Saturday's edition of The Bamboozle at Asbury Park, N.J., promised a handful of veteran acts I'd have to watch behind massive, never-ending crowds of people, but also a couple bands I knew would garner only select interest, with small audiences that would make for comparatively intimate festival performances. It was for this reason I figured, hey, why not check it out?
The journey began in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, at about noon that Saturday. I had driven roughly four hours from Providence early that a.m. and gotten about three in sleep. Thankfully, Asbury Park was, by this point, only a meager hour's drive away.
Bamboozle organizers had interestingly negotiated some sort of deal with the Monmouth Park Racetrack, offering "free" parking for festival attendees, who would then pay $10 for a pass good for an approximately 20-minute shuttle bus ride to and from the festival grounds. Granted, those actually attending the entire weekend seemingly got the most leverage out of it.
A close friend and cousin of mine took a separate car, since I had plans to attend an aftershow Brand New would play at the Stone Pony late that night. We met at the Racetrack, purchased passes and lined up next to a row of shuttle buses idling in the dirt/loose gravel parking lot. 20 minutes later, my friend and cousin were walking through the gates with their pre-purchased tickets; myself, I waited on a massive, twisting and turning will call line for probably about 25 minutes.
When I finally reached one of dozen-plus windows of the famous Carousel of Asbury Park, where I was told to check in for media credentials (really just a ticket on a press list), the young gentleman helping me didn't quite seem to understand the idea of someone acquiring a ticket through the festival's general publicity. Or perhaps I was the first person that day to claim a press ticket, though festival gates had been open for more than an hour by this point.
I idled awkwardly next to the window while other festivalgoers collected their will call-purchased tickets. My Massachusetts state ID was eventually passed along to someone who said he would resolve this crisis; eventually, someone else acquired it, and finally, that person brought me into the shade of the Carousel and let me gaze at an Excel spreadsheet on a small laptop for where my name might be. The spreadsheet, naturally, listed the names of representatives for various publications, including your own, Brian Shultz, alongside the illustrious Punknews.org. This entire process--from initially walking up the window and giving my name until actually having the bracelet in hand--took, roughly, another 25 minutes.
The last time Bamboozle was at Asbury Park, I was there, and it was a bit of a discombobulated clusterfuck as far as organization goes. It was interesting to note that seemingly little had changed.
By the time I made my way down the long boardwalk, through the gates and Convention Hall (which acted as sort of an entrance for the festival, as well as the Paramount Theatre as one such stage), finding the friend and cousin proved to be a bit of a challenge. Especially with a pretty severe lack of cell phone service. There was a band on stage sort of giving me douche chills; I was mildly disappointed to find out that band was the All-American Rejects. I sort of liked their self-titled album on Doghouse back in the day, but when they played "Swing, Swing," I could tell it just hasn't held up well. They played adequate renditions of big hits like "Move Along" and, after engaging the crowd in a brief "Day-O" chant, "Gives You Hell." By the middle of the latter, though, I found myself acting in accord with the former.
I wandered the festival grounds to get the lay of the land. The boardwalk back behind the Convention Hall ran down the grounds' entire length; it may have even run all the way up to the main stage--I'm not sure. By this point, it was futile to make any attempt getting anywhere near the stage with a central view. On the right was the beach and the left, the sandy hills that eventually leveled to more solid ground. As one made his or her way back toward Convention Hall, one could patronize any of the endless tents serving as pop-up shops for bands, labels and clothing and trinket companies. Stages randomly popped up within this perimeter--one predominantly featuring mall-metalcore acts, and a smaller one with national local acts seemingly spanning many a terrible subgenre.
