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.
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:
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.
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.”
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.”
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.