Photos by Chris Rotolo
“Yo Bamboozle, what the fuck is up?” rapper Mac Miller shouted as he made his way onto the massive main stage inserted onto Asbury Park’s Northern beachhead. Roaring in unanimous approval, the audience was primed to get this beach party started. Day one of the 2012 Bamboozle Festival brought out a large, mostly younger congregation to see the likes of Incubus, Miller, and the Duke of Dubstep himself, Skrillex spread out across seven different stages situated up and down the boardwalk.
From the start, it was clear something special was in the making. By the time I made my way into the queue to enter the grounds at 4:15, the line was already halfway down the planks, and I was amongst the lucky ones, as staring behind me it appeared the entry line stretched well past the Casino and into Little Eden. It quickly became apparent that many of the 20,000 large expected on Friday would not be making it through the gates by the 5:00 p.m. start time, but as they say , “the show must go on”…even if nobody’s there to see it.
This was the unfortunate fate of the festival’s lead-off band Batten Down the Hatches, an overtly talented Pop-Punk outfit from down the street (Freehold, NJ) that’s high energy live performance is one not to missed, nor did its intensity suffer due to a small audience. The Main Stage’s first act, Hip-Hop Pop purveyor Mike Posner, suffered a similar fate as the attendance was whittled down by the hold-up at the turnstile. Under a gorgeous blue sky dotted with a few clouds, Posner sporting a red silk robe, treated fans to a part-remix, part-cover of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” The soulful rework brought a big cheers, as did Posner’s hit single “Cooler Than Me.”
After watching the South Plainfield seven-piece pop-punk collective, Bad Case of Big Mouth, shred the Saints & Sinners Stage with a unique take on ‘N Sync’s “It’s Gonna Be Me,” it was back to the main stage for We Came As Romans, that’s dueling vocalists and guitar attack threw the more sizable congregation into a head-banging frenzy, at one point prompting bothDave Stephens and Kyle Pavone to sing and surf the sea of humanity set before them. “We’re gonna split this boardwalk in two!” Stephens declared before the band dropped into “Broken Statues.”
At the Zumiez Stage Walnut Creek, California’s own The Story So Far played one the day’s best sets – a true under the radar gem. The five-piece Pop-Punk outfit drew a dedicated fan base that filled up the first few rows of standing room, singing along to every song and crowd surfing like it was going out of style. The group’s tribal drums, chunking guitar riffs, and Parker Cannon’s angry vocals fired up the patronage and, as previously stated, made for one of the most energetic sets of the evening. “It’s like a Jimmy Buffet concert up in this bitch,” stated the backwards-hat and baggy shirt wearing Cannon when a few beach balls bounced about the throng of fists waving in the air, “fuck Jimmy Buffet!”
After passing a vendor selling Skrillex haircuts (no thank you), I took my place back at the main stage for the aforementioned Miller who used his chest to pay homage to the late great Adam Yauch with a message stating “RIP MCA” in the style of a classic “RUN DMC” t-shirt. Miller’s thumping beats and uncontainable energy set the stage for the rest of the night. Early on in his set, Miller dropped Philadelphia Flyers fan favorite, “Knock Knock,” to uproarious cheers. Thousands of people raised their fists and air-knocked against the gorgeous backdrop of the beach, the Asbury skyline, Convention Hall and the Ferris wheel. Miller’s set meshed aggressive Hip-Hop with chilled grooves, perfecting the right mix for a concert on the beach.
Back at the Zumiez stage, it was time for The Receiving End of Sirens (TREOS) where the Belchertown, Massachusetts Pop-Punk group would perform in its first major setting since splitting up four years ago. “Is this anyone’s first time hearing this band?” pondered Alex Bars to his people. “We broke up four years ago and If everyone buys one hundred albums we’ll book the tour tomorrow.” Again, the small stage produced yet another of the day’s most unseen gems as TREOS made use of their four-guitar assault and heavily distorted bass to kick out an unrelenting sonic attack. After inviting bassist Brendan Brown’s son Parker out to jam on the keys for a few seconds, a string section comprised of several violin players was brought out to add a new dynamic to the rest of the set. The strings added a haunting touch to the sounds of “Stay Small” and “War of All Against All,” an impressive amalgamation of instrumental artistry and cherry on top of an already alluring set.
Another highly touted reunion was the one-off performance by homegrown hero Armor For Sleep that drew the largest side stage audiences of the day garnering huge applause for its brand of Emo tunes and a touching moment when front-man Ben Jorgensen stated before queuing up “My Town,” “We grew up about an hour away in this little place we call New Jersey. We first started playing this festival when it started here in Asbury as Skate And Surf, and then The Bamboozle, and then when it moved to the Meadowlands. You were with us then and you’re here with us now. That makes us brothers and sisters, and this one is for you.”
Incubus followed featuring Brandon Boyd’s soaring vocals backed by the record scratching of Chris Kilmore and with the sun setting over Asbury Park and a beautiful azure and light purple skies over the water, the fun was only just beginning as the band launched into “Megalomaniac” complete with a video rolling behind the band of various evil leaders like Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin to illustrate. Ever the charismatic front-man Boys cupped both hands around his vintage microphone, swinging and swaying with each soulful note, feeling it as much as his audience. Incubus mixed the classic with such selections as “Adolescents” off of its latest release If Not Now, When? (2011), providing the crowd a diverse offering of its catalogue. “You guys feel like helping a brother out? Sing along if you know the words” Boyd implored before the band dropped into “Pardon Me.” However the highlight was an elongated jam on “Consequence,” which transitioned directly into “Nice to Know You” without pause.
Without a doubt, the unquestionable king of the first night was the dance party deity Skrillex. It seemed as if the entire festival assemblage had gathered at the Main Stage to get their dance on, excite building with each second ticked off the digital clock that appeared on the video board, a countdown alerting people that their bespectacled hero was a mere four and a half minutes from igniting the wildest display Asbury Park had seen in years.
When the clock struck zero, out he walked who took his place at a structure that can only be described as the Death Star of Dubstep from which Skrillex dropped an enormous bass bomb without hesitation. The music started and the crowd was at his command, moving with along with the frenzied Skrillex who refused to sit still while spinning, dancing harder than many of those in his court can ever hope to. Seamless transitions kept the festivities moving as songs bled into another, pummeling the crowd with his trademark mechanical-sounding effects, which you can’t help but feel in your chest.
Skrillex blows you away with vibrations – you feel the music rattling up your bones. The music gets bodies moving and booties shaking – a point that was driven home when the video board began to show girls bouncing their moneymakers with a purpose, a scene met with cheer from the mass of onlookers.
In this particular set, Skrillex mixed in quite a bit of reggae, which made for a great slow/fast dynamic with his aggressive music styling. Every time the crowd was ready to lift off to one of Skrillex’s famous bass-drops, he’d surprise the crowd with some chill, beach-appropriate grooves before slamming back into the more familiar territory of wub-wub-wub-step. As the night went on, the Death Star of Dubstep began to elevate, sending Skrillex skyward and giving him a better view of all the thousands of people he was treating to the time of their lives.
This, as Mac Miller pondered earlier in the day, is exactly what the fuck was up.