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Long Overdue Bamboozle Review

Bamboozle Day 2
April 30th, 2011
Meadowlands Sports Complex

Bamboozle is hands down the biggest music festival of its kind. When it comes to the type of music that I cover on this blog, which coincidentally is also the type of music I listen to, it has no peers. After years of saying I was going to make the trip to New Jersey for the show, I finally did, thanks to it’s eye-popping Saturday lineup. The day featured scene stalwarts, up-and-coming acts, and most importantly, a few long-awaited reunions. While I had to make some tough choice with all of the conflicting stages and set timess, I did my best to see the best, and here is my summary:

Anberlin:
While it might not have been that early in the day, technically, you would have though those in the crowd at the Main Stage has just rolled out of bed during Anberlin’s  3PM set. The band was  met with general indifference as they performed a 30 minute show focused mainly on their recent release, Dark is the Way, Lights is a Place. This isn’t to say that Stephen Christian and Co. didn’t attempt to get the crowd involved, but considering they were playing another show later that night with 30 Seconds to Mars, they probably weren’t operating at 100%. Either way, they sounded good, and by the end of the set it seemed like those who had gathered around the stage were nowready to get the festivities under way.

Tokyo Police Club
Next up on the main stage was Ontario’s Tokyo Police Club. While they wouldn’t normally be mentioned in the same breath as most of the other bands at the festival, they actually received a better reaction from the crowd than did Anberlin, and they seemed to feed off this energy. Despite the fact they  hail from Canada, the songs they  played featured a  California-esque vibe that perfectly fit this bright spring day. The sunlight seemed to breathe new life into the songs, the the  only disappointing aspect of the set was that that it didn’t last  longer.

Streetlight Manifesto

After Tokyo Police Club stepped of stage, I headed over to the “Jumbo” stage, which was comparable in size to the main stage.  When I got there, Streetlight Manifesto had already begun their set, and a large crowd had formed. Streetlight was the first band (at least that I saw) to get the crowd moving. A legion of fans danced and shoved along to the seven songs the band would play. As is customary for Streetlight, they played their songs fast, so fast that in this case you would think they really wanted to be in the front row for the Movielife set that would follow theirs. They finished with what is by far their best song, “Somewhere in the Between.”

The Movielife
Playing a show together as a full band for the first time in eight years, this set was expected to be the highlight of the day for many, and for me,  it certainly was. A rabid crowd gathered in front of the small stage to witness the reunion, which had been rumored for years and was finally happening today. Opening with “This Time Next Year” and going on to play 13 songs over 45 minutes, the band completely killed it. Save for one lyrical flub, every song  was spot on, with the band sounding like they had prepared for this moment for months. As would be expected, the crowd ate it up, singing and screaming along with the type of energy reserved for long-awaited reunions and farewell shows, of which this set could very well encompass both.

The band did an admirable job  in using their time allotment to cover much of their catalog, featuring a number of tracks from their 2003 breakout Forty Hour Train Back to Penn, as well as earlier material from This Time Next Year and It’s Go Time. The songs the band played from their Has A Gambling Problem EP inspired the biggest singalongs, while “Jamaica Next,” which the band rarely played during their first go-around, was a very welcome addition. The most telling moment of the set came in between songs, when Caruanna announced the band had t-shirts for sale at a merch table. He followed it up by saying “You better hurry if you want one though, because we didn’t realize how popular we had become.” Hopefully the huge crowd and even bigger reaction the set received will inspire the band to get back on the road again. But if not, this was a great way to call it a career.

New Found Glory
After the Movielife set, I headed back over to the Jumbo stage, where Alkaline Trio was just finishing up their set. As the band made their exit, a number of fans departed, while many others raced to the front in preparation for an appearance by New Found Glory. The band has worn the crown as the kings of pop-punk for over a decade now, and they never disappoint in a live setting. By the time they took the stage, an enormous crowd had gathered to jump and sing along throughout their 35 minute set.

