Jersey Shore Music Festival Review
July 20, 2013
FirstEnergy Park, Lakewood, NJ
Written by Robert Cathers
Photos by Marco Baccellieri
I don’t usually get super hyped for single day festivals; but when I heard that my favorite band, Papadosio, was headlining one just a hop, skip, and a jump away from my hometown of Baltimore, the decision to go was already made.
After a quick yet toll-heavy drive—which, admittedly, I slept through the majority of (despite my driving partner blasting music in my face the whole time)—we arrived eagerly in Lakewood, NJ for the inaugural Jersey Shore Music Festival. Starting this beautiful breezy day with a parking lot libation and a light-hearted chat with our neighbors was just what the doctor ordered.We then made our way into the gates of FirstEnergy Park, home of minor league baseball team: The Lakewood Blue Claws. We had some trouble finding who to check in with for our press passes, but the staff was extremely helpful and promptly pointed us in the right direction. This exercise proved even more useful as it lead us to all corners of the festival grounds and got us well-acquainted with the lay of the land. From there the good times rolled.
What surprised me initially was how unused the stadium was for this event. Aside from check-in and maybe one or two vendors, the entirety of the Jersey Shore Music Festival took place in FirstEnergy Park’s parking lot. There were six stages scattered throughout the grounds: two larger stages on manicured patches of grass and four small ones spread out across the asphalt. The diverse nature of the festival was easily recognizable as heavy metal blared from one stage, reggae from another, and pop-punk from the next. There was even a group of children shredding through cuts from Led Zeppelin, Rush and The Who— I mean come on, what more could you ask for?! Plenty of local vendors were showcased as well, carrying a myriad of locally made goods including tie-dye, guitars made from recyclables, and handcrafted soaps. There was even a Bath Fitters booth if, you know, you wanted to get your bathroom remodeled on a whim. The festival’s musical diversity was reflected in the crowd as we walked amongst hippies, families with newborns, young children giddy with excitement at their first festival experience, jaded scene-teens, hipsters, and plenty of local yocals. It reminded me of a smaller version of Artscape, Baltimore’s preeminent Arts festival.
After about an hour of familiarizing ourselves with the lay of the land we went over to the main stage to check out Jimkata, a New York four piece with a lead singer who couldn’t stop smiling. It was beautiful. They had an electro-pop sound reminiscent of MGMT. The heavy synth lines and beautiful vocals got the small crowd up on their feet and dancing, not to mention playing with the giant pile of hula hoops. After getting funky with these boys, we boogied on over to the far corner of the venue. There we met two recent massage school graduates who had a booth set up. They were a little bummed that the stage closest to them was predominantly heavy music all day, but they laughed it off and convinced us to get back rubs… What can I say? We were victims of good vibes and pretty faces. Even though the tunes didn’t quite fit the typical massage room music, it was still a wonderfully relaxing distraction (and well needed, because I randomly messed up my shoulder the night before? Don’t ask).
Wandering back to the main stage, we ran into a few friends from Philadelphia and frolicked around to the sounds of Brick + Mortar’s, a New Jersey duo that amassed a huge crowd with their intense percussion and passionate singing. Everyone sang along to songs I didn’t know but definitely came to enjoy. Somewhere around this time a light rain storm came through which stopped all music for about thirty minutes. The drizzle was a welcome and refreshing little treat, but the lack of tunes sent us back out into the lot to crank some jams from our trunk. However, this brief rain reprieve was only foreshadowing what was to come later that night.
By the time the rain stopped, my excitement to see Papadosio could no longer be contained; as such, we decided to camp out at the main stage. Lucky for us. The next three acts wound up being my favorites of the festival. First was Aer. The set kicked off with a DJ mashing up classic hip-hop, rock, and even trap, getting the crowd loose and dancing when, to my surprise, two rappers took the stage. They had a great back and forth, with flows reminiscent of Macklemore or Mac Miller, and, soon enough, they had the crowd waving their hands like they just don’t care, singing along and just plain-ole getting down. River City Extension took the stage shortly after. This stringy sextet had some serious talent. Their indie folk sound had gathered the largest crowd of the day and everyone was singing and dancing and stomping along right in time. Treading heavy in the world of Conor Oberst, Mumord & Sons, and Dr. Dog, R.C.E.’s heart-felt balladeering had the ability to go from wax-poetic acoustic to full on indie bombast in under 60 seconds.
Next, the Hush Sound came on stage while a lightning storm raged in the distance. It was a beautiful scene that fit them well. They had a groove that lived somewhere between pop-punk and folk, with a beautiful male/female back-and-forth between the band’s two vocalists. I spoke earlier to the crowd’s diversity, and sometimes it was evident in a very humorous way. The Hush Sound’s was definitely interesting and fun to listen to, but their set created a light-hearted schism amongst the crowd: in the front you had all the Hush Sound devotees crowding the stage, but in the back, Papadosio’s fans twisted and twirled and hooped in the glow of LED’s, anxiously awaiting what they had spent all day waiting for.
As beautiful as this moment was, it was not meant to last. During the break between The Hush Sound and Papadosio, the lightning storm came closer and closer to the festival grounds. At around 10:30, a festival representative came to the stage. The feeling in the crowd was that he was here to announce the band, but instead he announced that the event would be ending early— with no Papadosio. A collective sigh reverberated through the crowd like air being let out of a balloon. The crowd didn’t get angry, only less cheerful as everyone milled around in slight disbelief at what had just been announced. Members of the band came down to the front of the stage and greeted the family, apologizing and reminding everyone that it was out of their hands. However disheartening, it was clear why the event had to be shut down. Yes, it meant that we wouldn’t see our favorite band that night, but it was a matter of safety and we applauded the staff for handling everything with swiftness and kindness.
Unfortunate weather events aside, I still had a fantastic day exploring, seeing bands I had never heard of, eating great food, drinking good beer and sharing all of this in the company of great friends. Jersey Shore Music Festival, I’ll see you next year!