Panic at the Disco headlines New Jersey's Bamboozle festival

Glenn Gamboa
Newsday (MCT)

Panic at the Disco, like so many veterans of The Bamboozle festival before them, is set to return this weekend to the annual pop-rock extravaganza in the Meadowlands parking lot bigger and better than they were the last time they played.

Though the Las Vegas band's new album, "Pretty. Odd." (Fueled by Ramen) debuted at No. 2, Panic's Spencer Smith says he and his mates are looking forward to the band's triumphant return. In fact, Panic will take the unusual step of interrupting the Honda Civic Tour - which it's headlining and is already set for Manhattan's Roseland Ballroom May 7 and 8 - to headline The Bamboozle on Sunday.

"We played it two years ago, so to be headlining it this year is amazing," said Smith, during a recent break in rehearsals for "Saturday Night Live" earlier this month. "I think we'll definitely be having more fun than when we played at 2 in the afternoon for like 100 kids."

And The Bamboozle's festival director, John D'Esposito, couldn't be happier. After all, introducing new artists to large crowds is what it's all about. Last year, the New Jersey festival drew 85,000 fans over two days - though this year, on May 3 and 4, the festival will draw only about 70,000 because capacity had to be lowered due to construction at the Meadowlands. (Note to procrastinators: That means it will likely sell out earlier than usual this year.)

"We are an artist-development festival," D'Esposito says proudly. "If you want to go see massive headliners, go to Coachella. Go to Bonnaroo."

Unlike those festivals (in California and Tennessee, respectively), which are generally driven by big-named reunions and stadium-size headliners, The Bamboozle focuses on up-and-comers and sticks with them.

For D'Esposito, there are two types of acts for his festival: the homegrown and the imported. Homegrown acts are the ones that played The Bamboozle when they were just starting out and have kept coming back as their careers have taken off, playing to bigger and bigger crowds. The imported ones are the big-name acts that the festival brings in to help boost the lineup and keep the fans guessing.

D'Esposito seems happy to point out that five of this year's six headliners - Panic at the Disco, Jimmy Eat World, Paramore, Gym Class Heroes, and Coheed and Cambria - are all homegrown. Only Snoop Dogg is an import.

"We brought Snoop in because he takes us in a different direction, he brings a different element," D'Esposito says. "But he's also fun. We weren't going to put someone up there who isn't fun."

Panic at the Disco is a good example of the kind of growth - artistically and in popularity - that D'Esposito looks for when he books his headliners. "Pretty. Odd." ambitiously takes the quartet's knack for writing pop melodies and applies them not to emo, but the classic constructs of The Beatles and The Beach Boys.

"It wasn't a conscious decision or something that we had gone over before we started writing," Smith says. "It just naturally ended up happening. We just started writing and keeping the things we liked. Something just clicked."

In a way, Smith says people shouldn't be so surprised. After all, the band - whose members are in their early 20s - is simply getting better at being musicians. "Part of what ended up happening was that when we first started touring, we quickly found out that we had five songs that were the same tempo," he says. "So when we were rehearsing, we would be playing cover songs and think, I want to have songs like this. They're fun to play."

Through live performance, Panic at the Disco also learned that packing lots of lyrics into every measure isn't always the best move. (Even the long titles from their debut album, like "The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide Is Press Coverage," have been replaced by more concise ones.) "Sometimes less is more," Smith says. "Sometimes slowing things down and giving it a breath make them more impactful."

That kind of change is something D'Esposito says The Bamboozle relates to.

"A lot of festivals stay tied to their roots," D'Esposito says. "We expand. We think that's a key ingredient in our long-term future."

Though The Bamboozle made its name with indie-rock and punk-leaning bands, it has always found space for more pop-oriented artists. The Jonas Brothers played to big audiences at The Bamboozle before breaking into the mainstream. And this year, pop stars like OneRepublic and Poison's Bret Michaels will make their festival debuts.

"We wanted to bring the Jonas Brothers back," D'Esposito says, "but they leapfrogged right over us with their own tour."

Maybe The Bamboozle's ongoing expansion - with its new, pre-festival concert, The Hoodwink, making its debut this year, alongside the traveling tour The Bamboozle Road Show and the West Coast version of the festival, The Bamboozle Left - will propel it to Jonas Brothers level again soon.

"We really are a pop festival and we really do think differently," D'Esposito says. "I think a lot of festival organizers spend a lot of time with calculators. We try to keep it affordable and still cater to everyone's needs. Given the way the economy is, we think that may be very important this year. It's our way of doing what we do best."


The Best Metal of 2017

Painting by Mariusz Lewandowski. Cover of Bell Witch's Mirror Reaper.

There's common ground between all 20 metal albums despite musical differences: the ability to provide a cathartic release for the creator and the consumer alike, right when we need it most.

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1. The Old Dark House (James Whale, 1932)

Between Frankenstein (1931) and The Invisible Man (1933), director James Whale made this over-the-top lark of a dark and stormy night with stranded travelers and a crazy family. In a wordless performance, Boris Karloff headlines as the deformed butler who inspired The Addams Family's Lurch. Charles Laughton, Raymond Massey, Gloria Stuart, Melvyn Douglas and Ernest Thesiger are among those so vividly present, and Whale has a ball directing them through a series of funny, stylish scenes. This new Cohen edition provides the extras from Kino's old disc, including commentaries by Stuart and Whale biographer James Curtis. The astounding 4K restoration of sound and image blows previous editions away. There's now zero hiss on the soundtrack, all the better to hear Massey starting things off with the first line of dialogue: "Hell!"

