2006's "Most Improved" award goes to Bamboozle. While the number of performing bands this year was still staggering and only slightly less than 2005's, the bands actually played on time (for the most part), and with their full given time slots. This allowed me to at least see portions of a number of sets, even if all but one were on less than intimate stages than the ones that offered bands like Say Anything, Moneen, and Gatsbys American Dream last time.
- As Cities Burn bring a pretty familiar sound to the Solid State roster, offering up a steady mix of Beloved and Changing of Times-era Underoath. The album they're supporting, Son, I Loved You at Your Darkest is decent, so I expected their live show to be at least somewhat entertaining, and it was. The backup vocalist who I enjoy so much sang his few lines a bit shaky, but everyone was alive and well; the singer was rarely in a static position, while one guitarist randomly started throwing his guitar straight up into the air a good 20 feet at one point. I recognized "Thus From My Lips, By Yours, My Sin Is Purged" and "Bloodsucker Pt. II," but not too many others.
- It was weird hearing the Number Twelve Looks Like You's chaotic grind coming through such monstrously sized and capable speakers.
- Moneen started early, so I was able to catch a few songs. Does this band have fans? It seemed like a very select few from the audience were into it, let alone even mouthing the words. I'm sure the band was warmed up by the time their set was in its later stages, but they seemed a bit lost on a stage that big; it looked like their usual energy just wouldn't be enough to cover the field they were running on. I was disappointed they didn't open with " Don't Ever Tell Locke What He Can't Do," but I did get to hear " This Is All Bigger Than Me," "Are We Really Happy with Who We Are Right Now?," and most of "Bleed and Blister (Version 3)."
- Speaking of blistering, it was then time for Paint It Black. And even on a stage that large, greatness ensued. Dan Yemin's hand motions cut through the open space that surrounded him song through song in the solid half-hour set while the band filled out the rest of the necessary intensity. From their actions and reactions, it seemed like a few in attendance were experiencing hardcore punk for the first time, but I don't think they could've gotten an entirely better modern introduction. Yemin explained (mostly to them, I'd imagine) how festivals like such didn't quite represent punk and hardcore, but rather basement shows and DIY methods do. He motioned to the Giants Stadium banner and mentioned how the country offers things like sports to keep us as citizens distracted from actual, pertinent issues (a point I've noticed and thus adapted away from considerably the last several years). On top of that, he sent out a blatant "fuck you" to anyone disagreeing with the stance on his T-shirt, which read "I SUPPORT SAME SEX MARRIAGE" (said shirt being sold at He Is Legend's merch table, I believe, interesting since that band does not seem to have a political stance but is outright Christian affiliated); he was proud to declare his band as the counterpart to the "Christian right dominating the stage[s] today." And ah yes, the songs; as usual, a steady mix of CVA and Paradise rounded out the set to the joy of a surprising number in the crowd, including "Cannibal," "CVA," "Head Hurts Hands on Fire," "Pink Slip," "Exit Wounds," "Ghosts," "The New Brutality," "Labor Day," "Burn the Hive," "Angel," and closer "Memorial Day," which the band closed out electric.
- He Is Legend's brand of dirty Southern rock 'n' roll-inflected post-hardcore was next. They sounded awfully static and noisy at first, but the mix soon settled in. The singer was decked out in true Lynyrd Skynyrd fashion; bare-chested with a sleeveless denim jacket, long, unkempt hair and facial hair that would make Grizzly Adams proud. The half-set I caught was solid, which included "The Seduction" and "Eating a Book."
- Strike Anywhere must be one of the most consistent live acts around. Like PIB, they didn't seem too distraught by the huge stage (one of the two main ones, in fact). Even from a far distance I was able to get into the set, which included all the fan favorites (opener[s] "Blaze" / "Amplify," "Sunset on 32nd," "Timebomb Generation," "Chorus of One," "You're Fired") and the new, somewhat predictable one they've been playing live with the annoyingly catchy line "we'll take back what they steal." Good/great catch.
