Titling it the B.O.M.B. (Bring Our Music Back) Festival was not just a clever moniker; it became a central theme for this little Connecticut festival situated on the Durham Fairgrounds not far from New Haven. Right from the start, pulling into the grassy field to park, I noticed the attendees were garbed in camo. Yet there were many family friendly elements to the event as well. Pooling into a school bus, after parking, to get over to the fairgrounds was not as aggressive a mode of transport as a Humvee might have been for example.
But on this fine sunny Memorial Day weekend, The Fairgrounds was the place to be to check out national acts like Lupe Fiasco, 30 Seconds to Mars, Girl Talk and many regional acts like M.T. Bearington and States Away. Additionally, the venue was also home to a few carnival rides, including a Ferris wheel and scrambler, games to win stuffed prizes, local merchants, food vendors and national sponsors doling out free samples. A barn hosting a tractor exhibit was open for viewing as well, giving a little glimpse of pastoral Connecticut living.
As an event, B.O.M.B. festival was well designed, though situated far from New York City and seemingly a bit under attended. With four stages and all the above in a smallish area, it was possible to criss-cross the grounds in a short time. Many helpful staff, wearing B.O.M.B. Squad t-shirts were easily accessible in case of any questions. Plus, the main acts alternated across two stages, closely placed together, so attendees would not risk missing one due to overlapping sets. Purchasing VIP access allowed access to a tent loaded with alcohol and food as well as a private enclosed area in front of one of the main stages.
Ra Ra Riot closely followed Mute Math, but by the time I finished exploring it was already time for the next act. Of Montreal opened with “Rapture Rapes the Muses” and throughout the set incorporated guests gracing the stage with their bizarre gonzo theatrics like the pigs eating brains and the lion faced man fighting off mimes. The set ended with Kevin Barnes being kidnapped from the stage by two men in red leaving two women fighting it out on stage for some reason (part of the show).
Girl Talk’s Gregg Gillis quickly stripped out of his blue hoodie, tossing it into the crowd (the earnest recipient wearing it the rest of the night) and hunkered behind his laptops to mix pop, rock, hip-hop and much else into a continuous dance party. With his stage overwhelmed with youngsters dancing, his own crew streamed toilet paper across the audience with leaf blowers. It continued like this for an hour, with Gillis concluding, as the sun drew closer to the horizon, with Lennon’s “Imagine”, asking the audience to wave their hands from side to side. This was a brief respite before the final acts.
30 Seconds to Mars, or the band with Jared Leto as the lead singer, did quite a good job continuing the aggressive theme with hopped up rock songs like “Attack”, “This Means War” and “Search and Destroy”. At first there were some feelings of doubt and sympathy for Leto and Co. as he encouraged the crowd to sing along and was not able to elicit much response. Adding to the problems plus were microphone troubles. It didn’t help when he took a few long pauses in between songs either. But those were soon gone as he established himself as very amiable by bringing out local Cheshire High School drummers to back his band for a couple songs. There was even a good laugh in the crowd when he gave the finger to a girl holding the sign “Jordan Catalano”. Plus he used the pauses for highly commendable reasons, one being mid-song to call off a scuffle in the audience and then to allow one of his friends to propose to his boyfriend on stage (Connecticut a welcome place for same sex marriages). By the end, the audience’s response was eager but the set was too brief.
Lupe Fiasco’s forceful hip-hop was the finale for B.O.M.B. and he was certainly an energetic closer, jumping onto the stage and strutting around for the song “Solar Midnite”. His set continued into a Radiohead track over which he spit his verse. The audience kept their hands constantly waving in the air and the energy alive until the end.
All in all, B.O.M.B. festival was a great event with a cozy atmosphere in an excellent space. Room enough for some family entertainment, live music and, more importantly, to grow in future years.