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Weenie Roast goes medium-rare

As the sun beamed on the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Irvine on Saturday, a sold-out sea of indie music fans danced and sang along to some of today's biggest rock artists at the 21st annual KROQ Weenie Roast.

While many of the past years have focused on genres like hard rock and metal, the 2013 festival showcased mellower music and bluesy rock from bands like the Black Keys, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Imagine Dragons, Jimmy Eat World and more on the main stage.

While that venue highlighted some of KROQ's top acts, two side stages, which were open to fans before the main stage opened in the evening, offered up-and-coming bands whose energy made them entertaining to watch.

Kicking off the side stage, Twenty One Pilots, a duo from Ohio, opened the festival on a strong note with its blend of hip-hop, indie and electro sounds. Despite a small crowd, singer Tyler Joseph showed a liveliness that could be compared to that of a headlining band.

As the crowd grooved, Joseph constantly moved about the stage, from his keyboard to Josh Dun's drum set, and jumped into the crowd on multiple occasions.

New Politics also showed vivaciousness as singer David Boyd did break-dancing moves that captivated the attention of the growing crowd. To feed into their affection even more, Boyd crowd-surfed his way from one side stage to the other.

Later in the evening, when the main stage opened, the musky smell of weed and alcohol dispersed throughout the amphitheater, and female attendees took advantage of the warm weather by wearing midriff tops, while some males opted for going shirtless.

Highlights of the main stage included Imagine Dragons, whose thumping, indie-pop anthems with taiko drums filled the atmosphere, and Jimmy Eat World, which offered its '90s-era hits like "The Middle" and "Sweetness," as well as a new single, "I Will Steal You Back."

Stone Temple Pilots, newly fronted by Linkin Park's Chester Bennington, surprised the festival as the guest performers. Their grungy, '90s sound was odd for the bill, but still well-received as fans could be seen bobbing their heads and singing along.

Bennington, who was performing with the group for the first time and replaced original vocalist Scott Weiland, sounded and appeared natural with the band as he belted songs like "Vasoline" and new single "Out of Time."

"I love this song," Bennington would claim nearly after every song, also noting his personal fandom for the band.

Thirty Seconds to Mars, fronted by actor Jared Leto, gave the most outstanding performance of the evening. As a drum troupe played, accompanied by images of Leto and company on a large LED screen, Leto was missing from the stage. Instead, he surprised fans by showing up in the crowd, right in front of the terrace section, strumming his guitar at the beginning of the set.

He made his way to the stage by walking through the aisles, which were about as slim as those in a movie theater, giving fans an up-close-and-personal experience with the actor-turned-rock star.

And Leto's interaction with fans did not stop there. Throughout the performance, he talked with his fans and ended the set with the audience's "best dancers" on stage with him.

When the Black Keys, the evening's headliner, appeared around 9:30 p.m., not a single body was still. Attendees continuously danced as the band played its bluesy, Led Zeppelin-era throwback sound.

"Little Black Submarines" inspired a particularly moving moment, as thousands of fans sang along with vocalist Dan Auerbach to the acoustic-turned-electric tune.

From '90s throwbacks to modern indie pop, the Weenie Roast offered something for each of its 16,000 guests, making the day filled with good vibes and music.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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