While many teenagers do spend a lot of time in parking lots, that doesn’t necessarily make a giant stretch of asphalt an ideal festival locale — especially when you compare it to, say, the palm tree-lined desert setting of last month’s Coachella. But for fans of punk, screamo, and, increasingly, hip-hop and indie rock, New Jersey’s Bamboozle remains a fixture in the springtime musical calendar, despite the decidedly non-picturesque setting in between a highway and the half-demolished Giants Stadium.
There were loads of moments worth remembering at this weekend’s festival, not all of which could be included here. But as we gently treat our sunburn and come down from our Red Bull buzz, these are our lasting memories of Bamboozle 2010. Be sure to share yours in the comments section.
EVERYBODY WAS TALKING ABOUT… KE$HA
Her presence was unavoidable all weekend long. Fans were either aping her hangover chic look, or had her trademark dollar sign Sharpie-d on their bodies. Love her or hate her, she was impossible to miss — literally. Not only did she play both days, but she popped up onstage with Dirt Nasty and was spotted in the wings numerous times, scooting around on a golf cart Sunday to watch other bands.
As for her performances — Sunday’s daytime set felt a bit looser and laid back, the mid-afternoon sunshine embodying the California feel of her debut record, although her feathered headdress on Saturday night was certainly eye-popping. Sure, you could overhear industry types and other bands slagging her off at times (and just as many admitting they actually loved her songs), but no one drew bigger crowds, or provided more of a spectacle. Every detail about Ke$ha is thought through, from her oddball backup dancers (loved the skinny biker dude with the handlebar mustache) to the bottle of Jack that seemed to be floating around in her entourage all weekend.
When we caught up with her backstage, she talked about how much fun she was having, and her only concern seemed to be whether her fans were having fun too. Judging by the response to tracks like “Your Love Is My Drug” and “Blah Blah Blah,” Ke$ha has nothing to worry about.
BEST SURPRISE: AGAINST ME!
Bamboozle perennially books a few secret guests, billed under fake, cryptic names. So anyone who spoke German would have seen the name “Gegen Mich” on the lineup and immediately translated it as “Against Me!” Unfortunately, it seemed like the secret was kept too well, as the Florida punks popped up for a short set on Saturday afternoon before a relatively sparse (albeit very excited) crowd. The band is road testing material from their forthcoming sixth studio album White Crosses — and it sounded awesome, from the trailblazing hooks of “High Pressure Low” to the Springsteen-esque whoa-oh-oh choruses of “I Was a Teenage Anarchist” to the ferocious pro-choice rocker “White Crosses.”
MOST PROVOCATIVE: THE PRETTY RECKLESS’ TAYLOR MOMSEN
Gossip Girl starlet Taylor Momsen is a bad, bad girl. With the heat scorching the stage during an early afternoon set with her band, the Pretty Reckless (whose members had to be double her 16 years, at minimum), Momsen quickly tore off her leather jacket and black t-shirt, leaving the teen barely clad in tiny top and cut-off jeans. Later, during the song “Factory Girl,” Momsen sang a line about letting a lover in “through the back door,” then turned around and shook her ass. It was creepy for just about everyone, even some of the teenage fans. But here’s the catch: While she might not be able to pick the Dead Weather’s Alison Mosshart out of a lineup, and was bottle feeding when Hole’s Live Through This came out, Momsen’s songs are pretty kickass, and the girl can really wail, singing with a remarkably raspy, world-weary howl that’s worth taking seriously, even if the jailbait routine isn’t.
BEST REWARD FOR PATIENCE: PARAMORE
One of the lingering “controversies” at Bamboozle on Saturday was how Drake’s set went 30 minutes over its scheduled conclusion, delaying Paramore’s start time leaving thousands of Paramore fans waiting in agony for their heroes to take the stage — and some of them had been pressed against the front barricades for hours and hours in the unusually intense May heat. But all was forgotten soon after the Tennessee quintet bounded onstage and delivered a confident headline set that would impress at any festival. Hayley Williams’ spirit is infectious, uplifting even the most sunburned and dehydrated fans — and it appears she picked up a few killer dance moves from her 2009 tour partner, Gwen Stefani of No Doubt. It was a triumphant moment for the band, a chance to take a deep breath at the pinnacle of the scene that spawned them. Feels like the next chapter is about to begin.