- I don't like to hate on positive hardcore, but Stretch Arm Strong's last album has some really forced elements about it, and I think anyone who's listened to it knows what I'm talking about. Unfortunately, these are really their only songs I know at all, so they were the ones I recognized from the short portion of them I saw (which seemed to dominate, since I recognized almost them all). They were a solid, tight live act, no question, but their recent musical styles are simply questionable.
- I'm not as into I Am the Avalanche as I am the Movielife or their other resulting band, Nightmare of You, but IATA do write pretty decent sorta pop-punk / Piebald-style emo songs. While I caught some great performances of "Murderous" and "Symphony," the surefire highlight was the new song they played -- holy fuck was it good. Granted there was the band's fairly standard mid-tempo chorus in place, but surrounding it was an opening of furious drum fills and charged energy seeming to reference Everything-era Glassjaw, while they even dipped into some double-time/skatepunk territory later on. The number of flawless tempo changes and unusual amount of energy present was enough to get me excited for the possibility of a crazy good album later down the line.
- "THROW YA HANDS UP! THROW YA HANDS UP!" Method Man was, uh, interesting. I know next to nothing about him or his past endeavor, the ever-loved Wu Tang Clan, from which several members were on stage, and I doubt too many others in the crowd did, but there was plenty of audience participation regardless. The irony was so thick I could spread it on some bread for a pretty delicious lunch.
- I left halfway through to catch the end of the Fall of Troy's set. They were in the middle of one of the considerably nuttier cuts off DoppelgÃ¤nger, and the crowd reflected that. Kids were MANIC. I believe there was plenty of push-mosh as well, which really shouldn't have been surprising, but sort of ruined the fact that the band closed with an efficient rendition of "Rockstar Nailbomb," a song I hadn't heard them play at either of the shows I'd seen them at earlier this year. They looked like they were putting good energy into what will be their last set for quite a bit before the hiatus begins.
- Kids really are forming some sort of cult for Say Anything. As soon as Max Bemis's soft warble and the overtly cutesy keyboards from "Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too" began its venturing through the speakers, everyone seemed to slowly drift forward as in some sort of trance. It was a really, really strange sight; some serious children of the corn shit I'd say. They played pretty solid, but you could really hear the pop-anthem elements quite well. Set list inclusions were "Alive with the Glory of Love" of course, "Woe," "Belt," and it was pretty fortunate to get to hear "Admit It!!"
- Underoath is so unexplainably huge that even in the far back section of the crowd that I'd place myself in initially, there was much, much moving around. I would definitely file them in some sort of guilty pleasure folder, but I felt like I wasn't getting as much enjoyment out of them as usual by the end of the new song they played, which simply seems to take from the same Botch-style metalcore a few of their labelmates play. The other two I saw were "It's Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door" and "I Don't Feel Very Receptive Today."
- I'd also left early in hopes of checking out at least some of the Riverboat Gamblers' set, and boy, that was the best decision I made all day, as the band put on a wonderfully entertaining set of punk 'n' roll. They made such an impact that we recently got a user submission from a fellow named DJGootch who reviewed solely the band's set. I'll let him take over to describe it, as he sums it up pretty well:
Mike (vocals) has energy to spare with his constant jumps, climbing fences and running through the crowd with the mic. It started off with a frightening bang as Mike fell off the stage and broke 2 fingers on the guard rail, but the band didn't stop, Mike got up, dusted himself off and put on what could have been one of the best performances I've seen in a long time.
Running through the crowd, doing double dutch with the microphone cable, singing right in peoples faces making sure EVERYONE was part of the show... One of the most energetic and fun shows I've ever seen. The entire band is a ball of energy making it SO much more entertaining for people unfamiliar with the band to get into it, while at the same time making it even better for the long-time fans.
- When the Gamblers wrapped up, I went to catch the end of the Bled's set. Aside from a small pit to the left center, the crowd was pretty much dead. I hadn't seen this lack of a response to the 'bigger' bands all day, but I guess people (aside from myself) just really didn't like Found in the Flood, despite pretty terrific cuts like "My Assassin," "Red Wedding," and one other from Pass the Flask.
