97X Next Big Thing Review (Part 1): Bush, Foster the People, A Day To Remember rock the 1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheatre in Tampa

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December

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Apologies in advance for what will be a short review. I was only able to attend a few hours of this year's 97X Next Big Thing concert on Saturday at the 1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheatre, and so I was only there for three full sets. We'll have another review coming in the next few days.

But this much must be said before the sun fully sets on one of the most interesting Next Big Thing lineups in recent memory:

Bush. Absolutely. Destroyed.

Who ever thought we'd be saying THAT in 2011? Who had any idea Gavin Rossdale (above) and company had this much gas left in the tank? 

About a year after the band regenerated with a comeback tour that began at the Ritz Ybor ("In a way, this is a homecoming show," Rossdale said. "So thanks for making us feel so at home"), Bush wasted no time dispensing with the hits, opening with Machinehead and The Chemicals Between Us, and playing a big selection of tracks throughout the night from their breakthrough album Sixteen Stone, which was owned by anyone who went to high school and watched MTV in the '90s.

But it wasn't just that Bush were so generous with their oldest, best-known hits. They played with passion and cocksure swagger, clearly jazzed by the huge crowd. Rossdale's voice hasn't lost a bit of its bite, and guitarist Chris Traynor matched him pose for pose, preen for preen. And their new songs? Pretty good! All My Life and The Sound of Winter? Really catchy!

The whole "singer venturing into the crowd" thing is on the verge of becoming a cliche, although it's one we're nowhere near tired of yet. But I've never seen anyone take it quite as far as Rossdale did on Saturday. I'm sure other singers have made their way up to the lawn of the 1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheatre, but this was the first time I'd seen anyone get that far. Singing -- and singing well -- the entire time, a sweaty, jacked-up Rossdale sprinted through the crowd and was swarmed upon reaching the lawn. Then he sprinted back through the crowd, thanked the crowd with a jaunty "Happy Christmas!," and as fans roared, the band laid waste to Little Things. By the end of the show, as Bush closed with Glycerine and Comedown, the entire crowd was on its feet and eating out of Rossdale's hand.

Just goes to show, you never know what you're going to get at a concert like Next Big Thing. Did I wake up on Saturday thinking I'd be raving about a Bush live show by the end of the day? No way. The set I was most looking forward to was Foster the People.

The It Boys of 2011 were playing their first concert in Tampa. And though they didn't say much, they stood out from the pack with soulful pop chops that owed as much to Hall and Oates and Kenny Loggins as MGMT and Passion Pit. With singer Mark Foster and other members bouncing from keyboards to guitars to percussion all set, the band hit their stride when they played high-energy disco-funk tracks like Call It What You Want, Houdini and Helena Beat. The commercial-friendly Don't Stop (Color On The Walls) ditched some of the cutesy twee-ness of the studio version for a more rocking vibe.

And then, of course, there was the ubiquitous Pumped Up Kicks. After a couple of minutes, the song swirled to a sample-driven house raveup finale, complete with two mini-dubstep breakdowns. It made sense to twist the song up just a tad, as we've all heard it about a million times by this point. As Foster the People continues to grow into their fame, it'll be interesting to see how Pumped Up Kicks evolves.

Ocala's A Day To Remember had to be happy they graduated to the Next Big Thing main stage. The group brought a rabid mass of fans to the mosh pit, and fans all over the 1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheatre were banging their heads and singing along to singles like All I Want and It's Complicated. During Homesick, frontman Jeremy McKinnon asked the guys in the crowd to remove their shirts and whip them around their heads, and many obliged.

But they got an unenviable set time for a hardcore group, even one popular enough to have headlined this summer's Warped Tour. The group was andwiched between two regenerated mainstream rock groups from the '90s -- Bush and Sublime With Rome -- and the energy in the pit didn't completely permeate the rest of the house. Beyond that, A Day To Remember's sound mix seemed a little off all set, and the normally cannon-throated McKinnon's voice sounded at about 80 to 90 percent.

Back in April, ADTR played one of the best sets I've seen in 2011. This show fell short of that high. But you have to give them credit for blasting the pit with toilet paper, beach balls and T-shirts tossed by a man in a Gumby costume.

*****

I caught part of Cage the Elephant (great) and Sublime With Rome (not my bag), but none of the other acts. But don't worry -- we'll have another review coming soon. Keep checking back here for updates. In the meantime, share your favorite Next Big Thing moments in the comments!

***UPDATE*** Click here for Part 2 of our review, featuring Yong the Giant, Cage the Elephant, AWOLNATION, Grouplove and more.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*

[Last modified: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 1:26pm]

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