Sunday concluded the weekend long Bamboozle festival; you can read about Saturday, Day 1, here.
All the Day Holiday kicked things off just after noon with selections from The Things We’ve Grown to Love, the band’s stellar debut full-length released on Linc Star Records last year. Opening with the airy “Cheers (You Still Love Me)”, the four-piece explored intricate and spacious melodies but remained grounded by the rock-solid percussion of drummer Mark Ventura. The band’s soaring vocals were provided only by rhythm guitarist Daniel Simmons, who managed to sound not only pitch-perfect throughout the set but also enormous — it’s hard to believe no one else is contributing backing harmonies. “Cities” closed the band’s excellent set, and before the clock even struck 1PM the bar was already set high for remaining bands.
Cheers (You Still Love Me)
New Jersey natives Steel Train took the Skate and Surf Stage next, though it was unfortunately difficult to hear the band for most of the set, making normally-solid songs such as “Firecrackers” and “Kill Monsters in the Rain” a chore to listen to. Even a cover of “Dancing in the Dark”, which should have been a great moment being performed right outside Giants Stadium (the de facto home of Bruce Springsteen) was tough to get into. The band closed with a brand new song from their upcoming album and failed to connect with the crowd during their thirty minute set.
Dancing in the Dark (Bruce Springsteen cover)
Alone on the Sea
Kill Monsters in the Rain
Following Steel Train’s set, frontman Jack Antonoff raced to the Sony Stage to perform with his other band, fun. The six-piece began with “Walking the Dog” but didn’t fall into rhythm until their second song, “I Wanna Be the One”. Excellent harmonies anchored pop-masterpiece “All the Pretty Girls”; “Barlights” had the crowd singing along to the band’s bouncy beats. Frontman Nate Ruess gave one of the best performances of the entire weekend, but the band inexplicably cut their set short and closed with “At Least I’m Not as Sad (As I Used to Be)”.
Walking the Dog
I Wanna Be the One
All the Pretty Girls
At Least I’m Not as Sad (As I Used to Be)
While taking a break from the excessive heat, I caught geek-rapper MC Chris on the Zumiez South Stage. Aside from plugs about his association to Aqua Teen Hunger Force, MC Chris’s set included cuts across his decade-spanning discography including “Drinkin’ Blunts”, “Wiid is By My Side”, “Nrrrd Grrrl”, “006″, and “Fette’s Vette”. Certainly not an act to take seriously, the performance would have been much more enjoyable if the geek-rapper didn’t rely so heavily on sampling throughout his set — it wasn’t just choruses, even verses were piped in with MC Chris just rapping along with himself on tape.
Upstate New York’s Polar Bear Club played at 2:45 on the side stage to a fairly small crowd. Frontman Jimmy Stadt poured his heart into the set, which drew across both of their full-length albums but focused primarily on Chasing Hamburg, the band’s sophomore effort released by Bridge Nine Records in 2009. Songs like “Another Night in the Rock”, “Boxes”, “Election Day”, and “Burned Out in a Jar” showcased the band’s blend of melodic hardcore and post-hardcore rock. “Living Saints”, the band’s latest single, finished Polar Bear Club’s enjoyable set.
Good Old War played next on the Zumiez North Stage, opening with “Window” from their 2008 debut, Only Way To Be Alone. “Weak Man” was well-performed, and “Breaking Down”, a rare cut found on a split with Cast Spells, was an interesting surprise. “Coney Island”, the band’s very first single, received deservedly roaring applause. Anchored by the band members’ excellent voices and complementing harmonies, Good Old War somehow manages to sound even better in a live environment than they do on their excellent studio output.
Guitarist Dan Schwartz switched between an electric guitar and an acoustic guitar throughout the set; Tim Arnold’s keys and additional guitar fleshed out the surprisingly big sound the Philadelphia three-piece creates. Good Old War’s self-titled album, for sale in June, contributed three songs to the band’s solid eight-song setlist, including “My Own Sinking Ship”, which featured drummer Tim Arnold stepping out from behind the kit and playing accordion.
I Should Go
Looking for Shelter
Here Are the Problems
My Own Sinking Ship
Minus the Bear took the stage at 4:40PM, beginning with two cuts from 2007′s Planet of Ice: “Knights” and “Throwin’ Shapes”. “Pachuca Sunrise” was enjoyable, and Omni lead single “My Time” sounded great. Indeed, the Seattle five-piece sounded crisp and experienced during their seven-song setlist. Unfortunately, though, song selection left much to be desired with new, unreleased (and largely unheard) songs taking up about half of the band’s set time. Thankfully, the band dug back to their debut full-length (the exciting Highly Refined Pirates) to close their set with “Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse”.
