And a small crowd it was when the underground hip-hop crew Black-Eyed Peas took the stage. The group worked with what it had, making fans of the few early birds with a set that included three breakdancing MCs, an amazingly gifted female vocalist, and an otherworldly five-piece band. Their sound brought to mind such West Coast hip-hop heads as Ozomatli and Jurassic 5, and many girls in strapless tube tops were inspired to dance in the aisles, usually with one arm draped across their chests in desperate attempts to keep it all stuffed inside.
Much pogoing ensued in the tiny crowd when Lit began its set. This intimate setting was partially by design, as Sandstone had not sold lawn tickets for this show, but if the Kansas City/Lawrence area were blessed with an alternative radio station, this concert probably would have sold out. Instead, only a cozy few witnessed this energetic performance by a band that could be described as Cheap Trick for the new millennium.
Lit combines hard-rock chops with power-pop and punk roots to amazing effect. The crowd sang along enthusiastically to the quartet's pulse-quickening hits, such as "Miserable" and "My Own Worst Enemy." Later, the group made reference to its explosive early-spring appearance at the Beaumont Club, then invited the audience to join them at the venue to ride the mechanical bull.
By now it was dark, and the temperature had dropped a few degrees, making the climate somewhat tolerable. Bassist Tony Kanal was the first No Doubt member to take the stage to the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey. He struck a Karate Kid crane-style pose for nearly a minute before strapping on his bass and concocting a cool, funky intro to "Ex-Girlfriend."
The entire band seemed outfitted for madness, with Stefani donning a Technicolor dream coat that looked as if it had been swiped from David Bowie's closet, drummer Adrian Young wearing pajamas, and guitarist Tom Dumont barely covered by short-short jogging shorts and a cropped T-shirt emblazoned with the iron-on word "Crap." The cult of Gwen started chanting "Crap! Crap! Crap!," which was obviously a tribute to Dumont and not a review of the band's inspired performance.
Although often categorized as such, No Doubt is a ska band only if the Police are a reggae band. Both groups were influenced by Caribbean rhythms, yet both are obviously closer to new wave and power pop. No Doubt focused equally on its three label-defying albums, faltering only during ballad-heavy stretches. When the current slow-paced hit "Simple Kind Of Life" showed up near the end of the night, it seemed boring and redundant. Still, the cult of Gwen didn't seem to mind. They bobbed their heads enthusiastically, danced badly yet vigorously on their chairs, and sang at the top of their lungs through every single song.
Actually, the singing-along part was probably the most annoying. There is a reason Gwen Stefani is the lead singer of No Doubt: She has an amazing voice and riveting stage presence. On the other hand, not one audience member within earshot could carry a tune to save his or her young life. Nonetheless, the tone-deaf masses croaked along with "Spiderwebs," the energetic encore-ending tune that left the band and audience drained. The bands and fans didn't seem disappointed by the sparse attendance. If anything, they were probably thrilled to discover how easy it was to exit the parking lot after the concert came to a close.