“I wanna see you guys get up—all together,” Chino Moreno asked American Express patrons at ACL 2018 Saturday afternoon. The Deftones singer’s request was a tall order: Even for Metallica campers, the enduring nu-metal legends offered a different blend of old time rock ‘n roll.
Twenty-plus years ago the Deftones rapped and screeched up the charts alongside brooding bands like Korn. While the Limp Bizkits and Taproots of the lexicon fell out of favor by the time the garage rock of the Strokes became a thing in 2001, the Deftones held onto relevance via critically adored records like 2006’s “Saturday Night Wrist” that toyed with shoegaze and electronica to complement the brash metal.
All the same, Platinum lounge patrons sat befuddled on the deck during early set highlight “My Own Summer (Shove It).” The choppy sound seemed to skip across the park and land in unpleasant, thudding intervals. Vocals were washed in distortion. Even a few folks in black Metallica T-shirts filed up the festival flanks for a breather.
“Can’t hear them!” one apparent Deftones fan said. Another added: “They better fix this before Metallica.”
About twenty-five minutes in, the band had to stop and re-do the soundcheck.
“We’re happy to be here thank you all so much for being patient,” Moreno added. The red-eyed “Digital Bath” finally fused all the chaotic elements into crisp, punishing sounds. Ditto “Change,” and it’s no secret that both are centerpieces on “White Pony,” an album that bests Korn’s “Follow the Leader” and Papa Roach’s “Infest” as the best nu-metal record ever. It wired teen angst for high schoolers who skated behind the mall with more character and depth than any Blink-182 offering. And the hip-hop-influenced drumming provided songs a crawling spine.
Enthused people moshed and Moreno joined them long enough to accept a beer from someone and swig it.
The main stage at ACL has accommodated plenty of driving rock bands, but until today none more noisy than, say, Pearl Jam or the Foo Fighters. Rock bands that follow the tradition of Rolling Stone generation classic-rockers, in other words. This was for the burnouts who grew up with Beastie Boys and Public Enemy CDs.
When the sound was right, and the bright songwriting came alive, passersby were accepting. It was healthy exposure for the whole family that, in chunks, ruled. To quote a likely inebriated man in a backward cap as soon as things ended: “Deftooooohnnnes!”