- I'm really, really hoping Nightmare of You's Brandon Reilly was wearing those white oversized sunglasses in jest to a festival audience who probably consisted of 20% doing the same (I mean fuck, they have a song titled "Dear Scene, I Wish I Was Deaf"). I was over it quickly though, because they sounded rather fantastic; their crowd looking on was rather large as well, even as only a handful seemed to know the words. They opened with "The Days Go By Oh So Slow" and, as I was walking away "Thumbelina."
- I've heard people saying they were disappointed with Saves the Day, but I thought they put forth a really good if not relatively predictable set. It was certainly Sound the Alarm-heavy with a few older gems thrown in, but I couldn't ask for much more. The set list consisted of "At Your Funeral," "Holly Hox Forget Me Nots," "My Sweet Fracture," "The End," "Head for the Hills," "Don't Know Why," "Anywhere with You," "Firefly" (which I was quite happy about), "Cars and Calories," "Shattered" and "Bones."
- Gutter Phenomenon was disappointing, no doubt, so I was skeptical about how Every Time I Die's set would play out. Luckily, it was pretty fun (at least, the end). The band leaned on Hot Damn! material for the duration of my stay; "I Been Gone a Long Time" and one other was played, plus "The New Black."
- So Anthony Green had either lost a bet or was tripping balls, because he came out on stage in a skin-tight gray dress that stopped about halfway down his thighs. Oh yeah, he had makeup on too. And yet, Circa Survive was sounded incredible. Their dreamy placesetting coming through the expensive sound system was beautiful, and while Green was stumbling over his words a bit, the whole thing provided one of the most enjoyable sets of the day, even though I only saw "Holding Someone's Hair Back" and "In Fear and Faith."
- However, you would soon find me in the middle of a bunch of crazed, ecstatic kids, unable to wipe the smile off my face with an ammonia soaked rag. Lifetime was playing. It didn't even matter that Ari Katz did have that overly calm, sedated stage mannerisms like fellow Jersey resident Greg Attonito of the Bouncing Souls, which was both expected and disappointing (the former because I'd seen videos of recent performances, disappointing because I figure he has to kick it up a notch at some point) -- it was fucking Lifetime. While it's been 9 years since the release of their last proper effort, 1997's practically eponymous Jersey's Best Dancers, the band played the songs exactly like on record. Everyone bounced along to spectacular opener "Turnpike Gates," and then in no order "Theme for a New Brunswick Basement Show," "Rodeo Clown," "Neutral Territory (Gym Is)," "Knives, Bats, New Tats," "Ostrichsized," "Young, Loud, and Scotty," "Francie Nolan," "25 Cent Giraffes," "Hey Catrine," "Bringin' It Backwards" (AWESOME), and "The Verona Kings." "Danyeursim" sounded fantastic in the live setting, giving reason for plenty of hopping around. It was unfortunate that a small legion of Taking Back Sunday fans took up residence just behind the barrier, meaning all Lifetime fans were forced back even further. The band announced that they'd be coming out with a new record "when [they] finish writing it," so I suppose that's simply a refreshing update that it's still in progress at least. Despite a serious lack of intimacy, the fans were unified and enthusiastic to see the band who likely influenced the majority of bands playing Bamboozle that day. And it should make it all the better for when they play a smaller club around these parts.
- AFI's grandiose set included the opening tandem of " Miseria Cantare (The Beginning)" and "The Leaving Song, Pt. 2," "Girl's Not Grey," "Silver and Cold," "Miss Murder," "Dancing Through Sunday," and "God Called in Sick Today." They also played a few others I can't remember, but one was definitely "Totalimmortal," which I was stoked on. I couldn't see much from the distance I was standing, but they sounded good.
- You could say the same for Taking Back Sunday. They played most of the songs I wanted to hear in front of a flashing 'LOUDER NOW' cinema-style sign, and from far in the back the crowd wasn't tooooo annoying. Set list in no order and probably incomplete, as they played for about an hour including encore: "Cute without the 'E' (Cut from the Team)," "Liar" (stoked!), "MakeDamnSure," "Where You Want to Be," "A Decade Under the Influence," "Bike Scene," "Great Romances of the 20th Century," and "Error Operator."