New Jersey Gets Bamboozled By Nostalgia

noah | May 4, 2009 12:00 pm

Saturday’s “surprise guest” at the two-day parking-lot festival known as the Bamboozle was introduced with the three words “Don’t,” “Stop,” and “Believin’,” and from my vantage point in the crowd–which rendered the men muscling through four of Journey’s hits onstage into something resembling very animated Berzerk robots–I thought that I was actually watching the San Francisco band collect a big, yet sorta-strange, paycheck. As it turned out, the band that I was singing along with was actually a really, really convincing tribute band. (Of course, some smart-asses out there will assert that having Arnel Pineda on vocals makes the currently touring incarnation of Journey a cover band of sorts, but we’ll leave that alone for now.) But the surprise and its “gotcha!” aftershock were both appropriate for a festival that, despite being clad in “FUCK SWINE FLU” t-shirts as far as the eye could see, spent a fair chunk of time looking back. Bamboozle is pitched to fans of the sort of rock music that has a substantial groundswell of online popularity, but is on the whole a little too poppy (read: feminine) for the post-grunge soup that is modern rock radio. The shorthand term for it is “emo,” but Saturday night’s set by the Get Up Kids, who are middle-children of that genre, showed how inaccurate that tag was for a melange of bands that included Fall Out Boy’s heavens-grasping arena rock, Cobra Starship’s slickly strident dance-rock, Attack! Attack!’s blistering shocks of anger, and Silverstein’s bland spin on punk. Add to that the synthy bastard children of Limp Bizkit (3OH!3, Hollywood Undead) who seemed determined to bring rap-rock back, for better or worse; Mickey Avalon’s sleaze rap (which has grown semi-comprehensible, yet no less noxious, since I saw him in 2007); Kid Cudi’s top-notch MCing; and, um, Third Eye Blind, and it’s clear that “emo festival” is way too narrow a tag for even the most broadly painted picture of the fest. There was one unifying thread of the weekend (aside from bright yellow, which was probably the most popular color on display): Cover songs, which were often introduced as “special treats” by the bands playing them. “High And Dry”, “Come Together,” “Listen To Your Heart,” and that T.I./Justin Timberlake song were all snatched from their places in mainstream for purposes of getting the crowd pumped; even the headliners got in on the act, with Fall Out Boy running through “Hey Ya!” and No Doubt reportedly busting out its covers of both Adam Ant and Talk Talk. Add to all that apperances by the Bloodhound Gang, Sum 41, the aforementioned Third Eye Blind (whose pre-Fall Out Boy set nearly caused me to blow a blood vessel thanks to an endlessly noodly, solo-filled version of “Jumper” that was introduced by Stephan Jenkins ranting about the legalization of pot), and Gavin Rossdale (whose performance of “Everything Zen” brought it back even further when he dropped in a few lines from Talking Heads’ “Once In A Lifetime”), and you’ve got a lot of opportunities for looking back to an era where every person in a five-figure crowd would be able to lift a brightly colored object and sing along with every word of the big, show-closing anthem coming from the stage. (Oh, and how did I find out that the Journey cover band was actually that? A tip from Christopher R. Weingarten, who covered the fest for Rolling Stone, via his editor Caryn Ganz; I verified it via a Tweet sent out by the festival’s presenting sponsor Wonka that was linked by Absolutepunk. The new model, indeed.)BEST AUDIENCE INSTRUCTION: Attack! Attack!, whose set-closing request for a mosh involved asking those people who were up to the challenge to let People’s Elbows loose on one another. OK, so yeah, they have a song with that title, but the reference did allow a bit of Dwayne Johnson’s charisma to shine down on them.MOST TREASONOUS BIT: GWAR’s decapitation of the President:

Oops?A BRIEF SAMPLING OF THINGS THAT COULD GET FUCKED, ACCORDING TO T-SHIRTS: Swine flu; you, you fucking fuck; cancer.THE LONGEST LINES FOR SIGNINGS: Taking Back Sunday; All Time Low; Rise Against. People were also lined up to chat with Chris Crocker, who unfortunately was not shooting personalized “LEAVE [YOURNAMEHERE] ALOOONNNNNE!” videos.TWO NEW BANDS WHO SEEMED WORTHY OF FUTURE EXPLORATION: All The Day Holiday, whose pealing, U2-sized guitars probably sounded better than any band on the bill that wasn’t the Journey tribute or Fall Out Boy; and The Love Willows, a super-poppy, female-fronted duo with charisma to spare.UNEXPECTED SYNCHRONICITIES: Chris, serving as my fact-checking cuz for the weekend, also pointed out to me that one performer–Joe DeRosa, who took on Sum 41, preteens wearing fishnets, and the Insane Clown Posse’s fanbase during his brief set in the comedy tent–had the unique honor of playing at both Bamboozle and the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival. Anyone here who was at both of those festivals can pat themselves on the back.CRAZY IDEA THAT ANY MARKETING COMPANY OUT THERE CAN STEAL: Yes, rock is the provenance of dudes, but why no feminine-hygiene company out there has commandeered at least one table for free distribution of its products at these Porta-Potty-heavy spectacles is beyond me–and it definitely isn’t the spectre of audience squeamishness, given that the Bamboozle boasts breast-cancer awareness booths with “I Love Boobies” as their tagline and merch stands operated by a clothing company called I Love Vagina.THE SECOND-WORST THING ABOUT THE WHOLE WEEKEND: The Banana Derby, a monkeys-riding-dogs race that I guess was there to keep the state fair-ish spectacle of the weekend alive, but only served to remind me that 10 years ago, that spot would have been manned by PETA and other animal-rights organizations. (Two grim people holding signs about the exploitation of the animals involved were stationed in front of the booth for most of the weekend, but it didn’t stop people from putting money on the enterprise.)THE WORST THING ABOUT THE WHOLE WEEKEND: Being mistaken, along with Chris, as the parents of RS‘ Erica Futterman during Fall Out Boy’s set. Especially since the age span between the three of us is nine years (I’m 33; Chris is 29; Erica is 24.) Of course, when I left early on Sunday, felled by the triple threat of a persistent drizzle, the spectre of Brokencyde, and Aleve-borne dizziness, I began to see that the girl might have a point.Bamboozle 2009 [Buzznet] [Pic via Evolution]