Weezer’s Indie Rock Road Trip Makes Pit Stop At Forest Hills Stadium

The West Side Tennis Club welcomed Weezer to Forest Hills in Queens with open arms this past Thursday night (July 13) for the SoCal quartet’s 22nd stop on a 30-date “Indie Rock Road Trip” summer tour that launched in Huntsville, Alabama on June 4. Dubbed the Indie Rock Road Trip, Weezer’s tour is divided into three legs, the first of which saw them link up with indie rockers Modest Mouse and Momma. Future Islands and Joyce Manor took over support duties for Rivers Cuomo and Co. at the Columbia, Maryland gig back on June 23, and tonight’s show marked the magical end to the tour’s second leg.

Rivers Cuomo of Weezer | Photo: Michael Dinger

One of NYC’s best concert venues – indoors or out – Forest Hills Stadium has a rich, storied history that is celebrating 100 years this season. Originally designed in the 1920s as the home of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, the Romanesque stadium and its grounds hosted 60 editions of the major tournament before it moved to its current home in Flushing Meadows in 1978. In the 1960s, the tennis club began booking concerts and attracted some of the most culturally significant artists of our generation – The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, to name just a few.

However, by 2011, the 14,000-capacity facility had fallen into a “crumbling ruin.” After narrowly escaping demolition, the stadium re-opened on August 28, 2013 with Mumford & Sons performing the inaugural concert (my wife and I were there!). Although the music that night was fantastic, the overall experience, not so much. But over the next four years, Forest Hills Stadium underwent multi-million dollar state-of-the-art renovations including optimized acoustics, patching up concrete exterior walls, old seats were removed and replaced, a permanent stage was installed, the concourse was redesigned and expanded to twice its original size, the General Admission central tennis courts were replaced and easier access to concessions and restrooms was provided, finally!

Scoreboard Marquee | Photo: Michael Dinger

Arriving early to guarantee a painless parking experience (parking is limited in the surrounding area), I also wanted to explore the stadium and its grounds ahead of the first opening act. After securing my media credential at the box office, I proceeded through the main entrance where I was greeted with a plethora of things to do, along with welcoming staff at every turn. Although the craft beer huts and local food eateries were tempting, I opted to walk the periphery of the cherished coliseum to discover for myself what had changed since my last visit nearly a decade ago. The answer, a lot!

A history buff, I was pleasantly surprised to see banners, plaques and artwork depicting the images of past rock iconswho played here. As I made my way to the bands’ merch table, I came upon a WFUV kiosk – a non-commercial radio station owned by Fordham University and an affiliate of National Public Radio (NPR) who presents Forest Hills Stadium’s live broadcasts – offering patrons free goodies such as stickers and beverage Koozies. An avid fan of all sports, it was also thrilling to witness the hanging banners of by gone tennis legends including Stan Smith, Althea Gibson, René Lacoste, Billie Jean King, Rod Laver and Arthur Ashe.

An hour after doors, Joyce Manor took the stage promptly at 6:00 pm. Despite the sweltering, 90-degree heat, the band formed in 2008 and hailing from Torrance, California did not seem to mind very much, if at all. Named after an apartment building that co-founder Barry Johnson would often pass by on his walks, as Joyce Manor’s pop-punk sound has evolved, their feverish fanbase has grown right alongside them.

Barry Johnson of Joyce Manor | Photo: Michael Dinger

Over the course of 30 minutes, the trio of Johnson (singer-songwriter, guitar), co-founder Chase Knobbe (guitar) and Matt Ebert (bass), who were also joined by touring musicians Neil Bertheir (acoustic guitar, synthesizer) and Neil Hennessy (drums), performed songs with inspiration drawn from emo acts like Weezer themselves. The band of thirtysomethings offered up tracks spanning four of their six studio albums, with the heaviest dose coming from 2014’s Never Hungover Again.

The showstopper, however, which incited a mosh pit (albeit short-lived) near stage left half-way through their pummeling set, was ripped from their sixth and most recent album 40 Oz. to Fresno (Epitaph Records) released in June of last year. Titled “NBTSA,” short for Never Be The Same Again, the number perfectly exemplified Joyce Manor’s signature blend of melodic guitar leads, rock-solid bass and driving drums in a no-filler, concise package.

In keeping with the strict, mandated curfew of 10:00 pm due to the stadium’s location within a residential neighborhood, the party kept rolling along in a timely fashion. At 6:55 pm, next up were Future Islands, a synth-driven pop band based in Baltimore, Maryland. Formed in 2006 and fronted by Samuel T. Herring, the quartet is rounded out by Gerrit Welmers (keyboards and programming), William Cashion (bass, acoustic and electric guitars) and Michael Lowry (drums).

Future Islands | Photo: Michael Dinger

Ahead of tonight, I knew very little about Future Islands, other than their live performance of “Seasons (Waiting on You)” on the Late Show with David Letterman, the lead single from their fourth studio album (Singles, 2014), became the television show’s most-viewed video on their YouTube page. But after tonight, which included witnessing firsthand a live performance of the same song, I knew much, much more.

Backed by a supremely talented band, I was most blown away by Herring and his stage persona. Despite the heat, he was dressed head-to-toe in black, and it did not take long for him to become drenched in his own sweat. Once Future Island’s first song of the night kicked in, “For Sure” from 2020’s As Long as You Are, Herring feverishly jumped, kicked, spun and fist pumped his way from one end of the stage to the other, repeatedly, and for all 13 songs in the emotionally thrilling set. When Herring finally stopped to catch his breath, he engaged directly with the audience members, staring intently while continuing to gesture with his arms and hands in continual flowing motions. I would later learn that Future Islands was originally meant to be a performance art piece, which completely makes sense to me now.

