I was privileged to once again make my second trip to the western United States in less than six months for personal vacation/jam time and to see to Linkin Park at two unique shows in their neck of the woods. I first saw Linkin Park on Projekt Revolution 2007 and have seen them close to 20x since then. Ever since 2004, they have been one of - if not – my favorite band.
The operation of the band, in the studio and on stage, has changed throughout the years, as it does with any performing group. While some shows I have seen throughout the years have been better than others, there is no doubt Linkin Park is one of the best live bands out there today and despite the daily armchair critiquing by us fans, they bring it big every single night.
I got involved with Music for Relief with Mark on the U.S. arena tour in 2011. We did the first three shows of the tour (Sunrise + Tampa, FL & Atlanta, GA) and after the tour, we agreed we just about enjoyed the MFR booth as much as the shows itself. We were also fortunate enough to be a part of the first six shows of the Honda Civic Tour in 2012, helping coordinate the booth with Missy, Paul, and all the great volunteers in each city. Even the great Jonas was brought along for the first five shows and it was a great experience for all of us. Linkin Park brought it especially big that tour and it is two weeks I will surely never forget.
Fast forward to 2014, and now I’m getting invited to run the booths at these shows in Vegas and LA. A true honor. I helped run the booth on my 25th birthday at the Sunset Strip Music Festival in August 2013 – that booth turned out to be the biggest and best booth since MFR started. We raised nearly $3k at that one show alone! It was truly historic and ultimately surreal for me personally to see the band perform in North Hollywood, just feet away from some of the venues they got their start at such as The Roxy and Whisky a Go-Go.
I flew to Vegas from Atlanta last Wednesday. After a brief stop there, I finished my travel for the day by taking a short flight from Vegas to Phoenix to meet with Haley, a great friend and supporter of Linkin Park for many years. This was my first visit to Arizona and I enjoyed it greatly. I am a Southern boy at heart, but I could easily see myself living in this environment for a few years down the road in life. The next day, we took the trip from Phoenix to Vegas, stopping at the massive and stunning Hoover Dam. What an absolute treat it was to see something I had studied since elementary school. I knew this was the beginning of a truly epic weekend.
I have to admit – I wasn’t impressed with Vegas at first. I love touring cities, I love jamming, and I love doing the best of what cities have to offer. I noticed immediately that the strip wasn’t as big as I thought it was, although still an impressive sight. However, after settling into the Luxor hotel, and setting out for the night, I quickly fell in love with the vibes, weather, and true marvel of Sin City.
The next day was Friday – show day. When I was younger – Mark can attest to this too – I would get antsy and an excited feeling with a hint of anxiousness to see the band. As I’ve gotten older, this doesn’t occur as often but still doesn’t diminish the fact I was excited to see the guys again and be a part of Music for Relief once more, an organization I would support even if it wasn’t driven by Linkin Park.
Vegas during the day is just as great as during the night. Beautiful weather engulfed the city, a welcomed change from the harsh (to me) weather I had experienced in Georgia just a few days before. I really enjoyed going to each of the casinos, up the Eiffel Tower, and watching the Bellagio fountains.
I had to be at the venue at 6pm to meet with the wonderful Missy, MFR’s volunteer coordinator on the road. I knew this beforehand but when I arrived at the venue, I was reminded that this would be, to that point, the smallest venue I had seen LP at. The Joint is tied into the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino and creates a great vibe for preshow festivities with loyal fans.
The booth in Vegas was easily the smallest I’ve ever had. Instead of a booth, it was a small table and we had a minimal setup with bandanas, ear plugs, bracelets, and the solar box that hadn’t seen light since we had it out at the SSMF. I had some familiar faces volunteering with me and it’s always good to know people in different areas of the country – it really makes you appreciate the nation more. It was great getting back into the MFR swing of things and we ended up raising over $200 at the show, which seems modest but not a bad number considering the small booth and not the best location in venue.