The band opened with “Understatement” from 2002’s Sticks and Stones, and the crowd did what they could to charge towards the stage, creating a giant mosh pit on both sides of the barrier that extended through the middle of the lot. The band, wearing Miami Heat-esque NFG basketball jerseys, kept the talking to a minimum in order to fit 11 songs into their short time on stage. At this point in their career, they could pretty much throw darts at a dartboard and come up with a great set list, but they did include staples like “All Downhill From Here” and “Hit or Miss.” Towards the end of the set, the band covered the Ramones famous “Blitzkrieg Bop” with Marky Ramone taking over on drums. The set would then close, as always, with “Intro” and “My Friends Over You.”

Gatsby’s American Dream

After catching the first five songs from the Gaslight Anthem (which were great), I headed back to the same stage the Movielife had conquered a few hours earlier to witness another reunion or sorts. After a long hiatus, Gatsby’s American Dream has reformed earlier in the year to play a show in their hometown of Seattle,  followed by an appearance at Austin’s South by Southwest  festival.

Bamboozle marked their first East Coast appearance in over five years, and the band that was once considered “the future of indie rock” was hoping to make the long trip worth their while. Competing against the Gaslight Anthem and an upcoming set from Taking Back Sunday, the band didn’t attract the huge crowd that the Movielife did, but those who showed up were still very excited to witness the band’s return.

Playing eight songs, the band sounded as tight as they had when I had seen them six years earlier. While they opened and closed the set with fan favorites “Theatre” and “Shhhh! I’m Listening to Reason,” respectively, the highlight of the set was the lone new song they played. “Modern Man” manages to mix what has always been unique about Gatsby’s American Dream with something new and excited, and that something is why those in the crowd are anxiously awaiting the band’s new EP, due sometime this summer.

Taking Back Sunday
After the set from Gatsby’s American Dream, I did my best to make my way over to the main stage, but I was met with an enormous wall of people that seemed to stretch on for miles. As noted in previous reviews, Taking Back Sunday has seen an enormous surge in popularity since they reunited (seems to be the theme of the day, doesn’t it?) with original guitarist John Nolan and bassist Sean Coooper. Since the reunion, fans had been  hoping the band would play their seminal 2002 debut album Tell All Your Friends in it’s entirety, and on this night, they would get their wish.


While performing the record start to finish wasn’t too much of a stretch for the band considering they had been playing about 7 our of the 10 songs live, it was a treat to hear  “The Blue Channel” and closing number “Bike Scene” performed live for the first time in years.  The band would then move on to “part II” of the set, which included their more recent work and featured two new songs, “El Paso,” and “Faith (When I Let You Down),” neither of which generated a huge reaction for the crowd. Other tracks, mainly Straylight Run cover “Existentialism on Prom Night” and closer “MakeDamnSure” did cause quite a stir and finished day two of the festival on a very high note.


Overall, Bamboozle had been a great experience. The impressive line-up delivered on its promise, as each band I saw put on a solid performance, even while many of them where out of their element on enormous stages in broad daylight. This may have been my only chance to see bands like the Movielife and Gatsby’s American Dream back on stage together, and I’m definitely glad I took advantage of it. Music aside, the festival was very well run, especially considering the massive amount of fans and bands who made their way to the Meadowlands parking lots. So in conclusion, if you’re a music fan and find yourself with an extra $55 next May, this is probably the best possible way you could spend it.


Sometimes Being New Again Doesn’t Mean You Have To Reinvent Yourself

July 14, 2009 1 comment

Taking Back Sunday
Anberlin
Envy on the Coast
House of Blues, Boston
June 27th, 2009

taking-back-sunday-1If you’re a borderline-obsessive music fan like myself, you probably know what I mean when I mention those special bands. They are the select few you fall in love with the first time you hear them. You think they’re speaking directly to you, even when thousands other people feel the exact same way. These are the bands that you discover early on, and they go on to shape your musical tastes for years to come. You compare every other band to them, and you never miss their live shows. There were a few of those bands for me, and they represent a pretty generic list. AFI, Alkaline Trio, Brand New, Northstar, and of course, Taking Back Sunday. My infatuation with the band began as a sophomore in high school when I picked up their debut effort Tell All Your Friends not having heard a single song, but struck by the  title. After John Nolan left the band, most critics left them for dead, but I (like most of their fans) didn’t. Their next record, Where You Want To Be is still one of my all-time favorites. A show they played with Jimmy Eat World in Providence in support of that record was one of the first shows I ever attended, and and one of the best.