Herring’s vocal delivery is also something of a marvel. Despite being diagnosed with Reinke’s edema (vocal cord swelling) nearly 10 years ago, his delivery is striking and distinct. Along with an extensive background in hip-hop and rapping that began as a teenager, a solo act that he engages in via the moniker Hemlock Ernst, it is also not uncommon for a loud, stadium-shaking growl to be thrown into his vocal recipe.

Weezer Fans | Photo: Michael Dinger

With the time approaching 8:30 pm, the stage roadies were putting the final touches on the stage, most of which was being performed behind the gigantic opaque curtain swallowing the stage ahead of the big reveal. Making my way back into the pit with my fellow photographers for the third time, Toto’s “Africa” came across the stadium’s PA system. If you are not an avid fan of Weezer, you might ask “Where’s the connection?” Long story short, back in 2018, the two bands released reciprocal covers of each other’s hits, with Weezer covering the perennial 1982 classic and Toto covering “Hash Pipe” from 2001’s The Green Album. Then suddenly, the curtain dropped and it was time to hit the road!

Brian Bell of Weezer | Photo: Michael Dinger

One by one, our lovable, geeky power-pop kingpins entered stage left. Brian Bell (rhythm guitar, keyboards) led the charge, followed closely by Cuomo who was sporting his staple Buddy Holly-esque retro specs. Bringing up the rear were Scott Shriner (bass) and Patrick Wilson (drums), the latter taking to his stool atop an elevated riser. The Los Angeles foursome played in front of an impressive and clever set design built to resemble a stage-sized car dashboard, complete with a steering wheel emblazoned with a Weezer logo, a radio with a tuner and a volume knob. And if that wasn’t cool enough on its own, video graphics were displayed across the massive windshield and a rearview mirror.

Rivers Cuomo of Weezer | Photo: Michael Dinger

The nostalgia shifted into high gear with the adrenaline inducing “My Name is Jonas” from 1994’s The Blue Album. A smooth segue transported the stadium to “Beverly Hills” (Make Believe, 2005), with Cuomo substituting the song’s closing lyrics with an homage to the neighborhood of “Forest Hills.” There was also a special guest appearance for two songs from 1996’s Pinkerton – “El Scorcho” and “I Just Threw Out the Love of My Dreams” – as the indie rock solo project of singer-songwriter Lindsey Jordan (better known as Snail Mail) joined Cuomo atop the dashboard.

Scott Shriner of Weezer | Photo: Michael Dinger

For a show that could have lasted hours longer with all the career-spanning material that Weezer has to offer – a three decade discography comprising 15 studio albums, and as per Cuomo during his introduction to “Falling for You,” 672 songs! – they did a wonderful job of gifting their fans the classics (“Undone – The Sweater Song,” “Island in the Sun,” “Say It Ain’t So,” “Hash Pipe” and “Surf Wax America”), deeper cuts outside of their studio catalog (“Susanne” and “Blast Off!”) and newer material (“All My Favorite Songs”), including a couple of tracks from two of their four seasonal inspired EPs released in 2022, “Thank You and Good Night” from SZNZ: Summer and “Run, Raven, Run” from SZNZ: Autumn.

Patrick Wilson of Weezer | Photo: Michael Dinger

The festive evening closed with a three-song encore capped by fan favorite “Buddy Holly.” With Cuomo perched at the edge of the stage apron, he soaked in the applause raining down on him from the sold-out house engulfing him on all sides. After several moments, before the band took their final bow, he ripped off his shirt and hurled it into the front rows before throwing down the signature “W” hand sign. And with that, we had all been officially Weezer’d, and better for it. Now it was time to take it easy brah.

Up next for Weezer is a trek to Naeba, Japan for Fuji Rock on July 30, followed by shows in Osaka and Tokyo on August 1 and 2, respectively. Then, it’s on to West Vancouver, Canada for the Ambleside Music Festival on August 19. The next night, August 20, the third leg of the Indie Rock Road Trip resumes in Auburn, Washington where the boys will be accompanied by Spoon and White Reaper as opening support.

Forest Hills Stadium | Photo: Michael Dinger

The 2023 summer tour culminates at PETCO Park in San Diego, California on September 3, at which time the band will take a much needed rest to refill their collective gas tank. And in case you missed the Forest Hills Stadium show, or just cannot get enough of these darling alt-rockers, Weezer will be traveling back to the tri-state area for an appearance at the Sea.Hear.Now Festival in Asbury Park, New Jersey on September 17.

Joyce Manor Setlist: Heart Tattoo > Beach Community > Gotta Let It Go > Ashtray Petting Zoo > Don’t Try > Schley > Falling in Love Again > NBTSA > Big Lie > Victoria > Constant Headache > Christmas Card > Catalina Fight Song

Future Islands Setlist: For Sure > Hit the Coast > Plastic Beach > Peach > Walking Through That Door > Light House > A Dream of You and Me > Before the Bridge > Long Flight > King of Sweden > Seasons (Waiting on You) > Vireo’s Eye > Little Dreamer

Weezer Setlist: My Name Is Jonas > Beverly Hills > Return to Ithaka > The Good Life > Pork and Beans > Pink Triangle > El Scorcho > I Just Threw Out the Love of My Dreams > Blast Off! > Undone – The Sweater Song > Falling for You > Susanne > Only in Dreams > The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn) > Island in the Sun > Perfect Situation > All My Favorite Songs > Say It Ain’t So > Run, Raven, Run > Hash Pipe > Thank You and Good Night > Encore: The Waste Land > Surf Wax America > Buddy Holly





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