BEST BREAKOUT: THE JOY FORMIDABLE
The success of this Welsh trio’s set could be measured by the casual onlookers they drew in, probably because they sounded so excitingly different from the festival’s other pop-punk offerings. Led by fiery, platinum-haired singer-guitarist Ritzy Bryan, the Joy Formidable recall the ’90s alt-rock of Belly, but with a guitar ethos that’s clearly been shaped a bit by the post-millennial post-punk of bands like Interpol and Editors. At Bamboozle, their set — watched attentively by Motion City Soundtrack frontman Justine Pierre — was bookended by the two best songs off their debut EP, A Balloon Called Moaning (out in the U.S. tomorrow), “The Greatest Light Is the Greatest Shade” and “Whirring.”
MOST SURPRISINGLY TEEN-FRIENDLY: MGMT
Bamboozle made a heavy handed effort to tilt Sunday’s lineup away from the pop-punk and screamo that’s dominated the festival’s brief existence, and booking MGMT as the secondary headliner, under Weezer, was the most obvious example of that shift. Pleasingly, though, the Bamboozle faithful didn’t treat MGMT any differently than they’d treated Paramore the night before: There were screams, ranging from “I love you, Ben!” to “You’re so hot, Andrew!” There was loud woo-ing. And, quite charmingly, there was a heartfelt embrace of the band’s excellent new record, Congratulations, and its complex, not-as-instantly-digestible sounds. A chorus of teenage girls screamed with glee after Andrew VanWyngarden announced the next song would be Congratulations‘s skippy “Song for Dan Treacy.” Apparently, the “Kids” are quite alright.
ODDEST COVER: WEEZER
While their set was a rather pleasing greatest hits mélange — although it would have been nice to hear Rivers Cuomo actually sing Pinkerton‘s “Why Bother,” instead of Brian Bell — it was spectacularly awkward to hear Weezer offer an ode to MGMT’s buoyant anthem, “Kids,” just an hour or so after the New York psych rockers left the stage. Sure, Weezer’s been covering the MGMT song for quite some time in their live set, but to do it with the songwriters within earshot was more cringeworthy than special.
BEST JOB FOLLOWING A HARD ACT TO FOLLOW: KEVIN DEVINE
You had to feel for Kevin Devine on Sunday night. His set began on an adjacent stage right after Piebald’s totally raucous reunion show, which was undoubtedly one of the weekend’s craziest hours. But backed by his Goddamn Band, Devine launched into a supercharged rendition of “Cotton Crush,” the slow-building, eventually pummeling anthem off 2005’s Split the Country, Split the Street, and quickly absorbed the crowd’s rapt attention. And while some of his most recent work has veered into a more docile range, Devine keenly kept the intensity level high, and his feedback pedals engaged on the trippy “Carnival” and the politically-charged “Another Bag of Bones,” both off last year’s Brother’s Blood.
BEST JERSEY BOYS: STEEL TRAIN
Playing in their home state after a long stretch of touring with Tegan and Sara, Steel Train appeared to be in their comfort zone on one of the festival’s biggest stages. Songs from their forthcoming self-titled album — particularly “Bullet” and “Touch Me Bad” — showed off crafty songwriting and what sounds like a giant sonic leap forward for the band. And, for good measure, they had the cojones to cover the Boss, taking a valiant stab at Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark.” Frontman Jack Antonoff also gets extra credit for working double duty: Right after Steel Train finished their set, he unplugged his guitar and sprinted to the stage next door, axe in hand, to join his other band, fun., for their Bamboozle set.
BEST “THE SITUATION” LOOKALIKE: MIKE POSNER
No, the famed abs of Jersey Shore star “The Situation” didn’t make an appearance at Bamboozle, but up-and-coming collegiate R&B smoothie Mike Posner filled in admirably. After a set through which he soaked up ample screams of lust from his female-heavy audience, Posner — who’s set to graduate from Duke University later this month — ripped off his shirt and gave those teenage girls the only six pack they could legally consume at the festival. But he also left a lingering impression with his tunes, which employ clever samples (his use of ELO’s “Evil Woman” must have perked up ears in the parent tent) and dirty, house party grooves (“Cooler Than Me” just sizzled).
BEST CROWD PARTICIPATION: MOTION CITY SOUNDTRACK
A lost voice can be a band’s worst nightmare, but when you’re Motion City Soundtrack, and you’ve recorded some of the most popular pop-punk songs of the past decade, it’s not so bad. While frontman Justin Pierre’s voice began to waver by the end of his band’s Sunday set, the Bamboozle nation filled in quite admirably, particularly on “The Future Freaks Me Out” and their biggest hit, “Everything Is Alright.”