Weezer was a given: the veteran power-pop band has the experience and the chops, honed over nine albums since 1994. Led by Connecticut native Rivers Cuomo (E.O. Smith High School class of 1988, as he noted), the group filled its 80-minute headline set on the main stage with bold riffs, sweeping guitar hooks and chorus after sing-along chorus.
Highlights included the chugging “Peter Gunn” rhythm guitar on “Hash Pipe,” the crowd chiming in on “Undone — The Sweater Song” and the classic pop structure of “Susanne,” a b-side from their first album, filled out with latter-day guitar bite. Along with songs for what Cuomo called the “old-school fans,” the band played the hits: “Say It Ain’t So” appeared midway through the set, and “Buddy Holly” came in the encore —right after a stunning cover of Radiohead’s intricate “Paranoid Android.”
Earlier in the day, the main stage was a swallower of bands, its expansive size dwarfing live-wire acts such as riff-rockers Free Energy and the surf-punks Wavves. Not so with Titus Andronicus. When it came time for the New Jersey band to step up, the group immediately took control.
With blistering, anthemic punk-meets-Jersey songs and explosive presence, Titus Andronicus dug deeply into music from last year’s album “The Monitor.” Opener “A More Perfect Union” was a blur of raw-edged vocals and scouring guitar fills, and the band let “Four Score and Seven” build from a slow, weary acknowledgement of the have-nots' long-standing struggle against the haves into a full-throated roar against the perpetual status quo. It was powerful, joyous and utterly thrilling. (Titus Andronicus returns to Connecticut June 4, opening for Okkervil River at Toad’s Place in New Haven.)
The rest of the day offered a series of contrasts: the moody, luxurious roots-rock of Hartford band Heirlooms on one stage, while Baltimore electro artist Dan Deacon twisted knobs and dials on sequencers at a table surrounded by a sweaty, dancing crowd at another. Or the languid hip-hop of Cool Kids on the main stage while outside, the Rochester band the Lobster Quadrille played a brand of oompah “Southern Gothic” music mixing elements of punk, country and klezmer.
While the festival seemed to run smoothly, the sound on the smallest stage was overpowering for most of the day, which made the mellow, hazy rock of New Jersey’s Real Estate sound brittle and turned the psychedelic meandering of Woods into something more bludgeoning.
Other memorable moments: Los Angeles band HEALTH dominating the main stage in the late afternoon with a set of abrasively catchy electro-noise rock songs, Connecticut native ESKMO building songs around synthesizers and sequencers overlaid with his tuneful vocals and the Felice Brothers playing one of their best-known songs, “Frankie’s Gun,” with help from Rhode Island band Deer Tick, which wasn’t on the B.O.M.B. Fest roster at all.
The festival resumes today at 11 a.m. at Comcast Theatre, 61 Savitt Way, Hartford. More information is available here.