In retrospect, I spent way too much time at the Tweeter Center this summer. For the span of a month between July and August, I found myself taking the RiverLink Ferry to Camden literally once a week. Insanity? Perhaps, but that’s when all the festival tours came to town!
Moby’s much-lauded Area: One, which hit the T-Center on July 14, was the scene of fantastic performances by The Roots, Incubus, and Outkast… but most attendees didn’t even see them! While the main stage acts played to a mostly-empty lawn, people shoved their way into the air-conditioned Ford Focus Tent to witness sets by DJ’s Juan Atkins, Carl Cox, and Paul Oakenfold. By mid-afternoon, the line outside the tent stretched a good 50 yards, and security guards warned, “There’s an hour and a half wait… it AIN’T WORTH IT!” Although Outkast drew a respectable crowd for their feisty set, it wasn’t till the tent closed and Moby took to the stage that the lawn became lively.
Ozzfest, on the other hand, was frighteningly jam-packed. The sellout crowd at the tour’s July 21 stop in Camden created a good share of pedestrian traffic jams en route from the vendors to the side stages to the lawn. That, along with the heat, and the band-after-band lineup made for an exhausting day. Ozzy was quite exhausting himself, repeatedly shrieking some variant of “I can’t fucking hear you!” during Black Sabbath’s closing set. Sabbath themselves rocked, but Ozzy’s weak fronting of the band left you wondering if he actually deserved to have the tour named after him.
A lukewarm main stage lineup with a few gems (Weezer, Our Lady Peace) left the real rock n’ roll at this year’s Y100 FEZtival on July 28 happening on the side stages. The funky flava of jam-rockers Town Hall and the down and dirty blues of K-Floor represented Philly, and mixed well with the national acts on the bill. Sarah Harmer’s lovely folk rock played to a tiny but appreciative bunch, while Pete Yorn’s twangy songwriting drew a much larger crowd. Aging indie-rockers Guided By Voices played a short but sweet set that provoked the most crowd surfing of the day. Meanwhile, the main stage crowd dozed until Weezer went on. Some continued dozing in spite of them.
The Warped Tour on Aug. 3 finally got things right. Holding the yearly skater-fest in the parking lot did away with the cumbersome ampitheater-as-a-mainstage motif, and made for the innovative positioning of two stages right next to one another. So while seminal punkers Rancid fervently worked the crowd on one side, Morgan Heritage set up on the other side, taking over with their mellow reggae as soon as Rancid was finished. The headliners flowed from one to the next with no breaks, culminating in two fantastic sets by Boston’s Dropkick Murphys and North Jersey faves The Bouncing Souls.
Meanwhile, side stages, extreme sports exhibitions, and various booths and attractions were generously spaced out across the lot, giving the crowd plenty of exciting stuff to see and do, and most importantly! room enough to breathe.