(Available from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

2. The Lure (Agnieszka Smoczynska, 2015)

Two mermaid sisters (Marta Mazurek, Michalina Olszanska) can summon legs at will to mingle on shore with the band at a Polish disco, where their siren act is a hit. In this dark reinvention of Hans Christian Andersen's already dark The Little Mermaid, one love-struck sister is tempted to sacrifice her fishy nature for human mortality while her sister indulges moments of bloodlust. Abetted by writer Robert Bolesto and twin sister-musicians Barbara and Zuzanna Wronska, director Agnieszka Smoczynska offers a woman's POV on the fairy tale crossed with her glittery childhood memories of '80s Poland. The result: a bizarre, funy, intuitive genre mash-up with plenty of songs. This Criterion disc offers a making-of and two short films by Smoczynska, also on musical subjects.

(Available from Criterion Collection / Read PopMatters review here.)

3. Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas, 2016)

In the category of movies that don't explain themselves in favor of leaving some of their mysteries intact, here's Olivier Assayas' follow-up to the luminous Clouds of Sils Maria. Kristen Stewart again plays a celebrity's lackey with a nominally glamorous, actually stupid job, and she's waiting for a sign from her dead twin brother. What about the ghostly presence of a stalker who sends provocative text messages to her phone? The story flows into passages of outright horror complete with ectoplasm, blood, and ooga-booga soundscapes, and finally settles for asking the questions of whether the "other world" is outside or inside us. Assayas has fashioned a slinky, sexy, perplexing ghost story wrapped around a young woman's desire for something more in her life. There's a Cannes press conference and a brief talk from Assayas on his influences and impulses.

(Available from Criterion Collection / Reader PopMatters review here.

4. The Ghoul (Gareth Tunley, 2016)

The hero (Tom Meeten) tells his therapist that in his dreams, some things are very detailed and others are vague. This movie tells you bluntly what it's up to: a Möbius strip narrative that loops back on itself , as attributed to the diabolical therapists for their cosmic purposes. Then we just wait for the hero to come full circle and commit the crime that, as a cop, he's supposedly investigating. But this doesn't tell us whether he's really an undercover cop pretending to be depressed, or really a depressive imagining he's a cop, so some existential mysteries will never be answered. It's that kind of movie, indebted to David Lynch and other purveyors of nightmarish unreality. Arrow's disc offers a making-of, a commentary from writer-director Gareth Tunley and Meeten along with a producer, and a short film from Tunley and Meeten.

(Available from Arrow Video)

​5. The Illustrated Man (Jack Smight, 1969)

When a young man goes skinny-dipping with a mysterious stranger (Rod Steiger) who's covered with tattoos, the pictures comes to life in a series of odd stories, all created by Ray Bradbury and featuring Steiger and Claire Bloom in multiple roles. Nobody was satisfied with this failure, and it remains condemned to not having reached its potential. So why does Warner Archive grace it with a Blu-ray? Because even its failure has workable elements, including Jerry Goldsmith's score and the cold neatness of the one scene people remember: "The Veldt", which combines primal child/parent hostilities (a common Bradbury theme) with early virtual reality. It answers the question of why the kids spend so much time in their room, and why they're hostile at being pulled away.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

6. The Hidden (Jack Sholder, 1987)

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(Available from Warner Bros.)

7. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (David Lynch, 1992)

Speaking of Twin Peaks, here we have a textbook example of a movie that pleased almost nobody upon its release but has now generated such interest, thanks in large part to this year's Twin Peaks revival, that it arrives on Criterion. A feature-film prequel to David Lynch and Mark Frost's original TV serial that answered none of its questions and tossed in a raft of new ones, the film functions as one of cinema's most downbeat, disruptive and harsh depictions of a middle-class American teenage girl's social context. Sheryl Lee delivers a virtuoso performance that deserved the Oscar there was no way she'd be nominated for, and she wasn't. The extras, including a 90-minute film of deleted and alternate takes assembled by Lynch, have been available on previous sets.

(Available from Criterion Collection)

8. The Green Slime (Kinji Fukasaku, 1968)

Incredibly, Warner Archive upgrades its on-demand DVD of a groovy, brightly colored creature feature with this Blu-ray. As a clever reviewer indicated in this PopMatters review, what director Kinji Fukasaku saw as a Vietnam allegory functions more obviously as a manifestation of sexual tension between alpha-jock spacemen competing for the attention of a foxy female scientist, and this subconsciously creates an explosion of big green tentacled critters who overrun the space station. While we don't believe in "so bad it's good," this falls squarely into the category of things so unfacetiously absurd, they come out cool. There's a sublimely idiotic theme song.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

If the idea is that earth, water, fire, air and space constitute the core elements of life, then these five songs might seem as their equivalents to surviving the complications that come from embracing the good and enduring the ugly of the Christmas season.

Memory will never serve us well when it comes to Christmas and all its surrounding complications. Perhaps worse than the financial and familial pressures, the weather and the mad rush to consume and meet expectations, to exceed what happened the year before, are the floods of lists and pithy observations about Christmas music. We know our favorite carols and guilty pleasures ("O Come All Ye Faithful", "Silent Night"), the Vince Guaraldi Trio's music for 1965's A Charlie Brown Christmas that was transcendent then and (for some, anyway) has lost none of its power through the years, and we embrace the rock songs (The Kink's "Father Christmas", Greg Lake's "I Believe In Father Christmas", and The Pretenders' "2000 Miles".) We dismiss the creepy sexual predator nature in any rendition of "Baby, It's Cold Outside", the inanity of Alvin and the Chipmunks, and pop confections like "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus".

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