Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bamboozle Festival concert review

The Bamboozle Festival
Where: Angel Stadium, Anaheim, Calif.
When: March 28

A version of my review originally appeared in the OC Register.

In many ways, Day 2 of The Bamboozle Festival felt like the initial mid-1990s Vans Warped Tour jaunts before everything got too huge.

With its moderate turnout and three live music stages, the Southern California edition of Bamboozle equaled a more relaxed experience for those in attendance. Some people complained about the move from Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre to Angel Stadium, but the new event home had several positives: comfortable restrooms and food vendors without long lines, multiple shaded areas during a hot afternoon, relatively easy access between stages and less of a traffic bottleneck.

Although Saturday’s lineup was a bit stronger overall, Sunday’s roster boasted three impressive band reunions (headliner Something Corporate, Far, Piebald) and quite a few pleasant surprises (Never Shout Never, Anarbor, The Colourist).

Story of the Year, best known for their highly successful 2003 album Page Avenue, turned in a hard hitting set on the main stage characterized by various members who were unsatisfied about the mosh pit activity level (hey, it was almost 90 degrees F out there), engaged in crude between song banter and pogoed around in unison.

Singer Dan Marsala made light about his voice being shot (screamo interludes are obviously taxing and should be saved for the end). More melodic alt-rock tunes from the solid, just released effort The Constant (“The Children Sing,” “I’m Alive”) made up for any shortcomings though. Half the sizeable crowd seemed indifferent. One teenage girl standing next to me was obviously bored and suddenly let out in her own mocking roar, followed by giggles with her friends. Audience approval definitely picked up during big hit “Until the Day I Die.”

One highly anticipated act among those in attendance (signs and t-shirts spotted everywhere) was Phoenix’s The Maine. Yet the band’s run-of-the-mill punk/pop fell flat. When leader John O’Callaghan let people sing major chunks of “Girls Do What They Want” and “We All Roll Again,” he seemed lazy. Later, after forcefully demanding more movement to the music, it came off as arrogance.

American flags with peace symbols adorned the stage when Never Shout Never performed. It was entirely appropriate, given 19-year-old emo singer/songwriter Christofer Drew’s frequent onstage pronouncements of love and togetherness at Bamboozle. Essentially a solo artist, Drew had a full band to help flesh out the often shrill selections from the popular What Is Love? EP. His endearing stories almost made you want to run up and give the kid a hug. Opening with the folksy “Love is Our Weapon” and a flume of confetti, fans hung on and shrieked at every word. The cutesy “Jane Doe” was akin to a simple-minded Ben Lee, while the piano-led cover of The Beatles’ “Across The Universe” worked well.

“This is quite a homecoming for us,” said Andrew McMahon of Something Corporate, as the OC band (pictured above in a file photo) marked its first full concert in six years at the festival. A new retrospective due in stores this spring and the 10th anniversary of its first independent CD served as an impetus for the reunion.

Although McMahon admitted he was extremely nervous and had been on the verge of sickness all day, musical cobwebs were nonexistent for these musicians, now in their late 20s. McMahon kept his touring chops and showmanship intact in intervening years with current group Jack’s Mannequin.

Taking the stage to the strains of Europe’s “The Final Countdown,” the excellent 65-minute, 14-song set kicked off with the soaring pop/rock of “I Want to Save You” as McMahon hammered the frantic piano lines. Guitarist Josh Partington pumped his fists and looked like he couldn’t be happier than being with his old pals again.

There were subtle, more mature touches in the music of SoCo. McMahon’s voice had a more sonorous timbre on the rambunctious “Punk Rock Princess” and “The Astronaut.” He reminisced about writing the sweeping ballad “Cavanaugh Park” after making a detour off the 5 freeway. Unlike Jack’s Mannequin, the more raucous nature of many SoCo tunes gave McMahon the chance to roam the stage, especially on “Space” and “Hurricane.” Other highlights included the percolating “I Woke Up in a Car” and swoon-worthy “Me and the Moon.”

Diehard enthusiasts were treated to the nearly 10-minute dramatic epic rarity “Konstantine” and the rousing concert closer “If You C Jordan” found the guys pulling out all the stops while McMahon pounced on his piano.

Over on the side stage, Far – the influential 1990s alt-rock band from Sacramento - pulled in a shamefully tiny audience. “I don’t know what’s going on over there, but this is going to be better,” said compelling singer Jonah Matranga. He was right. Far, a reference point for Jimmy Eat World, Thursday and countless others, suddenly re-emerged late last year with the KROQ hit cover of Ginuwine’s “Pony” and will release At Night We Live, its first studio album in a dozen years in May.

Only one song (the blistering “Deafening”) was debuted during the intense and thought-provoking set. Instead, Far concentrated on the 1998 disc Water & Solutions (including chunky riff rocker “Mother Mary,” the full-on hardcore of “I Like It,” “The System,” “Wear it So Well”). All told, Far left me wanting more. I look forward to seeing the band perform the more pop-oriented new tunes in the future.

Orange County’s The Colourist - recently nominated for three OC Music Awards - brought to mind the giddiness of Imperial Teen and a less cerebral Decemberists. Melody is king for this indie rock quartet, where each member takes turns at singing. Whenever frontman/guitarist Adam Castilla and drummer Maya Tuttle’s voices intertwined, it was blissful. Opening with a bit of Daft Punk, they segued into the fizzy pop of “Oh Goodbye.” Elsewhere, the synth-heavy “Put the Fire Out” and “We Won’t Go Home” (complete with xylophone) were highly danceable and the darker “Night’s Still Young” revisited The Cure.

Pop/rocker Anarbor, another band from the Grand Canyon State, pleased several dozen female fans with insanely catchy songs along the lines of Cartel and Panic at the Disco. Leader Slade Echeverra impressed with just the right amount of self confidence, like he was performing at an arena. “You and I,” the theme from last year’s Cartoon Network movie “Scooby Doo: The Mystery Begins” was a standout.

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