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Mumford & Sons, Alabama Shakes, & More Light Up The Seaside Heights Boardwalk

Gentlemen of the Road Stopover: Day 2

Story by Bill Bodkin, Photos by A. Mannarino

While most reviews and articles written about Mumford & Sons’ Gentlemen of the Road Stopover in Seaside Heights are extremely well-written pieces of actual journalism, this review (or at least the introduction) will be more personal than journalistic.

Since 2005 Seaside Heights, a town much maligned by MTV’s constant exploitation of the guido subculture that is a major part of the town’s summertime business, has been an integral part of my professional life. It was where I made my bones as a writer, editor, salesman, graphic designer, and even delivery person for a local Jersey Shore nightlife publication. I tramped up and down those boards covering the food, the music, the culture, the town events. I knew every bar owner, every manager, every bartender (well at least the good ones). It was my town. Five years ago, my wife and I held our wedding reception in Seaside at a restaurant called Hemingway’s. The venue provided a home for one of the happiest days of my life. Again, this was my town.

Pop-Break's staff is flanked by members of Modern Chemistry at Spicy in Seaside
Pop-Break’s staff is flanked by members of Modern Chemistry (who performed at the free Downtown Stage) at Spicy in Seaside Heights.

Sadly, once Hurricane Sandy hit Seaside, and the roller coaster was famously washed into the Atlantic – my time in Seaside was over. My professional career covering this infamous beach town ended as soon as the bolts on that roller coaster came undone. I’ve stayed away from Seaside since Sandy, especially the boardwalk. It’s been a little hard for me to go back to the town I once called my own.

But, when Mumford & Sons decided to make Seaside Heights a destination on their Gentlemen of the Road Stopover, I knew I had to return. See, what many people don’t realize is, that isn’t just a music festival. This is an effort by the band to go into towns and regions whose economy has been negatively impacted by lack of industry, or in Seaside’s case – a series of bad luck (Sandy, a 2013 boardwalk fire, the loss of the MTV series, etc.). So when I walked onto the boardwalk as a journalist for the first time in nearly three years, I have to admit my heart swelled with happiness.

The Gentlemen of the Road Stopover completely transformed Seaside – and not just aesthetically as Christian mentioned so wonderfully on Page 1. This was the happiest, most joyous, most mellow and most unified I’ve seen Seaside Heights in the 10 years (or so) I’ve been covering it. Smiles reigned supreme. Good vibes filled the air as much as the salt from the Atlantic. As many business owners on the boards told me, ‘This is what Seaside needed.’ This town needed a shot of positivity. Of joyous triumph. Of friends gathering in bars and hoisting drinks in the spirit of mirth (and Mumford?)

In short — this was a good day for my old town.

Now, enough of the sentiment, let’s get onto the show.

Little May

The all-girl alternative trio out of Australia began there set in a very expected way — dreamy, gentle atmospheric alt-pop. To be honest, the beginning of their set was the kind of sound that one could easily shrug off and throw to the background while you browsed the vendors on the boardwalk. But then, mid-way through their set something changed. There was a distinct shift in their sound, almost slapping you in the face saying, ‘Now we’ve got your attention.’ And they really did. The band was extremely impressive, turning their expected sound into an exceptional sound. Big things coming for this band in the next 365 days, you can put money on that.

LittleMay (5 of 10)

JEFF the Brotherhood

When I interviewed Jamin from JEFF the Brotherhood last week, he told me (in so many words) that if you miss fun hard rock, you should listen to the band. I’ve heard that statement before, much like I’ve heard every bar in Seaside tell me they have the best pizza of all-time. This time, however, the band lived up to the boast. JEFF the Brotherhood KILLED it. If you dig bands that are all fuzzed out (e.g. Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss, etc.) then check out JTB live. These guys absolutely slay the rock ‘n’ roll dragon with their thunderous bass lines, and scorching guitar solos. Their performance was in stark contrast to Little May (and the rest of the show), but it fit perfectly into the mantra of the entire GOTR fest.

JEFFtheBrotherhood (4 of 14)

The Maccabees

If there was one band that converted me to an instant fan, it was The Maccabees. The band has this wonderfully British, Oasis-esque feel to them. Not saying they’re Oasis, but they just evoke that rich, beautiful mid-90s British alt-rock sound that America so desperately misses (and frankly needs) in their lives. The band really captured the hearts of the early crowd, and it didn’t hurt that the king of the fest, Marcus Mumford came out to jam with the band. Highly recommend you check these guys out.

TheMaccabees (3 of 6)

The Vaccines

Keeping with the U.K.-alt theme, The Vaccines were next on the bill. This was a solid set from a band who have been quite a staple in the U.S. scene for a number of years. I know Philly has a special place in their heart for the band, and being less than an hour from the City of Brotherly Love, you could tell that city’s fan base came out to support these lads.

TheVaccines (3 of 17)

Jenny Lewis

If you were in the crowd and did not fall in love with Jenny Lewis after her set, you probably hate all things wonderful in this world. The former child actress (who stole my young heart in the short-lived early 90s CBS series Brooklyn Bridge) was absolutely resplendent. Her voice, perfect. Her set, an absolutely blazing and intoxicating mix of soulful rock. She had the crowd eating out of the palm of her, and she popped the crowd something fierce when she carried a slice of boardwalk pizza around stage with her mid-set. When Lewis broke into some older Rilo Kiley stuff, the crowd went ballistic with joy, and thousands of festival-goers suddenly became Lewis’ background chorus. Her performance began the trend of amazing performances that would close out Day 2.

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The Flaming Lips

Delightful. That’s just one of the words I could use to describe The Flaming Lips set. Magical would be another. The band brought their wild, playful, psychedelic, and joyous stage show to the beachfront and it was perfect for the sand swept setting. Lips’ frontman Wayne Coyne moved around the stage shooting confetti cannons, launching balloons into the crowd, and of course, placing himself inside a large plastic ball and crowd surfed. It was unlike any live performance I’ve ever seen in all my years of concert-going. While it would’ve been easy for the music to get lost in the gaga, the band enthralled the crowd in their sound. Obviously, ‘Do You Realize’ was the showstopper, and the band beautifully brought the audience to tears of joy. Flaming Lips are a must-see live act, and the fact you might’ve missed this performance makes a little sad.

TheFlamingLips (24 of 26) TheFlamingLips (8 of 26)

Mumford & Sons

This. This is how you close out a music festival. Mumford & Sons took the night stage on the beach in Seaside Heights like conquering heroes, like gods of music. And on this night, they were. Tens of thousands of fans filled the beach and boardwalk to see the boys from across the pond. The band seemed truly honored and humbled to perform for this crowd. To pay the crowd back for their patronage, as well as their undying love everything they did, Mumford & Sons delivered a set that torn the entire town of Seaside down. When they ripped into their greatest hits, the crowd became unhinged with happiness, and the band was able to reciprocate by ramping up the energy in their performance. ‘I Will Wait’ and ‘The Cave’ were met with thunderous love from the audience. Newer cuts from Wilder Mind like ‘Believe’ were treated like greatest hits, while ‘The Wolf’ (my favorite track off the new record) was treated as if it were one of the band’s longtime tentpole songs. The band closed out their visually brilliant, musically dynamic set with an all-star jam on Bruce Springsteen’s seminal ballad, ‘Atlantic City.’ It was the perfect cap to an amazing set.

Mumford & Sons
Mumford & Sons
Mumford & Sons
Mumford & Sons


Pop-Break Staff
Pop-Break Staffhttps://thepopbreak.com
Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.


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