Missy has always been a sweetheart to me, and her & Lorenzo allowed me to be a part of the meet & greet last minute. It was upstairs in a small room, so small there had to be two groups go in at separate time. I was part of the second group. Haley had gotten a meet & greet as well. This was her second time meeting the band while this was my fifth time. I’m not a big fan of autographs, especially ones I already have, so I didn’t have or need anything to be signed. I prefer a good chat and a picture, if it can be done. We went into the small room, and it was a typical meet & greet vibe. Mark Fiore, Jim Digby, venue people, security guards, and the band goofing with each other. This is always one of the great times to observe the band and their camaraderie with each other. They’re still relatively new way of meeting with fans is far better than their old way of being at a table sitting down, leaving little chance to talk or interact with the band other than having something signed and a quick handshake. Having the fans line up and the band come down the line is far superior and much more enjoyable. There were probably 25-30 fans in the small room. Haley and I were right in the middle. We took the group picture first. Brad was first to come up to me. I like all the members of the band but Brad Delson definitely has a unique personality. I didn’t have much to say to him and had nothing for him to sign so he decided to sign my shirt, which I have to admit, I really didn’t want but in the end, it doesn’t really matter, ha. I was solely set on one thing in the meet & greet: showing Chester the great in-my-face video of Sex Type Thing from the Stone Temple Pilots-headlined festival in Jacksonville, Florida a month earlier. Joe Hahn came by briefly but I don’t even think I said anything to him as I was trying to get pictures of Haley and Mike. I talked to Mike briefly, told him I hoped Lying From You was in one of the set lists for the two shows and he just kinda laughed. He made a comment about my Atlanta Falcons hat and also signed my shirt since he saw Delson had. Phoenix came by and I’ve always had good talks with him. He wanted to know how MFR was going and we talked about me coming from Atlanta, etc. We also asked him about Lying from You (my favorite song) and he hesitantly said “I, I don’t think we’re playing it tonight, ha.” He seems to be a pretty balanced guy personality-wise and I enjoy talking to him. Rob came by and the first thing I noticed was the gray in his beard haha…. and he’s the youngest one in the band! He signed my shirt as well and we had a nice, if not purposely awkward, exchange haha. Chester came up and I immediately threw the 75-second badass video of him in the crowd in JAX and he exploded, watched almost the entire video. Immediate smile on his face, he talked to me for a good while about how much he enjoyed that particular show, all the different bands that were on the bill. It was a great chat and you could tell he was legit pleased to have an LP fan at an LP meet & greet talk to him about seeing him at an STP show and loving it. He hugged me, and told me appreciated the support on both sides, and I have to say, although I don’t get “star-struck” or anything like that, it was a legit cool moment for me. Haley got the last bit of conversation on video along with a few solid pictures that can be found on my FB (Preston Bonner) and Instagram (pbones7). Meet & greet was done for us as the show was set to begin in 20 minutes. I still had to bring up the MFR stuff and cash to production offices so I did that then Missy escorted me through backstage to a great spot in the middle of the pit. I don’t believe the show was sold out (surprising) but the place was jammed pack. Typical for the band at one-off shows, there was minimal stage design but plenty of lights and production to assist the band in a great night of jamming.
Lights dimmed and the band immediately came out to play Wake, something that took me off guard for a second. I enjoyed Wake opening with the kabuki in 2007 but it seemed a bit anti-climactic this go around considering some of the other epic intros the band is known for. The band went straight into Given Up, a great rendition of a song that I am, honestly, a bit tired of in the set.
Not going to post a review of every song as I know this has been quite the read thus far and thank you for reading if you still are haha. The band was in good form, especially Shinoda. He has really commanded the stage the past few times I have seen the band. In fact, this might have been the most energetic I’ve seen Shinoda ever and that’s certainly not taking away from previous performances. It was interesting to see Chester back with LP after just seeing him rock JAX to pieces with STP in a truly epic performance. He sounded good but it’s obvious the band is phoning in some of the old songs such as Faint, Numb, Breaking the Habit, etc. Shinoda had the place bouncing good on With You, a song I was happy to still see being played. A welcomed surprised in the set was When They Come For Me, one of the band’s best songs (studio & live). They nailed it, as they do everytime. Shinoda really jams with the verses and Chester has impeccable concentration during his vocal parts. The end of the song with the megaphone siren from Brad and Chester’s war cry are easily some of the best parts of any show the song is a part of and this was no exception. The band also really gets into Lies Greed Misery, a song that I think is pure junk to be honest with you. However, they also really get into Lost in the Echo, and that song live is one of their best in the current set lists. The extended intro into the guitars and heart-shaking bass really hits hard and gets the crowd going midset. Shinoda was A+ in the crowd on In The End, taking pictures of fans with their phones and cameras. The encore seemed a bit botched as they were going to play A Light That Never Comes but that idea was scrapped last minute as techs were seen scrambling last second before an uninspired Faint started. The band still jams large during the outro however. To end the show, One Step Closer never ever fails to bring the jams from the band and the crowd. It was like a bomb went off and it was great to see the place and whole band going nuts, old-school style.
All in all, I really enjoyed the show. It was unique to see the band in a smaller venue like The Joint. I was disappointed that classic songs such as Papercut, Points of Authority, Lying from You, and A Place for My Head weren’t found in the set but the band still rocked it and the crowd was solid.
