Review: WTTS celebrates 20 years at The Lawn

Barenaked Ladies

WTTS 20th Anniversary Show

Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn at White River State Park

Sunday, Aug. 12

Sunday at the Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn at White River State Park was a celebration on multiple fronts. It was the 20th anniversary for independently-owned radio station 92.3 WTTS to officially sign on the air, and also the 20th anniversary since the night’s headliner, Barenaked Ladies, issued its debut album.

Both entities were in jubilant moods. WTTS personalities Brad Holtz and Paul Mendenhall introduced each participating band (the others being Blues Traveler, Big Head Todd & the Monsters and Cracker) that they’ve played since adopting their “world class rock” format, and Barenaked Ladies put on their customary music/slash comedy show.

The Canadian outfit seems as strong as ever despite the departure of co-founder Steven Page in 2009. It feels somewhat strange hearing the other BNL founder, Ed Robertson, take over vocals on Page-led hits like “The Old Apartment,” but the harmonies and humor remain intact.

In between the dark humor of classics like “Brian Wilson” and “Pinch Me” were freestyle raps on subjects like inadvertently being the only one in a theater to watch a movie (which happened to Robertson that afternoon) and a water bottle bursting in bassist Jim Creeggan’s dry bag. To mark the occasion, they even played a cut off 20-year-old debut Gordon, the cocktail-hour smoothness of “Blame it On Me.”

Blues Traveler’s set list was heavy on selections from their new record, Suzie Cracks the Whip, released in July. After a perfectly-encompassing jam with Big Head himself, Todd Park Mohr, they played new track “Cara Let the Moon,” which sounds perilously close to Don McLean’s “American Pie.” At any rate, it was a poor choice for its quiet, plodding qualities to follow such a collaboration. Some attendees expressed their displeasure at all the new material, but cuts like the blues revival of “Things Are Looking Up” and the funky buoyancy of “Big City Girls” mesh perfectly with Blues Traveler’s repertoire. Besides, they made room for their biggest hits. “Run-around” and especially the one-two punch of “But Anyway” and “Hook” at the end got audience members on their feet.

Big Head Todd & the Monsters offered the most diversity, from the Texas boogie of “Boom Boom” to the harder-edged NOLA funk of “Conquistador.” There were a lot of covers on the night, but this crew had the best one — a blues take on LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It” rendered with vintage instrumentation.

Cracker had the thankless task of opening the proceedings at the early time of 6:30. As such the twangy disposition of sardonic laments like “Euro-Trash Girl” and “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)” offered little to what was supposed to be a mirthful event.