another highlight was "Walking Through Barbed Wire" a song found exclusively on 1999's self-released Let 'Em Know. The band hasn't played that song in about a year and a half, but gave its old stomping grounds a special treat.

Before the band closed with "Last Resort," a recording of a poem written by Dick, which seemed to be titled "White Light," played to the crowd and, in the spirit of the holidays, Dick said, "This song is yours, you're welcome to it."

East Bay punk rockers Green Day followed Papa Roach and turned the concert into a big party. But faced with the choice of watching Green Day or going backstage, I chose backstage. I wanted to touch base with P-Roach and see firsthand what their new life is like on the road.

A ransacked spread of food and alcohol was laid out on a disheveled table, and a boom box was playing rap music. The sparse room was divided into two halves by an ugly brown curtain and the occupied half offered couches for lounging. Hesitant fans were waiting patiently for autographs and a chance to take a picture. It was far less out-of-hand than I might have expected.

P-Roach is nearing the end of its headlining Master Bay Tour (which concludes Dec. 22 at the Memorial Auditorium in Sacramento with Linkin Park and (hed)pe supporting), and the guys seemed to be in good spirits and as friendly as ever--if a little tired. They've been working on new material and will continue touring with the next stop at Brazil's Rock In Rio festival held in January.

After a while I began feeling chilled by the impersonal sterility of the green rooms, and with everyone packing up, my companion and I found our way out of the cold maze of concrete backstage and back to the car thrilled to find we'd escaped a parking ticket.

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From the December 21-27, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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