Streaming may rule the day, but some radio stations can still crown rock royalty. KROQ in Los Angeles is certainly in that category, as the tens of thousands of attendees who packed the sold-out Kia Forum for the latest Almost Acoustic Christmas would attest.

After a three-year pandemic hiatus, this Southern California holiday staple returned to Inglewood with a star-studded lineup from top to bottom. With each set condensed down between 30 and 50 minutes, and no second day to stack sets, the bands had every incentive to bang out as many hits as they could fit.

Imagine Dragons, who got their start as undercards on the lineup back in 2012 and 2013, brought the house down as headliners. Lead singer Dan Reynolds belted through hit after (KROQ-promoted) hit, from “Believer” and “It’s Time” to “Natural” and “Radioactive”, the crowd answering the band’s sonic thunder with some of their own.

This, even after The Black Keys, came as a particularly tough act to follow. Also making their third Almost Acoustic Christmas appearance—and first since 2011—frontman Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney, along with their backing band, brought the people to their feet with bluesy boogies. Barely two months removed from their last show at the Forum, The Black Keys brought the heat with hits like “Howlin’ For You”, “Fever”, “Gold on the Ceiling”, and the always-show-stopping “Little Black Submarines”.

At the core of the show, Death Cab For Cutie and Jimmy Eat World represented KROQ’s “emo” contingent. The former, in its fifth appearance at Almost Acoustic Christmas, had the feels running from beginning to end with “I Will Possess Your Heart”, “Soul Meets Body”, and “Crooked Teeth”. Along the way, pandemic YouTube favorite Ben Gibbard gave voice to staples off 2022’s Asphalt Meadows, including “I Don’t Know How I Survive” and “Here to Forever”.

Related: Death Cab For Cutie & The Postal Service Plot Double 20th Anniversary Tour [Video]

The latter, appearing for the sixth time, brought the house down with cathartic sing-alongs on “Bleed America” and “Sweetness”, along with the smash hit “The Middle” and an achy rendition of Wham!’s “Last Christmas”. Despite a truncated run time, lead singer Jim Adkins took the time to thank KROQ for helping to put the band from Mesa, AZ on the map.

To be sure, Jimmy Eat World was hardly the only band to kiss KROQ’s ring. Mike Ness gave it up for the iconic SoCal station during his set at the helm of Social Distortion. KROQ played no small part in launching the band to fame, simply by, well, playing immutable tunes like “Ball and Chain” and its rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” over and over and over again over the years. And after Yeah Yeah Yeahs had to bow out during the week leading up to Almost Acoustic Christmas as guitarist Nick Zinner recovers from pneumonia, KROQ put Social Distortion on once again, in a tight spot.

Indeed, KROQ continues to be an important platform for everyone in the alt-rock scene. Britain’s Wet Leg and Italy’s Maneskin, both nominated for Best New Artist at the 2023 Grammys, made their respective Almost Acoustic Christmas debuts. So, too, did Britain’s YUNGBLUD, albeit without the Grammy boost but with more than enough vim and vigor from the man known to his family as Dominic Richard Harrison.

Perhaps no band on the bill better understands the power of KROQ and Almost Acoustic Christmas than The Interrupters. Three of the band’s four members—brothers Kevin Bivona and twins Jesse and Justin Bivona—grew up together listening to the station. Now, the ska-punk purveyors of “She’s Kerosene” and “Gave You Everything”, with Aimee Interrupter on lead vocals, are KROQ regulars, with this marking their third consecutive Almost Acoustic Christmas.

Now with 30 of these bills—in 50 years as a station—under its belt, KROQ has made plenty of kings, queens, and every chess piece in between. With any luck, it will continue to not only produce many more Almost Acoustic Christmas shows but use those extravaganzas as grounds to groom the next generation of alt-rock royalty.

Check out KROQ’s YouTube channel for backstage interviews with the artists from Almost Acoustic Christmas 2022 and click below for fan-shot videos from Sean Gargan.

Wet Leg – “Ur Mum” – 12/10/22

The Interrupters – “Take Back the Power” – 12/10/22

Måneskin – “I Wanna Be Your Slave” – 12/10/22

YUNGBLUD – “Fleabag” – 12/10/22

Jimmy Eat World – “Sweetness” – 12/10/22

Jimmy Eat World – “Hear You Me” – 12/10/22

Death Cab For Cutie – “Crooked Teeth” – 12/10/22

Death Cab For Cutie – “Here To Forever” – 12/10/22

Social Distortion – “Wicked Game” (Chris Isaak) – 12/10/22

Social Distortion – “Bad Luck” – 12/10/22

The Black Keys – “Howlin’ For You” – 12/10/22

The Black Keys – “Fever” – 12/10/22

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