When I heard the Foo Fighters were bringing CalJam back to Glen Helen for the second year I knew I had to go. The first CalJam put on by the Foo Fighters was in 2017, although the name goes back to 1974 when the first California Jam was held at the old Ontario Motor Speedway. Last year was an event with some amazing bands, and the Foo Fighters showed they know how to put on a rock concert. Not just any rock concert mind you, but a show like I remember growing up, a straight up great rock show. This year kept that idea alive.
There were a number of bands this year I had not seen before, let alone photographed, and a few I was really excited to see. Headlining like last year was the Foo Fighters, and let me start by saying they are everything you might imagine they are live. They sound great, their performance is as good as it gets, and the music…. you will end up knowing every single song. It’s a must see band, and if they bring back CalJam for a third year you should plan on going. Of course this year was special due to a reunion of sorts, with the surviving members of Nirvana (Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, and former Nirvana touring guitarist and Foo member Pat Smear) doing a great set, with guest vocals provided by Deer Tick’s John McCauley and Joan Jett. If you were there you witnessed history. McCauley’s Deer Tick also played the festival, as did Novoselic’s new band Giants In The Trees.
Also on the Main Stage was legendary rocker Iggy Pop with Pop Pop Depression, a band that includes Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, Troy Van Leeuwen, and Dean Fertita, along with Matt Helders of the Arctic Monkeys, and Matt Sweeney. Photographing Iggy was a bucket list item for me, and he is every bit the showman I thought he would be, and it wasn’t a performance I will forget anytime soon. What mostly struck me was how much he appeared to be enjoying himself. Just a pure legend.
Garbage was also on the Main Stage, and I have seen many posts where people think Shirley Manson stole the show. She was fantastic, and the entire band was a joy to watch. I need to catch them again soon. Their lights were amazing by the way. Whom ever their Lighting Director is… THANK YOU!
As much as I loved the performances I’ve mentioned I have to call out one band that stood out to me. Greta Van Fleet just kicks ass. How these guys can be this good at that age is beyond me. I know everyone compares them to Led Zeppelin because of their sound, but I don’t want to do that here – at least not on the sound (even though the comparisons ring true). I want to talk about the energy they created. I have never seen a band at a festival that is scheduled to play that early pack the area with so many people. It was simply electric.
Here is where I will do the Led Zeppelin comparison…. All day long I had been shooting the first 3 songs of each band, which is all we are allowed to photograph, and then running to the next stage. For Greta Van Fleet I stayed to watch the entire set. First of all, I am a fan. That first EP was great, and I mean every freakin’ song was great. At CalJam, as I watched them, I kept thinking that this is what it must have “felt” like to watch Led Zeppelin in the early days. I felt like I was witnessing something special. As musicians these guys are tight, damn tight, and their songs just work on many levels.
This is a band I want to photograph again and again…. and then a few times more. Hell man, please take me on tour. The shots I think could get of Greta Van Fleet with full access will keep me up at night. I want to keep posting images from their set, but I need to move on. OK, just one more here and then a lot more in the gallery at the end.
The other bands I photographed on the Main Stage were Manchester Orchestra, pictured below, which Wikipedia describes as an Indie rock band from Atlanta Georgia. Enjoyed them a lot.
Slaves is a UK based punk rock duo that had me flashing back in time to some of the great punk rocks acts of the 80’s. These two guys were amazing! I mean “wow”. Two guys entertained the crowd, and they did it with ease.
Kicking off the Main Stage, and the day, was the band Thunderpussy, a 70’s rock style all girl band from Seattle. They set the tone for the rest of the day. They are a great example of why you get to festivals in time for the opening band. If you came late you missed something. Vocalist Molly Sides is really good.
Ok, so I hope you are getting the idea that this was a fun day. The secondary stages were also great, but before we touch on that, and just to be sure you know, there are a lot more photos of the bands I have mentioned in the gallery at the end. Now, lets talk the secondary stages, which were anything but secondary. Tenacious D may not have been on the Main Stage, but they sure made the Sun Stage feel like it.
On the Mountain Stage was the band Giants In The Trees, the band that includes former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic. This was another special moment. A wonderful eclectic mix of music and energy that the crowd loved, and Jillian Raye sounded great on vocals. Of course with the Nirvana connection even Dave Grohl came out to play drums on a song.
Back on the Sun Stage were two acts that instantly caught my attention. Christone “Kingfish” Ingram is a blues guitarist that blew me away. I mean damn man. This guy can play. He could hold his own with any of the greats. Just a great classic blues vibe.
Last but not least, let me say something about YungBlud. Yungblud is a young English rocker that I would suggest is on his way to very big things. He was nothing short of exciting to watch. Great songs, great sound, and a performance that was infectiously energetic. Watch out for him.
So let me end with this…. the name CalJam has a legacy, a history that deserves respect. It can be hard to do that in this day, but the Foo Fighters did. Twice now they have put on a fantastic rock concert, with a mix of music and fun. My hats off to them, excellent job.
As always, there is a gallery with many more photos below, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the show. Follow me online at:
All Images Copyright 2018 Steve Brazill, All Rights Reserved. Do not use or copy without permission.