I Got Bamboozled!

The Meadowlands - Bamboozle Festival
E. Rutherford, NJ
May 6, 2007

When rumors started in December 2006 that "Weird Al" Yankovic would be playing at the Meadowlands, I was thrilled. It's about five miles from my house, so I was really looking forward to having a short drive, and actually being home before the next day officially started. It would be the closest place I'd ever seen him. It appeared, if the rumors were true, Al would be playing at a two-day music festival called Bamboozle. The confirmed bands were not bands I'd associate with Al, so after a few rounds of adding more and more bands to their line-up, and Al's name never showing up on the list, plus the fact that Al had never done something like this before, I pretty much wrote off the rumor as false.

Then, much to my surprise, Al confirmed the date on his website! Al would be performing only on the second day, a Sunday, and would be doing a 45-minute set. The thought of standing through a ton of bands I had no interest in seeing or hearing for a 45-minute payoff made me hesitate a little, but eventually I caved in and bought tickets. I figured the proximity to my house was too good of a deal to pass up.

I asked Jon "Bermuda" Schwartz if he knew what time Al's set was planned for, to give me a better idea of when to show up. He didn't know, other than Al was on right before Linkin Park. Since they were the biggest name at the festival, I figured they had to be pretty late in the day, so my plan was that I'd take my chances and go there late in the afternoon or early evening.

This is the first time, I believe, since 2000, that Al was not a headliner, but only an opening band. I immediately thought of the infamous Missing Persons show, and wondered, and worried, how this particular crowd would take to Al. It turned out Al was worried too. At the Verona, NY show, he asked me what shows I'd be seeing, and when I mentioned Bamboozle, he asked if he should be scared (of the people and festival in general). I told him I was a little scared myself, and he said that ever since he signed up to do it, he was having Missing Persons flashbacks himself.

A day or two before the show, the Bamboozle people posted the line-up on their website, and it turned out Al was going on at 8:05 p.m., and he was the last band at the Monster stage. Linkin Park's set would start immediately after his ended, on another stage on the other side of the festival. These made me feel better, because not only could I plan my arrival time accordingly, but also it meant that his crowd would be there because they wanted to see him, or were too drunk to know they were at the wrong stage. The only question was, how big would the crowd be?

Jackie and Helen arrived at my house at around 5:30. At around 6:00, we piled into my car, and did dinner at the Tick Tock Diner. After dinner, we made our way over to the Meadowlands, and arrived a little bit before 7:00. Possibly because it was so late, the person at the parking lot just waved us in without making us pay for parking, and told us to park wherever we could find a spot. I grabbed a spot near where I guessed the entrance was.

We all chose not to bring our cameras because the Bamboozle website said cameras were on the forbidden list, and we were expecting to go through metal detectors, or at the very least be quickly searched. Plus, I think we were still shaken up from the miserable experience with the security at Atlantic City the night before. Well, it turned out that security barely gave us a second look as we entered, and there were cameras everywhere, so we goofed. In retrospect, we should have at least tried. The worst that could have happened is that they made us go back and put them in my car. Oh well.

I never got into the whole music festival thing when I was younger, so I didn't really know what to expect. Just about everybody there was in their teens. There were some older people there, of course, but they were far outnumbered. There were tons of bands set up selling merchandise and CDs, and there was garbage everywhere! It was hard to walk more than a couple steps without stepping on discarded water bottles, or scratched and broken CDs. I also saw quite a few discarded shoes, which amused me quite a bit, because, how do you lose a shoe and not notice it gone almost immediately?

I stopped at a Bamboozle merchandise stand to pick up a poster, and two t-shirts, all with Al's name on them. We then made our way over to the Monster stage where some random band was finishing up their set. We made our way into the pack of people as far as we could, and Helen thankfully offered us earplugs. After maybe one or two songs, the band finished their set, and the crowd started to thin. We took advantage of this and moved up until we were right up in front of the stage. I never expected to be anywhere this close, so I was excited!

