Rolling Stone – La Zona Rosa
words and photos by Andy Pareti
Time to break out the big guns. Rolling Stone’s party at La Zona Rosa was a surprisingly well-rounded show despite the high profile headliner of Queens of the Stone Age.
Dinosaur Jr. founder J. Mascis played a solo set that more than redeemed him for the abomination that was Demolished Thoughts at last year’s MOG Party. Mascis toned down the feedback for a surprisingly tender set of folksy songs off his new solo album, Several Shades of Why. The songs’ acoustic undertones recalled Mascis’ SST Records brethren, the Meat Puppets, more than his own band. Mascis did manage to sprinkle in a few classics for the crowd, though, like a beautiful, toned down version of “Little Fury Things”.
Next was a stunning performance by the sort-of Queens of the Stone Age side project, Mini Mansions. If Warpaint was the defining performance of an up-and-comer last year, Mansions, led by QotSA bassist Michael Shuman, is undoubtedly that band this year. If, while making Veckatimest, Grizzly Bear ventured down the John Lennon road of influence instead of catching the Brian Wilson wave, the result would have been very close to the harmony-heavy pop songs of Mini Mansions. The band’s hooks were absolutely infectious, yes, but they were made even more exciting when the band twisted them into burlesque circus acts, evoking a slightly more under-control Gogol Bordello.
Austin’s own Black Angels took the stage next, and there was no other performer at this year’s festival with a more accurate name. As soon as they led into their slow burn of psychedelic blues rock, I half-expected a dozen Harleys to suddenly roar into La Zona Rosa to the tune of “Bad to the Bone”. The Black Angels are hardly the thinking man’s band, but the grimy, Kills-like blues rock will always hold a soft, probably nicotine-stained spot in my heart.
Queens of the Stone Age’s show was a somewhat frustrating experience for this writer. On one hand, I’ve wanted to see them live for a very long time and think that Songs for the Deaf and Lullabies to Paralyze were two of the great albums of the last decade. On the other hand, their set consisted of playing through their entire self-titled debut, which incidentally is my least favorite album of theirs. In spite of this, the band was flat-out powerful in their delivery of this early, framework material, demonstrating that they are now a better band than they were in 1998. But that also means they’ve written so many better songs since then. Fortunately, their encore was jam-packed with highlights old and new, from “Little Sister” to “Make It Wit Chu” (a fan request), and the band ended on the highest possible note with a one-two punch of “Tangled Up in Plaid” and “Go With the Flow”.