Next day, we headed out for my second trip to California. I enjoyed California in August and the weather was outstanding this time out. We got into Downtown Los Angeles about an hour before I had to be at the venue for MFR at 4pm. I knew, even after last night’s show, that this would definitely be the smallest venue I had seen the band in and was looking forward to it as I knew there would be collaborations, etc. Whitney, the director of MFR, had emailed me a week before and asked me to run the booth at this show and I was honored to be able to once again.
Club Nokia is located on the third floor of a real plush, small district in Los Angeles adjacent to the Staples Center. I was very excited to be a part of this exclusive show. I got in the venue around 4pm and met with some of the other volunteers. Bad Religion was sound checking with Jim Digby running the operation, as expected. The venue was super-dark, super-small for LP standards, but super-nice. Our booth once again only contained a few tables on the left side of the venue just passed doors with a great view of the small rotating stage. The booth was geared specifically for the Concert for the Philippines. We were also auctioning off close to 40 different items donated by LP and other bands such as Alice in Chains, Muse, Metallica, System of a Down, and more. We were also auctioning Brad’s sweet guitar used in the Burn It Down video. Bids for that started at a mild (ha) $3,500. The same volunteers that were in Vegas were volunteering in LA as well so we had a great veteran group. Love all those guys. Always a lot of fun to hang with people I don’t get to see often, all while spreading the word on a great charity and bringing in donations.
As there were at the SSMF and I imagine all LA-area shows, there were a lot of people from Machine Shop, Warner Bros., Music For Relief and people who work directly with the band. A few times, I was even asked to help with the guest list and giving fans, press, family, etc. their tickets, laminates, wristbands, credentials, what have you. This was outside on ground level of the district and was a really cool experience. A unique situation occurred when Richard Patrick, the lead singer of Filter and former guitarist for Nine Inch Nails, casually strolled up looking for his tickets. All tickets were in alphabetical order in five boxes along with a guest list just in case an envelope was missing. I immediately recognized him while the other girls working alongside of me didn’t. I didn’t make a comment about his fame, although I wanted to. It was hilarious holding this man’s ID, looking for his envelope, which actually wasn’t there. He was on the list however, but he told me he’d find his own way in venue. Ok, buddy. Not a fan of Filter after stories I’ve heard about him from my good friends in 10 Years and the one time I saw them open a gig in Corpus Christi, Texas was very unimpressive. I also had the privilege of giving tickets to Lisa Ling of CNN fame. Her sister was caught up a few years ago in North Korea and was held hostage until President Clinton went over to negotiate and ended up bringing her back (a rather unique + impressive diplomatic move).
I went back upstairs to the venue where Linkin Park was sound checking. This is my third time getting to see the band sound check/rehearse and it’s very unique to see them in this setting. Mike and Jim Digby immediately pushed doors back an hour to 7pm to get more work in on songs especially Castle of Glass with the Heart girls. Chester and Joe were the only members of the band not present for sound check. They quickly went through Faint. There was a TelePrompTer for the Heart women for Castle of Glass as well as Stryker, Whitney Showler, and Mike for his Thank Yous at the end of the show. All in all, the band went through Castle of Glass 6-8 times, sometimes full song, sometimes with Mike huddled with Heart women, singing the chorus over and over again. As if we didn’t already know, Shinoda fully commands the operation with Digby close by at all times. He will start and stop songs at any time during a rehearsal. He told Rob that he would have to start the song with the pads because they were not going to be on a click track as usual for this song. Shinoda seemed to be a little pressed with Rob and Brad, as well as the Heart ladies during the multiple plays of the song but kept his professional demeanor at all times. Mike Einziger then came out for What I’ve Done and In The End. Brad was showing him some of the parts to play and honestly, he didn’t add much, other than some short but sweet solos during both songs. It was still cool to see him on stage with the band and he seemed to be enjoying himself. Mike joked with Einziger about the In The End guitar parts having a “super difficult rhythm that may be out of his league.” …of course, a joke on the mega easy ITE guitar parts. They rehearsed the song and Mike went through the verses, rapping very uninspired, very interesting to hear him “perform” the song in this particular tone, although it was just simply a practice run. He used the time to try and navigate around the interesting stage design to see where he could come into the crowd during the performance. He even tried walking on the barricade to not much success. It was also interesting to hear him lightly sing Chester’s part of this song, if just to keep the song in balance, perhaps for Einziger. They then went into What I’ve Done or perhaps it was the other way around and it was a similar deal to ITE. Not much could be heard from Einziger until the bridge solo. Mike also sang some of Chester’s part of the song. I could not get any of this on video as there were phone Nazis everywhere. There were only about 15 people in the venue for their soundcheck, mostly venue staff, my volunteer crew, and a few VIPs. They brought out Travis Barker’s green drum set for Bleed It Out but Barker never made an appearance at this sound check. They just set up the drums so Mike could see how it would be. They went through Bleed It Out and that was the end of the soundcheck.
