Photography by Kristen Driscoll
This past weekend, 17 hours to the Southwest on 500 acres of farmland in Manchester, Tennessee, the 11th Annual Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival played out over four days featuring some of the biggest names in music and comedy…and we at SIMGE, with staff members situated on both the Boardwalk and the event grounds to the South, couldn’t help but draw comparisons.
Forget The Chili Peppers, We Had The Counting Crows As Our ’90s Alt-Rock Nostalgia Inducer
As well as the tentacled mop monster atop his head, Adam Duritz wore many hats on Saturday evening as he played hype man, stage hand, and rock star auteur at The Stone Pony for the opening evening of the Counting Crows’ own Outlaw Roadshow, a three month U.S. tour curated by the lyrical poet featuring three of his favorite young acts discovered weeks earlier at the SXSW Music Festival, including Filligar, Foreign Fields, and the Philadelphia-based local favorite Good Old War, who’s country-fried brand of Indie-Rock pleased the patronage as the outfit spanned its catalogue with selections from a 2012 full-length release titled Come Back As Rain, an impromptu rendition of Harry Belafonte’s “Day O,” and a joy-inducing sing along on “Coney Island”…however, it was the Crows who stole the show.
2012’s inaugural Summer Stage headliner drew more than 2000 ticket holders into The Pony’s back parking lot, another couple of hundred huddled together on the top floor of the upscale boardwalk eatery, The Watermark, and hundreds more huddled about the confines taking in the sounds and jockeying for a better view of this wild-eyed songwriter and the series of Alternative-Rock compositions he and the Crows have made famous over their 21 years of existence.
Duritz and company started strong with “Round Here,” a beautiful piece of beloved balladry off August And Everything, the crowd participation spurring on an improvisational stanza from the front-man in which he called for the patronage to “Follow me!” and “Take a fucking shot,” as he pounded the Velvet Underground’s Loaded crest emblazoned across his chest.
As the band dusted off “This Desert Life,” Duritz crooned about being born on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, and one couldn’t help but marvel at Asbury Park’s latest reformation into the seaside getaway it was once known to be; the beach party town with a musical rattle at its backbone. The musicians this hub attracts and the artists it breeds have always been the barometer measuring the health and stability of this community…and it’s flourishing.
Duritz took center stage for “Mr. Jones,” tickling the ivories in this stripped down and elongated rendition, while caked in white angelic fluorescence, riffing on the lyrics he penned and put to music nearly two decades ago…then the time came to delve into a series of selections from the collective’s sixth full-length release, a 2012 covers collection titled Underwater Sunshine (Or What We Did On Our Summer Vacation), performing such tunes as “Hospital” by Coby Brown, Romany Rye’s “Untitled (Love Song),” and “Like Teenage Gravity” by Kasey Anderson & The Honkies.
“It’s fun to play other artist’s music,” explained Duritz of the Counting Crows decision to make a covers compilation. “This is music that inspires us, music we love…we took their shit and made it our own shit. And we hope you enjoy it.”
Prior to closing the set with the greatly anticipated “Rain King,” (not for its masterful word play and impressive instrumentation but, in the eyes of many Springsteen fanatics in the attendance, because Duritz and company once spun their classic piece of music into The Boss’ “Thunder Road” while on tour in 2007) the group presented it’s version of the Graham Parson’s penned “Return Of The Grievous Angel,” which was directly piggy-backed by Bob Dylan’s “Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.”
After a brief intermission, calls for “one more song” drew the band back upon the planks and a three-track encore featuring “Hard Candy,” “Holiday In Spain,” and “Washington Square” which allowed Duritz to reflect upon past years of touring.
“When you’re in a band you leave home alot, and other places start to feel like your home. Washington Square was one of those place…This place feels like home too. We played one of our first headlining shows right there [pointed to The Stone Pony]. It was super bowl sunday, 1994. I got drunk, I got layed, almost got arrested and it was all right here.”
Glad we could be of some fun to you Mr. Duritz, you certainly provided us with some.
Sunday Saw Unknown Mortal Orchestra Headline The Lanes
It wasn’t quite the world renowned musical mind melt dealt out by Phish on the farm, but Life Beaters Magazine did present the Boardwalk with one of finest buzz bands on the touring circuit, Portland, Oregon’s Unknown Mortal Orchestra, who gave a healthy helping of haze-encased Indie-Pop, with a Hip-Hop pulse, to a sparse Sunday evening congregation at Asbury Lanes.
