How Foo Fighters Reignited the Fire of Cal Jam

Foo Fighters (Credit: Blue Eyed Blonde Photography)

Fall is finally here, and in Southern California, that can mean a lot of different things. What we love most are our music festivals. We are very fortunate to have so many to choose from. Luckily, there’s nothing like a good ole’ rock show. This Saturday, Cal Jam brings us all a much-needed tonic of reality relief.

Cal Jam, or California Jam as it was known back in the day, is from the 70’s… 1974 to be exact. In a decade that was prolifically known for The Bee Gee’s, Donna Summer as well as KC & the Sunshine Band, rockers like Queen and Led Zeppelin still ruled the airwaves. Unlike the 60’s Woodstock pilgrimage, Cal Jam took a different path. ABC filmed it for later broadcast, while local rock station KLOS partnered to broadcast it for the Los Angeles audience. That first show included Earth, Wind & Fire, Rare Earth, Eagles, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath just to name a few. The event was so successful, over 250,000 fans attended. The festival made a reprise performance in ’78, and over 350,000 fans attended that one. Cal Jam II featured Aerosmith, Foreigner, Heart, Santana and Bob Welch among other kick-ass bands.

Last year the Foo’s along with KLOS resurrected this iconic festival. When asked why this festival was brought back, front-man Dave Grohl mentioned to KLOS DJ, Steve Jones, that they were looking to relaunch a classic festival. One of the people they worked with suggested they should bring back Cal Jam. It was a light bulb moment. Given the level of its success and the tie to SoCal, it was an immediate frontrunner. Being that KLOS is such a big part of the rock world, it was another reason to lean towards Cal Jam. The US Festival was another great consideration, but Cal Jam was a rock n’ roller’s dream, the rest is history. What stood out was the festival would feature familiar bands, with new ones that could knock your socks off.

As for KLOS, in a recent interview, Program Director Keith Cunningham said partnering with the Cal Jam was a perfect fit for them. The plan was to bring great rock bands to the festival, along with new bands that need to be seen. That fits in with what you hear on today’s KLOS. They play the songs we expect them to play; you know, the songs that made them the radio icons they are… and new kick-ass music. That’s the thing about L.A. radio over the past few years, some of the local stations have stepped up their game. The station plays the music they believe their fans want to hear, not what’s trendy. That’s what’s made Cunningham and KLOS one of the trendsetters in the comeback of terrestrial radio. They would never say that they’re too classy for that… but the truth is the truth. By not being trendy, and listening to their fans, we can hear music on the radio again that can inspire. What’s refreshing is they’re embracing all forms of rock and supporting new bands that deserve love. That’s brought them a new demographic… and BOOM… the perfect tie-in to Cal Jam 2018.

What’s abundantly clear about Grohl, he’s just as big a fan of rock n’ roll as he is a rock star. He can talk endlessly about things like his favorite album, Van Halen’s Fair Warning, or the time he got to play drums as a teenager with Iggy Pop at a record release show in Toronto. Consequently, he’s become one of the greatest rock authorities on the planet. Catch his docuseries, Sonic Highways, if there’s any doubt about that. That’s why Grohl and the Foo’s were the perfect people to bring back Cal Jam.

Something that everyone in the music industry has admired about Grohl is his commitment to music and his support of other artists. The Foo’s have stayed true to their roots for the last two decades, a facet of their existence that has not gone unnoticed. As for supporting other artists, Grohl has said that’s something he learned during his time in Nirvana; giving back to musicians is critical. For any band to be successful, they need to be connected to their fans, but most importantly, their fans need to be connected to them. That means the music industry, in general, needs to be vibrant. It’s bands like the Foo’s that give newcomers a stage that they might not normally get to play on. That’s the way music should be, giving a break to a band that deserves it. The generosity of big bands is critical to the success of today’s music industry. That’s the sense of community that events like Cal Jam are creating. Not just for the bands, but for the fans as well.

Last year, they brought us bands like Queens of the Stone Age, Cage the Elephant and Liam Gallagher and a lot of other cool bands. This year, the fun starts Friday night with Billy Idol. Alongside the Foos’ the Saturday show features the legendary Iggy Pop with the Josh Homme-Queens of the Stone Age-led band, Post Pop Depression. You can also catch another main stage icon, Garbage; Shirley Manson and Butch Vig are a definite attraction in themselves. Vig is also a huge fan of music, and in a recent interview, Vig told us that he too believes in the community of music. He’s a big supporter of festivals like Cal Jam. Garbage has played with some of these bands over the years, and he looks forward to seeing old friends and playing a great show for their fans. Due to unforeseen circumstances Smiths/Morrissey tribute act Mexrrissey, Silversun Pickups, and Anna Von Hausswolff will not be performing this weekend. Instead, Black Sabbitch joins the Friday night lineup and funny men JamieKennedy, Harland Williams and Skyler Stone are on tap for Saturday. 

Other bands you just gotta’ see are Jack Black’s alter ego, Tenacious D, Manchester Orchestra, Slaves UK, Yungblud, Thunderpussy, Black Mountain, The Front Bottoms, Deer Tick, Gang of Youths, Metz, Fee, Charlie Overbay & the Broken Arrows and Kingfish. Then, there’s the band that’s the talk of the festival, they’re the Zeppelinesque new kids on the block that have made the most noise. They’re from Michigan, and they go by Greta Van Fleet. In a recent interview, they told us they are humbled by the amount of success and love they’ve received from just about everyone. Truthfully, it’s the Midwest hard work and upbringing that have forged their success; it’s that… and they’re just that damn good. Their success is very well deserved and they’re another band you just have to see to believe.

The band that seems to have swagger and buzz is Giants in the Trees; you definitely have to see them. This band features Nirvana bassist, Khrist Novoselic. Since Grohl has welcomed him on stage in the past, you just never know who’ll roll up and play with the Foo’s; and in this case, with Novoselic. You also never know when you’re gonna’ hear a great Foo song, or an impromptu Rick Astle or Prince cover. Make no mistake, the main event features one of the biggest, most dynamic and electric bands on the planet, that be the Foo Fighters. Their catalog of music is beyond great, it’s crazy-insane good. Their fans will be singing every word to every song, and the Foo’s NEVER disappoint. The truth of consequence is that all these bands have one thing in common, they’re all genuinely good and ordinary people. They just happen to be extraordinary musicians and entertainers who have cartoon-crazy fans.

This year’s Cal Jam has all the whistles and bells as last year’s festival. The venue offers camping, a water park for campers and an outdoor movie theater. Inside, there’s free carnival rides and the Foo Fighters Rock n’ Roll Museum. This year, the new comedy tent is located in the campgrounds and open to all campers. It all starts Friday, October 5th, and the main event is Saturday, October 6th. It’ll all be taking place at San Bernardino’s Glen Helen Regional Park!

Times like these make us appreciate what we have. This year’s festival is a throwback to the early days of Cal Jam and the US Festival. You’ll be entertained by some familiar friends, and some new ones too. Check out all these great bands at Cal Jam ’18. You just might have the time of your life. For show schedule, tickets and more info, click here.

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