There was about 45 minutes between bands, for the previous band's crew to tear down their set, and Al's crew to set up his. They did it surprisingly quickly. Jay Levey, Al's manager, was the first recognizable face to walk onto the stage. Jon followed shortly, and started doing his sound check on the drums. Jim West came out and did a mini guitar solo, and then did his vocal check entirely in Hawaiian! Rubén Valtierra was the next to show up and take his sound check. He also did a mini solo on the keyboards. Steve Jay had a really short instrument sound check, and his whole sound check mostly focused on him saying, "Check. One. Two." over and over into the microphone. After his sound check was over, he pulled up a seat and just sat on the stage taking it all in. The stage manager came out next to check Al's accordion, and made the crowd chant, "Yogi sucks on accordion!" The crowd passed the time by batting a beach ball around, and throwing shoes, which I again found really comical.

By show time, the sun had set enough that the video screens could be seen. The concert opened with a slightly shortened video montage, and then everybody came on stage and did "Polkarama!" If Al was scared about fan backlash, it was totally unnecessary. It was a huge crowd, and most of the people there were singing along to all the songs. The crowd loved and embraced him being there. I hardly remember a more energetic crowd or high-energy show. Al and the crowd were feeding off each other the whole time. Even though it was a shortened set, it was probably the best of all the shows I saw so far. He picked the right mix of songs and video clips for this one. Everything was a huge hit with the crowd. And even the security guards were breaking out in laughter.

After "Polkarama!", Al went directly into "Canadian Idiot." There was a slight wind that night, but it was mostly unnoticeable until the streamers at the end of the song went off. They blew directly back onto the stage, sticking into the scaffolding, and covering the entire band. Rubén got the brunt of the mess, and it took the entire next video clip for the stage manager to clean off the stage and instruments.

After, the Jessica Simpson interview video clip, Al went into "I'll Sue Ya." He got a big cheer when he go to the line where he says New Jersey sucks. Possibly because of the wind, no money fell during the end of the song.

The Cher interview, “Lousy Haircut”, and Justin Timberlake interview, and “Weasel Stomping Day” video clips followed. Even the video clips were well chosen for this event. The interviewees, except maybe Cher, were all immediately recognized by the crowd and cheered enthusiastically. It just goes to support that Al's always up on the latest in pop culture and music trends, and can pick and choose from his huge arsenal of songs and videos to appease any age group.

"Smells Like Nirvana" got the second biggest reaction of the night. The crowd went crazy. And for the first time ever at an Al concert that I attended, there were actually people crowd surfing! At one point, one guy was passed right over our heads and to the waiting security guards! And of course, there were more shoes flying. We got hit by the Nirvana water, and if Al threw the cup into the audience, I didn't notice, but I could picture that if no one caught it on the fly, it immediately disappeared in the trash.

Next up was the Michael Stipe interview, the Avril Lavigne interview, and The Simpsons video clips, followed by the crowd favorite of the night, "Amish Paradise." When Al started this song, the crowd erupted! Everyone was singing along at the top of his or her lungs. It felt as if, at times, the collective crowd was louder than Al! I was a little surprised at that at the time, but in retrospect, it made sense. The song always gets a strong reaction wherever Al goes, so add to that a crowd that is probably at the right age where this was the first Al song they ever heard, and the one that won them over.

The Kevin Federline interview video clip was next, and got a big reaction. Al followed that with "White & Nerdy" and then the MTV unplugged video clip. He closed the show with "Fat." We waited a moment after in case there was an encore, but alas, there was none. Apparently the Bamboozle people were on a strict schedule, because only minutes after Al's show ended, the Linkin Park show started up. We could hear the music from where we were and see the stage lighting as it started.

It was about 9:00 by the time we got back to the car. It felt really weird to be done so early. It's almost as if we felt the night should just be beginning. Instead of going directly back to my house, we took a detour to Jackie's apartment so that she could show Helen her model horse collection, while I played with Kiko. We then all headed back to my house so I could show Helen my Al collection. That could take all night in itself, but by 11:00, Helen said she had seen enough, and headed back to her hotel. Helen was on her way to Baltimore for one more, but for Jackie and me, this was our last show until the end of May.