Into the Mirror
Hold Me Down
Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse
Motion City Soundtrack‘s set began as it has since the release of the excellent My Dinosaur Life, with Justin Pierre reciting the album’s first lines: “It’s been a good year, a good new beginning / I’m through with the old school, so let’s commence the winning / I’ve been a good little worker bee / I deserve a gold star”, but on drummer Tony Thaxton’s cue the band quickly abandoned “Worker Bee” and cut straight into I am the Movie‘s “The Future Freaks Me Out”. The crowd was hardly phased by the transition and was actually quite ready to sing along to every word of the old favorite. “My Favorite Accident”, another song from the band’s quirky 2002 debut, quickly followed and Pierre had the crowd in his palm.
Current-single “Her Words Destroyed My Planet” briefly slowed things down, but the song’s infectious chorus soon had the crowd bouncing around once again. Even at the band’s weakest moments — Even if it Kills Me cuts “This is for Real” and “Broken Heart” — Motion City Soundtrack still outperformed most of the day’s acts. At their best, such as on Commit This to Memory tracks “Attractive Today” and set-closer “Everything is Alright”, Motion City Soundtrack is punk-pop perfection.
The Minnesota six-piece’s Moog-powered set flew by, even though the band performed for thirty-five minutes across ten songs. It was good to see newer songs like “A Lifeless Ordinary (Need a Little Help)” and “Disappear” making the cut, even if it meant pushing out former festival staples such as “Throwdown” and “Capital H”. Pierre was clearly losing his voice by the penultimate “L.G. Fuad”, but the band’s intimate connection with the crowd carried Motion City Soundtrack to the finish line.
The Future Freaks Me Out
My Favorite Accident
Her Words Destroyed My Planet
This is for Real
A Lifeless Ordinary (Need a Little Help)
Everything Is Alright
Louisiana’s Mutemath began with drummer Darren King duct-taping headphone monitors to his head, allowing him go rock out as hard as he wanted while still hearing the foldback. The tactic proved not to be strictly theatrical — on “The Nerve”, the first song from their latest effort, Armistice, King flailed around on the kit and barely kept the adhered headset in place. The album’s title track followed before Mutemath played a lengthy instrumental, “Reset”, from the band’s debut EP of that same name.
A plethora of instruments found their way into frontman Paul Meany’s hands, including a keytar and a homemade device known only as “The Atari”. Singles “Typical” and “Spotlight” were the biggest crowd pleasers, and the band wrapped things up with a fairly lengthy rendition of “Break the Same”.
Break the Same
To promote a series of reissues, Piebald reunited for Bamboozle to play all of their 2002 full-length, We Are the Only Friends We Have, unquestionably the band’s strongest album. “King of the Road” started the nostalgic trip down memory lane with frontman Travis Shettel recounting the band’s status circa 2002: “Andy went back to school, he got sick of Newbury Comics / Aaron still rides a lot, except now he’s just fatter / Alex took over for Alex Van Halen, after his major surgery / Jon, well, he got married to Laura and I teach their kid in first grade”. And with those opening lines Piebald was off to the races, attempting to fit the entire album into a brief time slot on the Zumiez North Stage.
Spoiler alert, Piebald rolled through everything but “It’s Going to Get Worse Before it Gets Better” in front of an audience almost exclusively filled with fans old enough to legally consume alcohol — the first and only time such a crowd would assemble all weekend. Everyone pushed to the front for a chance to share the microphone on fan-favorites like “Just a Simple Plan” and “American Hearts”; The Hope Conspiracy’s Jim Carroll filled in on guitar for part of the set, allowing Shettel to leap into the crowd as necessary.
By the time album-closer “Sex Sells and (Unfortunately) I’m Buying” ended, two things became readily apparent. It was obvious that Piebald was a fun, personal band that can put on an extremely high-energy and engaging performance. However, it was also clear that Piebald never again approached the high bar set with We Are the Only Friends We Have during the remainder of their career. This made the one-off Bamboozle set even sweeter: a great live band performing only their greatest material.