Then came Louder Now. The band’s third album, while not a bad effort by any means, couldn’t match the previous two. Their live shows, which had once been frantic, rousing affairs with plenty of mic swinging by frontman Adam Lazzara, began to feel less urgent, as style slowly replaced substance in the form of huge backdrops and blinding light shows at arenas across the country. When the band parted ways with guitarist/vocalist Fred Mascherino in 2007, I, like most of remaining critics, was ready to give up on Taking Back Sunday.

Earlier this month, the band released their fourth album New Again, with new guitarist Matt Fazzi attempting to fill the rather large role Nolan and Masherino had once played. While I would like to come out and say it has completely restored my faith in the band, it hasn’t. It’s decent. It contains some great songs, maybe some of the best the band has written, but like Louder Now, it is still lacking something that’s difficult to put my finger on. While the band attempts to capture the sense of urgency found in their first two records, they come up just a little bit short.

And that is why I came into the band’s show at the House of Blues in Boston with very few expectations. I figured the quintet would have a difficult time replicating Masherino’s gruff backing vocals, and I wondered if they would focus only on material from New Again to avoid this problem. I did, however, have high expectations of the two opening bands, Long Island’s Envy on the Coast, and Anberlin, a band that has seen a great deal of success with their major label debut New Surrender.

eotc_promo

Envy on the Coast

Envy on the Coast provided the show with a somewhat odd opening, beginning their set with the haunting “(X) Amount of Truth.” They then transitioned into “Vulture” and later to a new song from their upcoming second record. None of these songs seemed to interested  the crowd, although there was a small contingent towards the front of the venue that were singing along. Things picked up with “Sugar Skulls,” before losing steam once again with “Paperback” and then another new song. Being that this was the last night of the tour, lead singer Ryan Hunter stopped between songs to thank Taking Back Sunday, saying that Tell All Your Friends would always symbolizes a certain period in his life, just like New Again would symbolize this one.

After being awarded an autographed bottle of wine by the members of Taking Back Sunday, the band got to the song that has been responsible for much of their early success, “The Gift of Paralysis.” The track’s opening notes instantly brought the crowd to life, and the band was soon joined on stage once again by members of Taking Back Sunday and their road crew. The crowd loudly voiced their approval as Lazzara and Hunter stood back to back and chanted the song’s memorable chorus.

While the crowd had stood fairly motionless throughout Envy’s set, that would change when Anberlin took the stage, but certainly not during the

Anberlin

Anberlin

first two songs. Beginning their set with “The Resistance,” frontman Stephan Christian, sounding more nasally  than on CD, bounced around stage, trying in vain to get the crowd moving. After a solid rendition of “A Whisper & A Clamor,” the band would move on to “Disappear,” which finally got things going. It was as if the band had finally struck down a dam that had been holding back all of the crowd’s pent up energy, as it spilled over into the rest of what would become a great set. The band did a nice job of mixing new and old, even including a cover of New Order’s “True Faith.” The band finished the set with their two biggest hits, “Godspeed” and “The Feel Good Drag.” Anberlin executed both with surgical precision, and the crowd responded in force, with fists (and bodies) flying through the air.

After the standard 30 minute break between sets, it was time for the moment of truth. Taking Back Sunday took the stage, launched into “You Know How I Do,” and, at least temporarily, erased all concerns that they were past their prime. The band’s first song form their first record was an absolutely perfect choice to start the show, as the crowd surged toward the stage and practically drowned out Lazzara and co., screaming along to each word. With the energy level already dialed up to 11, the band took another swing at the doubters as bassist Matt Rubano pounded out the opening cords to “”Error:Operator.” If there was anyone in the room that wasn’t completely absorbed by the band’s performance at this point, they were doing a good job of hiding it.