The Zumiez Stage was where the goods were for my kind: jaded, mid-20s and way out of our element. Also, older dudes who liked to push-mosh, I guess. The one exception to this stage's lineup for the day was now playing: the New Royalty, who sounded an awful lot like Paramore save the knack for hooks. I promptly returned to the main stage area, which seemingly had a draw 100 times that of any other stage on the festival grounds. I ran into my friend Chris; we discussed the horrors of the day so far, including the absurd scheduling of Foo Fighters playing against Hot Water Music and the Promise Ring. The friend and cousin were miraculously found, and from there we watched Jimmy Eat World play a predictably hit-packed set with just enough energy and precision to make it the first worthwhile show of the day. After "Sweetness" and "My Best Theory," they tore off that gnarly opening riff to "A Praise Chorus" and I immediately realized that this was a fantastic chance to actually bring out Davey von Bohlen for his guest vocal part. It would have been criminal not to. Thankfully, Davey trotted out just before the bridge, walked up to the stage left mic and belted out his contribution. Wonderful. When the band followed that song with "Lucky Denver Mint," I could not have been more appreciative as a fan that revels most in the Clarity/Bleed American timeline. After "Pain" and "Futures," I headed back to the Zumiez Stage to catch the entirety of Boysetsfire, later greatly disappointed to hear that I missed JEW play "Your New Aesthetic."
Hell, the Zumiez Stage was running so late I probably could have caught that excellent head-banging jam (descriptive terms normally not reserved for Jimmy Eat World songs). Still, it was worth the prep time: Boysetsfire would play maybe my favorite set of the day. They're all older dudes now, sure, but they were fierce, precise and rightly intense for a very small but responsive crowd. Their set primarily comprised of material from their two best albums (2000's After the Eulogy and 2006's The Misery Index: Notes from the Plague Years), but they also played a new song, "Bring Back the Fight," that was quite good. There's some stadium-style "HEY!"s, but it generally sounds like BSF at their aggressive, wounded sing/bark best, with some noisy guitar tones to boot. Nathan Gray came up on the barricade to join the audience for climactic moments like in "After the Eulogy" and "Rookie," and it made the set at this huge festival feel just a little more intimate.
- After the Eulogy
- Eviction Article
- Twelve Step Hammer Program
- Bring Back the Fight [new]
- Walk Astray
- My Life in the Knife Trade
Soon thereafter, I met up with the cousin, who had wandered over to this area to partake in the Bamboozle's fine dining on offer. (We split an overpriced and relatively underwhelming Philly cheesesteak, overloading on free cups of Coca-Cola from a nearby promotional truck that I think stole a bit of my soul when I first entered it.) All this while Anti-Flag played. Specifically, while they played standbys like "Fuck Police Brutality," "Turncoat," "Die for Your Government" and "Power to the Peaceful." The audience seemingly ate it up, with a mosh pit straight out of Warped Tour circa 1997. A-F, interestingly, also shouted-out the decidedly non-political Balance and Composure, apparent friends from their state of Pennsylvania.
Less Than Jake was next. While their set promised to be a likely good, nostalgic time, I've never seen Foo Fighters play anywhere, so being how many times I've seen LTJ throughout the years, I thought it best to try and catch a few songs from the Foo instead. While they had a two-hour set, it did interfere with Hot Water Music and the Promise Ring, so I didn't stay long. I was able to watch them plow through a small handful of hits: "Rope," "All My Life," "The Pretender," "My Hero" and "Learn to Fly." Nothing seemed too wild about the band's live show, necessarily: Dave Grohl ran up the side ramps of both stages a couple times and yelled a lot; a leathery Pat Smear astutely rocked out; Taylor Hawkins thrashed about on his complex kit; bassist Nate Mendel locked down the groove; Chris Shiflett provided the riffs. That seems par for the course, but if I were a bigger Foo Fighters fan maybe I would have been blown away.
