Now in its sixth year, Cypress Hill's annual Smoke Out festival has established its identity as a solid show that can be counted on for a good time. But the presence of headliners Linkin Park and DMX at this year's show on Saturday gave the daylong concert its greatest relevancy yet.
Smoke Out marked Linkin Park's first festival headlining appearance since its sophomore album, "Meteora," debuted atop the charts this summer. So despite huge album sales, the sextet hadn't yet proven itself as a band that could carry and elevate an entire festival bill.
Making the headliner debut even more difficult Saturday was the heavy rain coming down on the more than 21,000 fans at San Bernardino's National Orange Show by the time the band took the stage. But if there was any doubt Linkin Park could handle its new status, it was washed away in that downpour as the tightly packed throng sang along with every word.
The crowd's zealousness was earned by the group, which combined the more sophisticated elements of "Meteora," including influences such as Depeche Mode and industrial music, with the crowd-pleasing melodic hard-rock of the smash hits "In the End" and "Somewhere I Belong" for a captivating hourlong set.
The group also displayed its daring in bringing on stage guests Xzibit, who earlier in the day was the unannounced 4:20 p.m. act, and Cypress Hill's B-Real and rap icon Ice-T, whose Body Count ensemble performed earlier in the day.
The other big draw, and curiosity, was New York emcee DMX, whose mere presence was an event. The chart-topping emcee rarely plays the West Coast these days, and his festival gigs are even rarer. This one almost didn't happen either because of the rain, but the fans remained packed in front of the barricades when DMX hit the stage around 11:30.
Live, DMX reminded what a commanding presence he can be, augmenting the hard bass line provided by his DJ with gruff, authoritative raps. Even during the melodic bridges of tracks, DMX showed his rap is hard-core in the truest sense of the term.
Other memorable performances on the main stage throughout the day included veteran punk-rockers Pennywise, whose good-time sensibility, including covers of OutKast and Nirvana, was contagious; organizer Cypress Hill, which melded a variety of styles from reggae to Brazilian samba beats to rap; and crowd favorite Papa Roach.