With many in the crowd now gasping for air after these two enormous sing-alongs, the band kept their foot planted firmly on the accelerator  with their performance of “Set Phasers To Stun.” The song’s chorus rang true, for there was no where else I, or most of the other fans in the crowd, would have rather been. A band that I hadn’t expected anything from had come out swinging, playing a fan favorite from each of their first three records to start the show. While no one would have been surprised if they had come out and played a set heavy with “New Again” tunes, it was obvious that Taking Back Sunday was determined to connect with the fans and give them what they had come for. Another bonus was the fact that, unlike on past tours, the band seemed completely focused on the music and the crowd. There were no fancy backdrops, costumes or gimmicks.

The band finally debuted a New Again song with “Carpathia,” one of the hardest-driving tracks from the new record. It didn’t receive the same type of reaction the first three songs had, but those at the front of the stage weren’t exactly standing still, either. Throughout the rest of the show, neither the band nor the crowd were able to match the sky-high energy level both displayed during the first three songs, both this isn’t too say they both weren’t trying their hardest.

tbs promoFollowing “180 By Summer” and “Lonely Lonely,” Taking Back Sunday once again returned to a fan favorite from their first album, “You’re So Last Summer.” Considering the band’s more recent efforts have been so successful, it would be understandable if some in the crowd weren’t familiar with these older tracks, but instead, the four Tell All Your Friends tracks the band would play turned out to be the highlights of the show. While members of the band are often critical of the album and state how they have moved on and become a better band, it is obvious that the record will always be special to their fans.

Next, the band moved to a rather sloppy version of “Liar (It Takes One to Know One). After New Again’s title track, which probably received the best reaction of all the new songs on the setlist, the band once again worked the crowd into near hysteria with “Cute Without the E.” It was difficult to judge just how well Matt Fazzi performed in his role as the band’s new backing vocalist due to the fact that, for most of the show, he was drowned out by the frenzied singing of those in the band, but when his vocals could actually be heard, they certainly sounded passable, even if they weren’t quite as distinguishable as those of the two men he replaced.

The band would end the set in the same way they had begun many shows in the past, with Louder Now opening track “What’s It Feel Like to be a Ghost?” The band would then begin the encore with “Everything Must Go,” one of the better songs from New Again, and an interesting choice for an encore. While the crowd sang along to the song’s memorable “You quote the good book when it’s convenient” chorus, it would be the final three songs of the show that would truly illustrate why, despite all the line-up changes, Taking Back Sunday is still a live band that is well worth the price of admission (and even the service fees).

The first of those three would be another Tell All Your Friends classic, “Timberwolves at New Jersey.” Lazarra would then stop to thank the road crew for their hard work throughout the tour, and grant a special request from one of the lighting technicians, which happened to be Louder Now’s “Spin.” Despite all of his vocal theatrics throughout the show, Lazarra was still able to nail all of the high notes in the song’s chorus. Finally, the band would close the show with “MakeDamnSure,” to the delight of the crowd, which dug down and sang along as if they weren’t completely exhausted and hadn’t been abusing their vocal cords for the last hour. The band would then walk off stage knowing that their first nationwide tour with a new lineup and in support of a new record was over, and was a succes. The fans would leave the venue knowing the Taking Back Sunday they knew and loved was still alive and well, and wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Both, I’m sure, where beyond relieved.

Setlists:

Envy on the Coast
(X) Amount of Truth
Vultures
New Song
Sugar Skulls
Paperback
New Song
The Gift of Paralysis

Anberlin
The Resistance
Whisper and a Clamor
Disappear
Breaking
A Day Late
Paper Thin Hymn
True Faith (New Order cover)
Dismantle.Repair
Godspeed
Feel Good Drag

Taking Back Sunday
You Know How I Do
Error: Operator
Set Phasers to Stun
Carpathia
One-Eighty By Summer
Lonely, Lonely
You’re So Last Summer
Liar (It Takes One to Know One)
New Again
Cute Without the “E”
Sink Into Me
A Decade Under the Influence\
What’s It Feel Like To Be a Ghost?

Encore:
Everything Must Go
Timberwolves At New Jersey
Spin
MakeDamnSure