Las Vegas chamber-rock band Panic! at the Disco headlines the daylong rock festival with support from Ed Kowalczyk (formerly of Live), The Airborne Toxic Event, Blue October, Capital Cities, Family of the Year, Pepper, The Dear Hunter, Brogan Kelby, Codi Jordan Band and Solarsuit.
Several members of those bands talked to The Tribune about their, big-ass aspirations.
Panic! at the Disco • At the 2011 Big Ass Show, Panic! at the Disco performed, but lead singer Brendon Urie was home sick with malaria, enduring a fever he couldn't sweat out.
"It was like I was on the Oregon Trail, with dysentery," Urie joked recently. "I had a temperature of 105 degrees. I was so mad I had to miss it."
The band had just returned from Indonesia, where Urie caught the bug that sidelined him for days. But, in a gesture of good will, the rest of the band showed up, and singers from the other bands filled in, including Neon Trees' Tyler Glenn, King Niko's Ransom Wydner and Brogan Kelby who is on the bill again this year.
On Wednesday, Urie assured The Tribune that he was 100 percent healthy, aided by a new workout regimen.
The band will release its fourth album, "Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!", in October. The title is borrowed from Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas."
Vegas is the band's hometown and the focus of much of the new album, Urie said. The band actually has a love-hate relationship with the city, including memories of being too young to play many of the town's music venues when it started out. "We were angry and bitter," Urie said. Now, time has healed most of the wounds.
This fall, Panic! at the Disco will open for Fall Out Boy's "Save Rock and Roll" reunion tour. Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz was an early supporter of the band, signing the group to his Fueled by Ramen imprint label Decaydance Records.
Ed Kowalczyk • The 42-year-old singer departed Live in 2009, after the Pennsylvania-based rock band had a series of hits including "I Alone," "Lightning Crashes," "Lakini's Juice," and "The Dolphin's Cry." Live's "Throwing Copper" was one of the definitive albums of the post-grunge rock movement of the mid-1990s, selling more than 8 million copies.
Kowalczyk's performance at the Big Ass Show will be his last full-band set of the year, he said. He has a European tour in September, a continuation of an acoustic U.S. tour he started earlier this year.
Even though Kowalczyk's Live was known for its bombastic rock sound, he knew those same songs could work acoustically, with only him on guitar and another musician on bass. "The songs were born in that place," he said of the songs, initially written on those stripped-down instruments. As the acoustic tour progressed, he said, "I got addicted to it. … It was a renaissance for me."
Although Kowalczyk performs many of Live's greatest hits, he continues to write and record new music. His solo debut album, "Alive," came out in 2010. His second full-length, "The Flood and the Mercy," is due out later this year. R.E.M.'s Peter Buck one of Kowalczyk's heroes played guitar on several of the tracks, and Rachael Yamagata sings on three of the songs.
Kowalczyk's solo material shows a commitment to his Christian faith, though the music is far from Christian rock. His early writing on Live's debut and even on "Throwing Copper" was critical of Christianity. Even the name of Live's debut, "Mental Jewelry," is a stab at religion. But having children, including his first son, born earlier this month, has changed his opinions. "It's me moving forward," he said.
The Airborne Toxic Event • The Los Angeles-based rock band The Airborne Toxic Event is named after part of the book "White Noise" by Don DeLillo. The band released its third album, "Such Hot Blood," earlier this year and has spent time recently playing shows with symphony orchestras. It's a nod to the orchestral nature of the band's work.
Lead singer Mikel Jollett said that while he enjoys playing in front of orchestras, "There's no vamping, and I'm a vamper."
The band's most successful singles include "Changing" and the breakthrough "Sometime Around Midnight," iTunes' No. 1 alternative song of 2008. The narrative style comes in part from Jollett's background as a writer and editor. Before becoming a musician, he earned an undergraduate degree from Stanford University.
"It was a weird place to be a musician," Jollett said of school, sometimes referred to as the Harvard of the West. "Most people were pre-med, doctors, scientists."
As a student of the arts, he felt out of place at the Palo Alto campus. "I didn't fit in there," he said. "Everyone wanted to win. I didn't care about winning."
The Dear Hunter • The Dear Hunter's Casey Crescenzo, one of the most ambitious frontmen in progressive, experimental rock, is in the midst of writing his first symphony. The composition is expected to be recorded with the Brno Philharmomic Orchestra in the Czech Republic this fall.
"I feel like I have a voice to express in this format," Crescenzo said. It's a challenge, and it's exciting. … This might seem overly ambitious."
Crescenzo is not dismissive of the creativity needed to write rock music though in a comparison, he likened rock music to an In-N-Out cheeseburger and a symphony to a five-course dinner.
The Rhode Island native is known for thinking big. The band's first three full-length albums are titled "Act I: The Lake South, The River North," "Act II: The Meaning of, and All Things Regarding Ms. Leading," and "Act III: Life and Death." They are the first half of a six-album concept cycle. After recording "Act III," Crescenzo wrote and recorded a series of nine EPs, called "The Color Spectrum. Each one reflects a different color: black, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet and white.
"Being completely out of my element is exciting to me," he said.
Once the symphony project has ended, Crescenzo will return to the cycle project. "I've been thinking a great deal about Act Four," he said.
X96 Big Ass Show
With • Panic! at the Disco, Ed Kowalczyk (formerly of Live), The Airborne Toxic Event, Blue October, Capital Cities, Family of the Year, Pepper, The Dear Hunter, Brogan Kelby, Codi Jordan Band, Solarsuit
When • Saturday, Aug. 24, at 1 p.m.
Where • Gallivan Center, 239 S. Main St., Salt Lake City
Tickets • $25 in advance, $30 day of, at SmithsTix