Words by Erin Mathis & Photos by Al Mannarino
Summer is officially here, which can only mean one thing: that another sweaty season of music festivals is upon us — and I could not be more excited. I headed to Asbury Park this past Saturday for Shadow of the City, a New Jersey music festival that is the brainchild of Bleachers frontman Jack Antonoff. In a recent interview with Pop-break, Antonoff spoke about his motivations for creating the festival: “I’m from New Jersey, I spent almost my entire life there, and I know that feeling of all the best shows going to New York or Philly. And I hope that resonates with people from New Jersey, that it’s just sort of for them.”
The atmosphere of the day was intimate — an enclosed lot with a single stage set up. The back corner featured a charity dunk tank, where Antonoff himself got drenched for a good cause, as all of the proceeds went to Orlando LGBTQ shelters. There were several stands for beer and other beverages, as well as local vendors like Tony’s Sausage and Betty’s Icebox. Due to “unforeseen logistical and technical issues,” the location of the festival was moved from Seaside Heights back to Asbury only five days prior, unfortunately causing the original local vendors to back out of their spots. But the stress of a last minute scramble didn’t seem to negatively impact the day, as it ran smoothly, and featured a phenomenal as well as varied line up.
I got there just in time to catch Shamir, who rocked a bright yellow tee and white overalls, and got the crowd dancing with his upbeat eighties-inspired electronic beats and positivity. Bishop Briggs blasted the audience with her powerful voice, and then Frnkiero Andthe Cellabration provided the punk rock, and brought out all the head bangers in attendance.
Antonoff joined his band Steel Train for a reunion performance, playing for the first time in four years for dedicated fans who made the trip to catch them live once more. In Pop-break’s most recent interview with Antonoff, he revealed that he didn’t want Bleachers to headline the festival again because he wanted it to have a life outside of himself. Playing with his lesser known band, therefore, was the perfect back-seat approach.
Next, BØRNS stole everyone’s hearts with an unexpected cover of Elton John’s “Benny and the Jets”, which of course had the whole crowd singing along and Snapchatting the entertaining on-stage surprise. BØRNS finished with his break out song “Electric Love”, which featured an extended outro for extra dancing time.
As the day grew later, more concertgoers shuffled in for the two finale acts. With the sun setting behind her, Carly Rae Jepsen, sporting an adorable romper, kicked off her set with “Run Away With Me”, the second hit single off her new studio album Emotion, and followed up with more songs off the album as well as the song that first rocketed her to fame, “Call Me Maybe.”
Finally, it was time for the headliner. Throughout the day I had spotted a gathering of anxious girls near the side stage entrance, most likely hoping to get a peek of The 1975‘s Matthew Healy. When the band finally took the stage there was an eruption of high pitched squeaks and squeals, proving my assumptions to be true. As the sky grew darker, the stage transformed, with blue and red lights and a smoke machine to bring out a rock and roll aesthetic for the band’s set, which was filled with many of their new tracks like “Love Me” and “UGH!”. They made for a perfect closer to a bite-sized, but sweet music festival — one that I’m already looking forward to for next summer.