Doors opened. People rushed the floor. It was an unusually small crowd, especially for a small venue. The place couldn’t hold more than a thousand people, if that. Even the right and left sides of the balcony were curtained off. I went back and forth from MFR booth to the will call table downstairs, really enjoying the vibes. I saw Bad Religion briefly, they sounded OK, not my type of jams. The Offspring played a short set and they jammed big. I really liked what I could see from them even though I am not familiar with the band members, I knew some of their big hits and was jamming with fellow volunteers. The place was still half empty for Offspring and didn’t get much larger by the time LP came on. I traveled up to the balcony during Whitney’s in-between set speech on MFR and the Philippines and most of the balcony was empty. Very odd vibes considering most of the the time, I’m seeing LP pack out arenas and amphitheaters.
Stryker of KROQ was the host of the show and he was dressed in a suit. He did a good job navigating the show forward, although I think he was a bit awkward at times on stage. We shut down the booth with over $350 raised; something I thought was a good number considering the crowd and what we were giving out for donations (bandanas and bracelets). We were close to Linkin time.
The band quickly came out with no intro or lights out to One Step Closer, again much to my surprise. My fellow volunteers and I rushed the pit, only to be held up by a typical dickass security guy. I had a working pass and laminate and he wasn’t impressed with either. I even got Lorenzo on the situation while the song was playing (albeit, no matter where we were for this show, it would be about as close as I’ve ever been to an LP show considering the small stage/venue this was). Lorenzo was denied after a valiant effort to escort us down there, which is bizarre considering he has an All-Access pass for the band. I think bands and venues needs to be on the right page more often on shows like this regarding passes, VIPs, etc. because this is not the first time issues have arisen with security about passes. I took us to the other side and after much deliberation with that guard, I got us in. I was not particularly happy at this point as I missed most of OSC and Faint. However, considering the small amount of people in the pit, I was three rows from front and center, with cameras flying everywhere. It was very weird to see the band in such a small setting with no stage backdrops but again, good lighting. Chester wore shades the entire show, perhaps because he was sick or perhaps for other reasons, not sure. The show was good but it was a bit sloppy and I was disappointed it was so short – I definitely was expecting close to a full set. This was an uber-single show. It was cool being able to see the band so up-close though. Chester didn’t move much from the micstand, but to his credit there wasn’t much room to jam. Highlight of the show was Mike’s UIB verse drop on the center platform and Barker coming out to close out Bleed It Out. Einziger was cool, and I am a huge Incubus fan, but he didn’t add much to the songs and his guitar was hardly audible until his solos. The Heart women seemed unready again even with the TelePrompTer and I was highly unimpressed with this rendition of Castle of Glass, a song that is fair live with the band but not a favorite of mine song-wise. Shinoda even seemed to know it wasn’t particularly good but I’ll credit all performers for coming out and playing with the band.
The show was just over an hour, my shortest LP show to date. There were plusses and minuses for the show but probably more minuses. Chester did say during the show that he appreciated everyone for donating serious money and for being there and I was reminded that was what the show ultimately was for: to help the Philippines in a dire situation most of us will never know. All band members had friends + family there, as you could tell by their expressions during songs looking into the balcony. You could also tell they were surprised at a half-empty club in Downtown LA. With that said, if this was a regularly sold show, it would have sold out instantly.
Chester came down in between the stage and barricade and stayed for an hour, meeting with fans, taking pictures, doing almost anything. Although he seemed sick during the show, he was in great shape post-show and wanted to talk to everyone. There were a few rabid fans that I’m sure the band aren’t fans of but I was privileged to once again chat with him briefly and get a cool picture right next to stage. He really is a calm, genuine guy and although his voice has seemingly gotten a bit worse for LP shows over the years, he still is one of the best and most popular lead singers in rock music today. I told him I am a huge fan of his: LP or STP and he loved it.
All in all, it was a fantastic weekend. I’ve traveled a lot of places around the world and seen a ton of shows by a lot of bands, but being a part of the LP community is always something I am passionate about. I am looking forward to a big 2014 from the band with an album drop and International tour. I have a personal feeling that after this next album’s touring cycle, the band will go on a hiatus, if even for a short while. I have no particular reason to feel this way other than just a gut feeling. The band still has chemistry on stage, and in more lax situations like meet and greets. In a time where members of rock bands are changing all the time, I appreciate the continuity the band has brought the last 13-14 years.
Thanks for reading an absolute novel! Until the next jams commence….
“The journey is more important than the end or the start.”