I weaved my way through the sand and crowded boardwalk back to Zumiez to catch Hot Water Music. The stage was now running a good half-hour behind schedule, which means I could have caught more of the Foo, but alas. The population in this area still seemed small, but when the band finally took the stage and I looked behind me, it seemed to have filled out pretty well, even if it was a lot of curious onlookers waiting for Motion City Soundtrack's second set of the day. The band ripped into a solid half-hour, and while the festival setting provided a strange quirk to the echo-ey sound (I love reverb, but it wasn't right here), the small gaggle of fans near the front didn't mind at all, with playful shoves and raised fists and fingers. Roughly half of the band's half-hour set included major standouts from their great new record, Exister (which all sounded immaculate, by the way), and of course, the other half a "Greatest Hits" selection of sorts, with Chuck Ragan and Chris Wollard co-leading the way with their beautifully burly strains as the sun fully descended behind them.
- Trusty Chords
- Drag My Body
- Paper Thin
- State of Grace
- Jack of All Trades
- The Traps
I had been waiting to see the Promise Ring ever since the time I was searching for Blink-182 B-sides on KaZaA in the Y2K and stumbled across a (probably intentionally) mislabeled MP3 of "Raspberry Rush." Their set here was certainly not what I had been expecting to see for the last 12 years, but not at all bad. They came out to raucous cheers, but largely because the now-ginormous crowd was expecting Motion City Soundtrack, not realizing how late the stage was running. When the members were actually visible in the light of the stage, there seemed to be a confused murmur going around. "What is this, Vertical Horizon?!" yelled one upset patron. While I would have thought that one of MCS's bigger musical influences should translate well with even MCS's mainstream fans, the set was maybe too weird to cross over all that strongly. Not only did tPR pull out some comparatively obscure choices given their limited time (no "Is This Thing On?" or "Stop Playing Guitar"?), with a heavy focus on 1999's Very Emergency, they added a lazier flair to much of the material--an almost alt-country twang at times. Again, this was not bad. Just different. It's essentially the band doing a reunion their way, and you can't disrespect that; they definitely seemed to be having fun with it. There were very, very few people in the crowd who had any idea what was going on and why this was so cool (it was the band's first goddamned show in the tri-state area in a decade, for Chrissake!), but after the mini-dance party up near the front stage right side, we seemed to be left satisfied by the short and sweet set.
- Happiness Is All the Rage
- Emergency! Emergency!
- Jersey Shore
- Red & Blue Jeans
- A Picture Postcard
- The Deep South
- Why Did We Ever Meet?
- Get on the Floor
- [may or may not have played "Forget Me" to close; setlist.fm says they did but I'm not sure of that]
From there I headed immediately to the Brand New/the Front Bottoms aftershow, which was a predictably great time. I've seen BN about 15 times before this and this was one of the better sets--granted, that's largely because of how comparatively small the Stone Pony is, but I digress. The Front Bottoms were a cool opener, playing ragged, brash, acoustic-tinged ramblings (dude's somewhat nasal voice also reminds me of Tom Delonge, strangely). New fanboy Kevin Devine came out to help on one of their songs to the clear delight of many in the crowd, too.
Brand New came on about 10 after midnight with their ripping cover of Nine Inch Nails' "Wish" (which, sadly, few knew), then worked their way backwards through the catalog with a couple of tracks from each of their four studio albums before randomly dishing out highlights from across the board for the final third. Some unique tidbits included an extended, jammed-out bridge for "Okay I Believe You But My Tommy Gun Don't," an appearance of "Flying at Tree Level" and a Jesse Lacey solo electric version of "Jude Law and a Semester Abroad." They looked like they were having fun with all of it, thankfully. While we may not get another album for a while, shows like this are an OK stopgap. Full setlist here. Worth the $40 for a little club show after a day of festival stage watching, I'd say.
The Bamboozle, while mired a bit in trends, disorganization and shameless corporate plugging (the "Marlboro Experience" trailer? C'mon.), does look out for the (somewhat) older folk like myself. At times. There was a good stock of long-time favorites of mine here: I saw Boysetsfire, Hot Water Music, the Promise Ring and, for a little extra dough, Brand New, with all four bands turning in solid-at-worst performances, and for that I can't complain too much.