This seems to be my year for festivals. I was at another one last Sunday in beautiful Camden, NJ. The Radio 104.5 10 year anniversary festival or some such thing rolled into South Jersey. I wasn’t planning on attending, but when all 3 of my kids expressed interest in going, I went for it. They all wanted to see the headliner, The Killers, but there was a pretty strong supporting lineup including Foster the People, Bleachers and Kaleo. A bunch of other lesser known bands played earlier in the day.
It was hot last Sunday, and the Camden venue is one of those outdoor covered amphitheaters with the large lawn. (It’s owned by Live Nation so you know it’s going to be expensive, and it is a cookie cutter of similar Live Nation venues across the country.) Parking was $40, which is more than an entire night of one person’s entertainment – ticket, parking and libations – at most clubs. But for that, you get to be in Camden! You would think that after all these years of having this venue on the Camden waterfront that there would be other privately-owned development supporting the venue, but you would be wrong. It’s still an island (along with the Battleship New Jersey, which is very much worth seeing, and the Aquarium, which is pretty good, too), and there isn’t much to do there except park close and hope that your car is ok when you get back to it.
The lack of competition means that you either tailgate like you are going to a football game (seriously?) or go inside and get ripped off. And the venue itself is big, arena-like, full of stupid advertising and signs (see below for proof) but lacking in arena amenities like air conditioning and large HD screens. Sure, you get a seat, but they allow standing room in the pit in front, and that means that everyone in row A stands up and the domino effect is in play – if you want to see, you have to stand. Now, I don’t mind standing at most shows, but I know plenty of people that complain about having to stand at clubs. So here you are, paying steep prices for a seat and being forced to stand. Given that the two screens inside the covered part of the amphitheater are not much bigger than my TV at home, it kind of sucks. But at least you are in Camden.
If you’re getting the sense that I hate this venue, you are right. It’s too bad that the Mann Theater in Fairmont Park isn’t the outdoor venue of choice for summer rock shows, but it isn’t. So be it. How about some music talk? OK, ok, here we go.
First up was a band called Kaleo. I had heard the name before but not the music. I did not like their first few songs at all – slow, sullen ballads – but eventually they realized that the instruments in their hands were electric and amplified, and they made better use of them after that. They only played about 40 minutes, which was good with me. Most of the crowd seemed to feel the same way as there was a lot of milling around, talking and doing most everything but watching the band.
And then came Bleachers. Whoa, these guys were the best band of the night. Jack Antonoff leads this band (and also the band Fun), and he is a great performer. Antonoff wore a baseball uniform and cap, and bounced around the stage leading anthemic tunes to a delighted audience. His backup band was solid and ripped – most of the songs benefitted from the live environment and are much better than on CD. This is a band to watch.
Foster the People came on after a short break. Mark Foster founded this band in LA in 2009 and they caught on big after the release of “Pumped Up Kicks.” They have a bunch of other songs that are commercially successful, such as “Helena Beat,” “Coming of Age,” and “Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls)”. They played a festival-length set of 45 minutes, and hit all their commercial tunes. Foster can groove and move, and his dance steps are fun to watch. He is clearly the focus of the band as all the other members stayed in their spots and let Foster do all the showmanship. We enjoyed this set quite a bit and wished they had played longer.
Finally, The Killers took the stage. Here’s a fun fact: Brandon Flowers played cornerback for the Virginia Tech Hokies and has had a terrific NFL career. And he also sings for The Killers! It’s truly remarkable. Anyway, the Killers came on and ripped into “Mr. Brightside” followed by “Spaceman,” and that’s all it took to blow the roof off the joint. The crowd knew all the words, sang along mightily, and enjoyed the arena-rock sound as the band went from hit to hit – “When You Were Young,” “Human” (which features the stupidest chorus line in history – are we human or are we dancers – but is otherwise a great song), “Somebody Told Me,” “Read My Mind.” But Mr. Flowers was not in his best form as he was struggling to hit the high notes and his voice actually cracked during one song. He has a decent enough stage presence and is clearly the focal point of the band, but his voice and command over the powerful ripping vocals that are his trademark are what you go to see. When they aren’t there, it makes the event less than ideal. But it was still really fun, and with so many great songs, it’s clear that these guys are the best Mormon band out of Las Vegas ever.
That was it for the evening. We got out of the parking lot quickly, didn’t suffer any vandalism or get shot at, and made it back over the bridge to a welcoming Pennsylvania.
I’ll be back shortly with some more fun because it’s always fun here at BRP. Best to you all. Stay free!
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.