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Live review: Day 1 at Bamboozle Left

April 5, 2009 | 12:02 pm


Buddy Nielsen of the New Jersey punk band Senses Fail was not altogether thrilled about the lineup at this year’s Bamboozle Left festival.

“It feels like we’re playing in a chocolate factory here, with all these bands looking like 7-Eleven candy,” Nielsen said. “What happened to this scene? It’s garbage.”

After that interlude, Senses Fail’s two guitarists promptly pointed their instruments skyward, kicked their feet up on the stage monitors and played dueling harmonized solos in the vein of Blue Oyster Cult. It just goes to show that what counts for modern punk rock today is anybody’s guess, and every stripe of it was on display at thisweekend’s installment of Bamboozle Left. The two-day festival at the Verizon Amphitheater in Irvine has further proved that today’s emo scene is less determined by the music than by the kind of person who listens to it, and be it grindcore, stoner rap or frothy disco, every permutation of teenage taste was up for spirited debate.

Even the headlining Chicago band Fall Out Boy, which alongside Green Day is one of the only punk-allied bands to regularly top pop album charts today, was greeted with both ravenous cheers and a few withering quips from curmudgeonly scene vets who looked to be around the ripe age of 20. While bassist Pete Wentz has made the tabloids for marrying Ashlee Simpson and for the birth of his son Bronx, the band’s recent album “Folie a Deux” is a swaggering and sonically ambitious LP to which it did absolute justice onstage. Drummer Andy Hurley enlivened earlier hits with some metal-worthy kick drum chops, and more recent cuts like “I Don’t Care” swung with a self-aware sass that would please T. Rex. 

The earlier acts, however, were largely less impressive arguments for punk’s late bend toward preening eclecticism. The rapper Asher Roth, he of the undergrad hit “I Love College,” spent far less time actually rapping than praising marijuana and goofing off with his hype men (which, actually, means he’s been paying attention at today’s mainstream rap shows). Ghastly nu-metal revivalists Hollywood Undead somehow managed to take the Korn formula and make it both more inanely cartoonish and violently homophobic at once.

The swank techno-pop of local quartet Metro Station and the hook barrage of All Time Low fared a bit better on the main stages, and the Kansas City quintet the Get Up Kids held down the obligatory and well-received old-dudes slot. “I wouldn’t have made it through high school without an album like ‘Something to Write Home About,’ ” said Wentz, referencing the Get Up Kids’ 1999 breakthrough. For once, it was nice to see pop-punk fans finally agree on something.

-- August Brown

Photo credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times