97.1 The Eagle's BFD
WIth Rob Zombie, Breaking Benjamin and more
Gexa Energy Pavilion, Dallas
Sunday, May 31, 2015
Rob Zombie was the marquee act at 97.1 FM KEGL's annual alt-rock radio bash, BFD, at Gexa Energy Pavilion on Sunday, and he had something on his mind. As he paced the stage during his wellworn living-dead-man routine, Zombie wondered aloud about whether or not rock music is dead. “Who gives a shit?” he finally concluded. I, however, would say some 18,000 people give a shit — or at least the ones that stayed until Zombie finished a lengthy, medley filled rendition of “Thunderkiss ’65.”
It's a question worth asking with a show like the BFD. When I told my friends I was going to BFD over the weekend, I got much the same reaction from everyone: In almost every case (seven of nine), the response was, “That station is still around?” Of those people, more than half were female. Which, with a lineup headlined by the likes of Zombie and Breaking Benjamin, wasn't too much of a surprise. KEGL’s target audience is males age 18 to 49, but even as a member of that particular advertising cluster, I can’t really remember the last time I listened to the Eagle, either.
I could spend a thousand words on why this is (or a few: KXT already plays, nearly to exhaustion, the handful of classic- and alt-rock songs I want to hear), but I presume that little has changed with the station’s playlists and mission statement. To wit, as I walk through the gates and into Gexa’s oasis of praire grass, merch booths and shade, Stone Temple Pilots’ “Wicked Garden” blasts through the air.
And, frankly, Zombie and Breaking Benjamin are the only bands I was already familiar with, though certainly more so with the former than the latter.
If you want to know how out-of-touch I am, I am unable to name a single Breaking Benjamin song; obviously that put me in the minority at Gexa. I feel like if you tune into KEGL for a given length of time, you get a Breaking Benjamin CD in the mail, along with a pair of cargo shorts. I don’t know KEGL’s actual listener numbers, but even in the hot Sunday weather Gexa was swarming like hive of tribal-tattooed bees — one of those massive hives you have to hire a colorful Discovery Channel exterminator character to remove.
This Eagleriffic crowd was mostly white, mostly blue collar and, despite my informal survey showing female KEGL-ignorance, a lot more women than the station’s target market would suggest. Unofficially, most of these seemed to be one half of a couple. Couples were everywhere: There were couples holding hands, and couples holding nachos; couples waiting in line, and couples hurrying to an EMT; couples fighting, and couples dry humping. Nine months from now, when a bunch of white babies are born within KEGL’s main listener base, this show is probably why.
I arrived in time to see In This Moment, a band whom I knew nothing about. Their stage setup included a set of stairs and a red tent. When the band’s set started, a pair of gray-hued, demonic dancers emerged from the tent, followed by the band’s singer, a woman with blonde tresses and some kind of witch costume. In This Moment plays theatrical hard rock, replete with costume changes between every song. Admittedly, they’re entertaining; I’ve never been to Vegas, but this is what I imagine a “Vegas show” to be like. I felt as though I were watching a metal version of Lady Gaga.
Besides the female-centric In This Moment, BFD also had Halestorm, a hard rock outfit fronted by a woman named Lzzy Hale. According to the KEGL mobile site, Lzzy Hale might pose for Playboy and she may be a fan of James Hetfield; she dresses like him circa 1989 and shreds on a white Gibson Explorer. The crowd ate it up; I kind of think she should write some songs with Reba McIntire, because that’s what a lot of Halestorm’s music reminds me of.
By the time Breaking Benjamin came on, I was already burning out. I couldn’t smoke enough weed to dig this music (though not for lack of trying). I get why this music is huge, because it’s full of soaring singalong hooks. What I don’t get is why the front man kept taking the time to hate on pop music in between songs, thanking the Eagle for playing “some goddamn rock ‘n roll!” They played a cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and I hope Kurt Cobain was whirling in his grave.
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As I walked to my car, a drunk lesbian couple yelled the lyrics to a Breaking Benjamin song I’d heard a couple hours earlier. At least one thing was clear: So long as there is beer and radio, arena rock will never die.