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.