Foo Fighters, Motion City Soundtrack Shine As Bamboozle Returns To The Beach
2012 brought big changes to New Jersey’s Bamboozle Festival, as organizers decided to go “back to the beach” by moving the three day event from the Meadowlands parking lots to Asbury Park, where it was originally conceived as Skate and Surf Festival in 2003. While Bamboozle isn’t considered to be a top tier festival like Cochella or Lollapollza, the event has grown its audience and stature in recent years by diversifying their lineup and straying from the original alternative and punk scene.
For this year’s festival, organizers secured two of the most successful commercial rock bands of the past two decades, in the Foo Fighters and Bon Jovi, as well as up and coming electronic act Shrillexs.
I attended the event on Saturday, which featured the most traditional Bamboozle lineup, and was headlined by Dave Grohl and Co. There was quite a bit of uncertainty going into the festival, especially regarding the logistical issues that had originally forced the move north to the Meadlowlands.
A seaside setting could help raise the profile of the festival and provide it with a signature element, but Asbury Park simply wasn’t build to accommodate tens of thousands of visitors on any given day. Many saw the festival as a nightmare waiting to happen, but as it would turn out, music took center stage and all of those major concerns became an afterthought.
As organizers had encouraged, we arrived at the festival just after doors opened by taking the train. The last time I had been to Asbury Park was for a Bouncing Souls show in December. At that point the crumbling beach town had been more of a ghost town. With perfect temperate and bright sunlight, the streets were filled with thousands of fans making their way to the main gates, that were just off the North Beach boardwalk.
The first band of interest was Motion City Soundtrack, who were inexplicably playing their first of two sets on the day. If they were conserving their energy for later, it certainly didn’t show. The group’s forty minute set was a mix of material from their four albums and also featured a new song titled “True Romance ” from their newly released album Go. The crowd loved every minute of the set, and it was likely that most would be back for round two later that night.
After this, we made our way over to the main stage, passing a number of vendors and clothing companies along the way. Everything seemed to be standard fare until we actually caught site of the stage. Simply put, it was enormous.
The stage was set up to straddle the famous boardwalk, meaning thousands of fans could take a seat on the beach to watch while thousands of others crowded the boardwalk itself and the space off to the side.
Perched on the boardwalk at least two football fields away from the stage, we could barely make out the figures of the All American Rejects as they performed “Swing, Swing”. Standing so far away, it was hard to believe you were at a rock concert, even with sound being piped through massive speakers that nearly stretched all the way to the Convention Hall hundreds of yards away.
After sneaking our way much closer to the stage, we watched both Jimmy Eat World and My Chemical Romance perform very solid sets that drew a great reaction from the huge crowd. My Chemical Romance was subbing for Blink-182, who had to cancel their appearance due to a Travis Barker medical emergency. Their dark songs certainly don’t beg to be played loudly on a beach in blinding sunlight, but tracks like “Famous Last Words” still had the crowd fist pumping in unison.
After My Chemical Romance, the Foo Fighters were ready to take the stage. If it sounds like this day was moving quickly, it’s because it was. The headliners were set to perform on Saturday Night Live later in the evening, and were therefore scheduled to perform a two hour set beginning at 7:30, meaning they started before the sun had set.
The band took control of the stage as only the most seasoned arena rock veterans can; they sounded miles bigger and better than the main stage acts that had proceeded them. Frontman Dave Grohl ran from one side of the stage to the other, reving up the adoring crowd that responded in kind to every hit the band pumped out.
The five piece mixed career spanning hit singles with tracks from the latest album Wasting Light, which has spurred a number of hit singles itself.
While the other main stage acts had kept between song banter to a minimum, Grohl interacted with the crowd in between each song, even joking that “this is a bit smaller than most of the gigs we play, but that’s ok.” Even as we walked to find a concession stand, the blare of the band was nearly inescapable throughout the grounds.
After about an hour of watching the Foo Fighters, we headed back to the Zumiez stage hoping to catch a few songs from the reunited Promise Ring. When we arrived Hot Water Music was just finishing up their set with “Wayfarers,” and it appeared that Bouncing Souls lead singer Greg Antonik was on stage along with them.
After a twenty minute wait, the Promise Ring took the stage to some polite applause from the decently sized crowd. They were a half hour late, so it appeared that many of the fans had headed over early for the second Motion City Soundtrack set. While the emo pioneers sounded solid, their brand of straight up Midwestern rock didn’t seem to be what the crowd was looking for. Even the very topical “Jersey Shore” didn’t receive much of a reaction.
At one point, fireworks began exploding in the distance, leading frontman Davey von Bohlen to curse Dave Grohl, his fireworks, and his “beautiful hair.” The band would play nine songs in all, closing with “Forget Me.” The Promise Ring would go on to play a headlining show at Irving Plaza the next night, which undoubtedly featured a more enthusiastic crowd.
To close out the night, Motion City Soundtrack took the stage one again, 35 minutes after they were originally schedule. Save for three songs, they played an entirely different set list, beginning with “Cambridge” and then transitioning straight into “Everything Is Alright.”
At this point, you might expect most of the fans to be exhausted and ready to take it easy. This was not the case. Early in the set, frontman Justin Pierre admitted that his ideal crowd would be a stationary one, but despite this, he still egged on the constant stream of crowd surfers that made their way over the barrier.
The band would play twelve songs in all to close out the night – ending on a high note with “Everything Is Alright. Surprisingly, Pierre never mentioned the band was making their second appearance, and for someone who has had a few vocal issues in the past, his second performance of the day was as good, if not better than the first.
As the night came to a close, the exhausted crowd then made their way through the gates and onto Ocean Avenue. The lucky few that had scored tickets to the after-party headlined by Brand New headed to the Stone Pony, while others headed to venues like the Convention Hall or Wonder Bar for slightly less exciting after parties. I for one, was ready to head back to the hotel. After about an hour wait, we caught the train back to our stop in Red Bank and called it a day.
Overall, the move to Asbury Park seems to have been a huge success. The Saturday lineup was stellar as usual and all reports say that Sunday’s acts were just as well received. While holding such a large festival on the beach sounds like a logistical nightmare, every aspect of the day seem to go off without a hitch. The organizers have set the bar high – and are going to go even bigger next year.