The outfit delivered a fuzzy set of shoegaze anthems from its 2011 breakthrough self-titled debut such as the spacious and incomprehensible single “FFunny FFrends” and the bass driven dance floor igniter “Little Blu House.”
Joining the minimalist Rock outfit was tourmate The Doldrums and a late night appearance by DIIV, or the band formerly known as Dive, or the band fronted Zach Cole Smith of Beach Fossils.
This was the first of two announced Life Beaters parties schedules at Asbury’s premier 10-pin penthouse and music locale. The next is slated for July 24th and will be headlined by the famed Canadian Garage-Rock collective King Khan & The Shrines who will be joined by Hector’s Pets and local Country-Rockers Sikamor Rooney, featuring Brad York (Low Flying Jets, Atlantic Atlantic), Jeff Plate, Chris Donofrio, and The Parlor Mob’s Sam Bey, Dave Rosen, and Anthony Chick…don’t miss it.
Karmic Juggernaut Provided The Psychedelic Jams
Bonnaroo made its name with the Jam-Band aesthetic, luring Phish and Dead Heads alike to a half million piece of acreage where the psychedelics were abundant and My Morning Jacket took patrons on a magical trip. Since the festival’s inception 11 years ago bands like moe., Government Mule, STS9, Widespread Panic, and more have been Roo-regulars. And on Saturday evening, Asbury’s own Karmic Juggernaut filled that mystical void between fantasy and reality with a Metal-coated set of elongated musical mind alterations to a receptive Press Room patronage, including “Guacamole Genie” and “Oo Wah Hoo” from the outfit’s 2012 self titled relese…check out the former below.
The Riverwinds, GayGuy/StriaghtGuy, and Imaginary War Headlined Friday Night
Much like Bonnaroo’s most buzzed about Friday acts (tUnE-yArDs, Michael Kiwanuka, Two Door Cinema Club) Asbury saw three of its finest outfits take to the Press Room platform for an evening of Rock tunes kicked off by Imaginary War who’s set featured selections from the outfit’s most recent release, a 2012 EP titled The Angel’s Share (Download here) as well as a new piece of riff-driven Hard-Rock named “Count The Lines”…check it out below:
The two-man genre-hopping side project of Nick Cucci (River City Extension) and Bob Paulos (Give Me Static), GayGuy/StraightGuy, followed suit with a collection of multi-tempoed and varied-mannered cuts from its 2012 self-titled debut EP (Download here) including “1000 Suns,” the explosive Grunge-Rock anthem “Turner,” and ““This + That x Those = Yeah,” a Blues-Rock piece akin to those of The Black Keys.
The evening was closed out with a rare live performance by The Riverwinds, who’s Deer Tick-esque brand of singed Americana-Rock kept the party time atmosphere in full bloom with selections from the collective’s 2011 sophomore full-length release Blossom & Die, including one of the best Pop-Rock songs to emerge from the boardwalk last year in “Worn Out”
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Bonnaroo Sees The Return Of D’Angelo, The Brighton Bar Houses Phill Serzan’s Reemergence
The interwebs were abuzz on Sunday morning as D’Angelo joined Questlove and friends at Bonnaroo’s annual scheduling staple, the Super Jam, for the first time in more than a decade…while back at The Brighton Bar that afternoon, music fans in our humble scene celebrated the return of one of the area’s best stick wielders, Phill Serzan, who’s recent rift with the Ocean Township Pop-Punk outfit Almost There saw the drummer take a hiatus of lengths far too long for this writer’s liking.
With this outing Serzan backed a new band, a Ska-Punk collective named Backyard Superheroes whose influences reside in close proximity as the group’s tunes are cut from the same cloth those of its musical Middlesex County brethren Streetlight Manifesto and Catch 22.
Backyard Superheroes will be at it again this Saturday (June 16th) at the Freehold VFW with Unbearable Slackers and more.
So that was it, a miniature Bonnaroo played out in our own backyards. As for the festival, I can’t wait until next year…and for our music scene, I can’t wait for next weekend.