Despite living in New Jersey for ten years, I never attended Bamboozle. By the time I was old enough and wanted to go, none of my friends wanted to make the trip, because it coincided with prom weekend (and I thusly missed the last My Chemical Romance show ever, and thusly grew to resent everything prom stands for). So this year, when my friend Kate of The Music Obsession asked if I wanted to come with her for Skate and Surf (the precursor/replacement for Bamboozle) I was ready to finally experience what I had been missing out on.
I'm going to interrupt the flow of the story here to give you a few vital pieces of information: I had never been to a festival that spanned more than one day before and I had just started a detox on Friday that involved me not being allowed to eat dairy, soy, dried fruit, peanuts, oil, sugar, etc etc. Add this to my regular neuroses as you picture my great adventure.
I was immediately thrown into a group of new (fantastic) people, all of whom loved music and participated in it in different ways, and it was a good environment for me to be in before I start working in a few weeks.
When we finally made it to the venue (late enough to have missed a couple sets), things seemed pretty... lame. Like debating coming back the next day lame. And there's nothing like standing in a lackluster crowd to make you start doubting your choices in life. Like hardcore doubt. I found myself standing in a throng of 14 year old girls and stressed out 20-somethings thinking "do I even like music? Is music even fun? What's the point? Music isn't even that great..."
I hit a bit of a low. I watched the dapper What's Eating Gilbert set with no energy, knowing that the 50s/60s vibe and sweet attitude should be cheering me up, but unable to muster up the energy to be happy. There was a wedding at the hotel next door, and the wedding party seemed to be enjoying the concert more than I was. It felt like the end of my short career in music-- like I had passed the point of reasoning with myself.
My return from the dead couldn't have come at a better time, either, because Midtown was set to take the stage and their reunion was 80% of my rationale for going to Asbury. How do I love Midtown? Let me count the ways: they represent, for me, the advent of all the music I love, before pop punk became crazy derivative; their energy is authentic, not a gambit for attention; they are of the finest points of the modern New Jersey music scene; Gabe Saporta is a fantastic human being and honestly doesn't care about scene politics, all he cares about is doing what he loves and having fun, which is a major restorative for anyone's faith in music.
I was now set up for a fantastic attitude for the next day, when disaster in the form of my blood sugar struck. The detox had reared its ugly head and when I awoke the next morning, the warning signs were apparent-- low mood, inability to stop yawning, achy joints... thanks to my inability to digest carbohydrates and dairy, I was now the equivalent of a middle aged parent being dragged to a show by their kid. I was able to maintain a healthy air about myself while meeting more people, but when it came to standing on the sidewalk having cigarette smoke blown in my face during shows, I was down for the count. Remember kids, just because you managed to sneak almonds in to the show doesn't mean they will magically give you the energy to power through another six hours of standing between dudes in tank tops.
That being said, the Sunday shows were even better than the Saturday shows, and the wedding next door was even more involved. I wish I had had the endurance but it was a good reminder of why I was detoxing in the first place. This wasn't the first time I was unwillingly sleeping on my feet at a concert.
I got a chance to introduce Kate to new music during the We Came As Romans set, which was so full of energy and fun that it powered me through most of the rest of the day. The air from the ocean didn't hurt either, it was a good set for breathing all around. We Came As Romans were insanely fun to photograph last summer, so seeing their set without working through it was even more incredible-- they covered pop songs ("I'm Glad You Came") without alienating a single audience member, and scared away the rain with their intelligently arranged metalcore.
We had a pretty open schedule until Midtown, so we wandered through sets, seeing a good portion of Hidden In Plain View and their insane drum breakdown, a breathtaking display of skanking at the Backyard Superheroes show, and a lot of air drumming from one Mr. Mike Gunz.
Midtown's second show of the weekend was even better than the first, having rediscovered their stride as a band and playing for a larger and more enthusiastic crowd
We were able to see most of Bellwether, whom I had met through Kate the previous day and who had a fantastic show, as well as a few songs from Patent Pending, which I learned is a band comprised of the nicest people ever with the most phenomenal hair ever.
As expected, Circa Survive were on point, all energy and amazing music. But almost immediately after their set finished, I was on a rapid downward slope. I was sitting on the curb trying to get my head to stop swimming, coming to the realization that I wasn't going to make it through the next three hours. I really wanted to see New Found Glory. I hear the stories about the set now and I regret listening to my body (it's good I listened to my body, I needed to, but seriously why did it have to pick 8pm to be done?) So I had to ship myself back to the hotel. I missed a crowdsurfing groom and a moshing bride, but I did learn a lot about how I need to treat my body if I want to make it through a full weekend of shows.
So, we come to the wrap up: try to finish your detox before festival season starts, never go to an Applebee's at 11:30 at night, and be prepared to sleep 16 hours straight when you get home from Skate and Surf.