King of the Road
Just a Simple Plan
Fear and Loathing on Cape Cod
The Monkey Versus the Robot
Karate Chops for Everyone But Us
Rich People Can Breed
Look, I Just Don’t Like You
Sex Sells and (Unfortunately) I’m Buying
Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band had the difficult task of following Piebald. “Cotton Crush” started things off on the right foot, and “Just Stay” finds Devine at his best, but the noisy noodling on tracks from his latest effort, Brother’s Blood, is just self-indulgent and largely unenjoyable. “Carnival” is too long, too unguided; “Another Bag of Bones” and “Brother’s Blood” would have been great in a more focused, even acoustic, attack. Devine routinely leaves his backing band behind, it’s unfortunate that this was not the case at Bamboozle: the singer-songwriter is one of the genre’s best, and he is a much better live act alone with his just his guitar.
I Could Be with Anyone
Another Bag of Bones
On the opposite end of the parking lot, mashup artist Gregg Gillis — Girl Talk — was throwing a massive dance party. Seamlessly combining classic rock and modern pop hits, Girl Talk had the entire Sony Stage singing and dancing for forty minutes. Not content with spinning just his records, Girl Talk’s live show is a mash of the familiar tunes found on his albums and also a ton of other radio favorites. Girl Talk executes like a veteran DJ, feeling the crowd and adjusting the mixes appropriately, all while inviting dozens of fans on stage with him to dance along and, interestingly, to fire toilet paper into the crowd. Pool toys and other inflatable devices were launched into the audience near the set’s end, and, after forty minutes of nonstop dancing, grinding, and crowd-surfing, the general consensus was exhaustion — and a desire for much, much more.
Following a set by MGMT, Weezer closed out the Bamboozle weekend. The hard-hitting “Hash Pipe” went first, followed by the comedic yet ridiculously catchy “Troublemaker”. Frontman Rivers Cuomo was genuinely entertaining through the entire set, even running through the crowd and high-fiving fans before climbing up the soundtent rafters behind the crowd. Weezer’s world-wide tour experience shows: the band understands how to make going to a concert a truly enjoyable experience.
Two cuts from the band’s masterpiece, 1994′s “blue album”, went back to back: surprise radio-hit “Undone – The Sweater Song” received adlibbed interludes; “Surf Wax America” is an an absolute blast in a live environment. When the band moved into their newer material they did so with grace, selecting only the strongest cuts such as “Let It All Hang Out”. While the band’s newer material is not quite up to the standards set with albums like Pinkerton, it is quite enjoyable in concert.
“Dope Nose”, from the criminally under-appreciated Maladroit, was an awesome surprise; bassist Scott Shriner provided lead vocals on the rare cut. “Why Bother?”, another rare song, also made the setlist with guitarist Brian Bell singing instead of Cuomo. “Say It Ain’t So” was absolutely massive and received an enormous applause from the crowd. “Can’t Stop Partying” wonderfully mocked the current auto-tune/dance genre. “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To” is the best song Weezer has written in five years and was one of the night’s highlights.
Things wrapped up with a great performance of “My Name is Jonas” and a crowd singalong to “Beverly Hills”. The band returned for their first encore with riffs of Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher”, and “Pork and Beans” was solid, but a shaky cover of MGMT’s “Kids” (with parts of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face”) dented an otherwise top-notch set. MGMT had just performed the song an hour earlier — did it need another treatment?
The second encore began with Cuomo looping parts of “Island in the Sun” together and performing the song — drum, bass, and guitars included — by himself until the chorus. It’s definitely a strange way to perform the song, but it offered the crowd a different take on a decade-old song. Weezer closed the set properly by reaching back into their 1994 debut and tearing through “Buddy Holly”.
Undone – The Sweater Song
Surf Wax America
Let It All Hang Out
Say It Ain’t So
Can’t Stop Partying
(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To
My Name is Jonas
Pork and Beans
Kids (MGMT cover)
Island in the Sun
Weezer finished the Bamboozle festival on a high note, leaving everyone excited for the possibilities of next year’s lineup. A reunion set from Piebald in addition to superb sets from Motion City Soundtrack, Good Old War, All the Day Holiday, and Girl Talk were great parts of the day. I unfortunately missed MGMT, The Dear Hunter, and Moving Mountains — evidence of the number of quality bands playing Sunday afternoon. As the parking lot emptied, it was evident that it is hard to find a better two-day experience on the east coast for contemporary punk and indie influenced rock and roll.
All photographs by the excellent Dan Gonyea.