Bamboozle: The Alternative to Alternative Festivals (18 – 20 May)

Nobody’s cool at Bamboozle, and therefore everybody’s cool at Bamboozle. New Jersey’s best-known music festival — now in its tenth year — is dedicated to providing festival space for bands you’d almost never see at, say… Bonnaroo, or Coachella, or even Lollapalooza. And just as well, because the kids who attend Bamboozle have no taste for hipster high standards, funny hats, or dying in the hot sun. The average Bamboozle attendee simply really, really, really wanted to see 20 or 30 of his or her favorite groups. I know, because that was the logic behind why I first started attending.

When my friends finally goaded me into attending the 2009 Bamboozle, the festival already had a reputation, and not necessarily a good one for an 18-year old snob like me, who back then was taking music way too seriously. But my friends promised we would tailgate, and it’s not like tickets were all that expensive for three-day passes, so I bought in.

What I ended up seeing was everything I’d wanted in a music festival. And a ton of bands I not only really wanted to see, but never had any clue I’d have a chance to see: No Doubt, Rise Against, Taking Back Sunday, The Get Up Kids, New Found Glory, Bayside, Set Your Goals, Billy Talent and a ton more. Plus, the just-invented comedy stage brought me to a near heart attack with how hard I laughed, as a man who was then fairly unknown named Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover was months away) brought an entire tent to its knees.

It was through Galifianakis, and other comedy stage performers like Bo Burnham and Brian Posehn, that made me realize what was so great about The Bamboozle: you could literally just walk around and find something cool that you’ve never seen before. Bands that play The Bamboozle aren’t being talked about in Pitchfork or Rolling Stone or any other publication anywhere, so chances are you could stumble upon something you’ve never been told about, like when I saw a completely unknown rapper named B.o.B. in 2009, or fun. in 2010, or even River City Extension in 2011, you’re guaranteed to have a new favorite band walking away.

Another interesting aspect of The Bamboozle is the ongoing relationship between the festival and its audience. There seems to be a legitimate give and take between the two when it comes to booking new, “less punk or punk-pop” acts. Many were incensed at giving a two-day booking to Ke$ha in 2010, or Insane Clown Posse and Motley Crue in 2011. It didn’t stop anyone from coming.

The Bamboozle will also throw a wild variety of reunions at the attendees. For example, in 2010 the big reunion was that of Andrew McMahon’s Something Corporate. In 2011… Boyz II Men. People went crazy for both. This year, emo stalwarts The Promise Ring will be on board to show all the kids what their favorite band will probably look like in about 10-15 years.

Speaking of this year’s festival, the lineup remains as weird and unpredictable as ever, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Dubstep tastemaker (and a performer at Bamboozles past as the singer of screamo band From First to Last) Skrillex headlines Friday, with radio rock kings Incubus and hip-hop goofball Mac Miller. Other notables on Friday include hip hop curiosity Kreayshawn, reunited emo mainstays Armor for Sleep, and pop-punk buzz-band The Wonder Years.

Saturday looks as close to one of the more “mainstream” festival lineups as Bamboozle ever has, but it’s still quite off the reservation. Foo Fighters and Blink-182 co-headline, with an undercard diverse enough to showcase pop-punk (Jimmy Eat World, All-American Rejects, Motion City Soundtrack), hip hop (A$ap Rocky, Big Chocolate), pop (The Maine, Iggy Azalea) and, for some reason, DJ Pauly D (DJ Pauly D!).

Sunday celebrates the great music the New Jersey/New York area has produced over the years, as the legendary Bon Jovi takes the mainstage, with support from soon-to-be-superstars The Gaslight Anthem, and Long Island cult legends Brand New. The Bouncing Souls will also be representing their home town. Sunday is also the weirdest day of the fest, as Andrew Dice Clay will do standup and Buckcherry will take the stage.

That’s all just the surface, however. With a relocation back to Asbury Park and a chance to see bands along the shoreline of New Jersey, there’s no reason not to completely ignore my advice and go find someone, or something, completely new. That’s what I did, and it’s what kept me going back to The Bamboozle each and every year. Because if nobody’s cool, everybody’s cool, and really, what’s cooler than being cool?


Check out the full lineup and get your tickets to Bamboozle 2012 in Asbury Park, New Jersey over at their website today. Single general admission tickets for Friday are $65, or Saturday or Sunday at $75. Three day passes are $190. Multiple upgrade options are available.