Your intrepid reporter set out for Camden, NJ on a beautiful Spring afternoon last Sunday, June 11, bound for the BB&T Pavilion for Day 2 of the Radio 104.5 Birthday Celebration. The event featured headlining acts The Killers, Foster the People, Bleachers, Kaleo, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, Marian Hill, and Andorra, as well as numerous supporting artists on The New Music Discovery Stage. Flanked by food vendors and a giant Lundy Law sign, and set to the gorgeous backdrop of the Delaware waterfront and Philadelphia skyline, this smaller stage featured 4 artists: Kevin Garrett, A R I Z O N A, Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas and Northern Faces.
Having been talked out of biking across the Ben Franklin to reach my destination, I exited my hastily commandeered ride-share at the police barricade and approached the concert with throngs of my day-drunk compatriots. The tell-tale sign of how lit a concert is going to be at BB&T is how full the lone trash can you pass between the parking lot and main gate is. Last Sunday it was already overflowing by mid-afternoon, and I followed the trail of empty cans and discarded plastic sleeves of Bacardi (didn’t know that was a thing until last weekend) like so many breadcrumbs out of the forest that is Camden and into the wondrous spectacle of the anniversary event.
The day kicked off with main stage sets from local alt rockers Andorra. Being self-described as “Sweaty, bearded, boozehounds” you might not expect their sound to be as polished as it is, and the band provided the perfect kick-off to a day that was celebrating the 10 year anniversary of Philadelphia’s Premier Alt Rock Radio Station. You wouldn’t be hard pressed to imagine the sounds of Andorra blaring out of a boombox at your local Philly dumpster pool this Summer.
Next on the Main Stage bill was Marian Hill, a local duo consisting of vocalist Samantha Gongol, and Jeremy Lloyd on production duties, who pulled their band name from characters in the musical ‘The Music Man.’ Featuring electronic production and R&B influences, Marian Hill is representative of the synth pop wave that has dominated radio play in recent years, and for good reason.
Running counter to these main stage acts at the New Music Pavilion were sets from Anthemic Rockers Northern Faces (NY, Equal Vision), Soul-Pop-Rockers Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas (Detroit) and the spaced-out pop of A R I Z O N A (NJ). The New Music Pavilion offered some very solid variety set to incredibly gorgeous scenery. I have to say it was very nice to have a secondary destination that made hoofing it around the BB&T worth it. Passing P,B+J trucks and Neshaminy Creek pop-ups, I plied myself with provisions and caught the tail end of Brooklyn based, Pittsburgh born singer-songwriter Kevin Garrett’s set. With beautifully layered vocals on top of soulful, bass heavy production, I would highly recommend Kevin’s sound as strong enough to cross-over genre boundaries and appeal to both fans of dance, pop, and soul music. Having previously toured with Mumford & Sons, I’d expect him to make the jump to main stage soon enough.
Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness closed out the ‘open portion’ of the main stage show at 4pm. Up until that point the floor seats were completely open to anyone (though everyone knows the real party is on the lawn) and the former frontman for Jack’s Mannequin and Something Corporate peppered the crowd with tracks from his s/t solo effort as well as 2017’s “Zombies on Broadway” before our Radio 104.5 hosts appeared to inform us that the day’s main events were about to begin. Celebrating 10 years on the radio of consistent programming and messaging is no small feat, and the name Radio 104.5 rings out proudly in the Philadelphia area as a station committed to not only quality on air programming, but incredibly well produced (and thankfully so very often, under-priced) events. Day 2 of their 10 year anniversary would be no exception, and our congratulations from Independent Philly go to the incredible staff of folks over at WRFF on reaching this monumental milestone: we know it takes an army! On-Air personality Mike Jones came on stage to inform us that sadly beloved long-time host Wendy Rollins couldn’t be with us at the event today as she had recently relocated to Atlanta, but that she was instrumental in the success of the station at large and she was with us in spirit! It’s truly a great team over at 104.5 and we wish them all the best and many more continued years of rocking the Philadelphia market!
Resident rock-jockey DJ Reed Streets entertained the crowd while the ushers removed the GA ticket holders from the reserved seating. Those of you familiar with his style know that he is deftly able to blend rock records in the same way most popular DJs cut club, dance, and hip hop. The result is an expertly crafted mix of familiar tunes, eras, genres, and DJ effects, filtering and echoing rapid fire into one another before you have a chance to lose any interest or guess what beat is blending in next. A-ha and the Romantics blended into Jimmy Eat World (who we might add will be at BB&T Pavilion on July 20th with Incubus) before a hip-hop mega-mix of ‘Blister in the Sun’ got the crowd really grooving. At this point the sold-out arena was packing out; everyone ready to finally take their seats, jumbo beers and cheesesteaks in hand, for the highly anticipated four main acts.
At 5:31 pm Kaleo trudged onto the stage. Pronounced “KUH-lay-OH” this Icelandic rock band began their set without any vocal fanfare, letting their bombastic mallet-pounded percussion echo over the arena. Featuring a whistled-into and a steel-guitarist, Kaleo grabbed my attention with nary a word spoken and held it, rapt, for the duration of their set. This is what the radio is best for: holding you in a captive position and allowing new tones to creep into your ears, and eventually take hold in your brain. This is definitely a band I will be seeking out on vinyl after their soulful performance.
Marred only by a couple of mic crackles, the only discernible tech issue of the night, the very minimalist rock and roll of Kaleo crept on, accented by one lone right handprint and the band’s logo on the kick drum, their slow grooves built over the din of the invigorated crowd and choruses of “Walking” and “Without You” winded down until they were spinning over and over in your head. Their sound is a catchy one. By the time the lead singer, an Icelandic-Elvis/Rex Manning type, was crooning about how the “Devil [is] gonna set me free” their epic blues rock has almost transformed to G ’N R level screeching, and more whistling and harmonica solidified the catchiness of their kitschy songwriting, in a very good way. By the time the bass tones of a lone synth rang, I realized this group has all the bases covered; they know their ABC’s of Rock N Roll for sure. When “No Good,” their rock radio hit, was delivered, the crowd reached a fever pitch and once the set was over, DJ Reed Streets appeared again stage right to keep everyone rolling with some Billy Idol.
Truly dancing with myself at the BB&T arena, by this point in the day I had knocked back quite a few jumbo craft brews and was utilizing my photographers seat (he’s off shooting somewhere more fun, I am sure) as a double beer and cheesesteak holder. Imagine my dismay then, when NJ’s Bleachers were greeted to not only thunderous applause, but to every single person in the arena standing up at their seat to greet them. A great reception for them, sure, but a terrible occurrence for your lazy, starved, and semi-intoxicated reporter.
Undaunted, I knew I must rise to the occasion. Literally. And so I stood, to be greeted by the sight of a guitarist in overalls… but no shirt. Hey, at least it wasn’t a romper. Still, I could see why all the ladies in the seats around me had risen to their feet. I instantly get a Talking Heads vibe from Bleachers first track, a nod that sadly disappears as time goes on. My notes from this section get a little blurry because the whole ‘standing up’ fiasco caused me to spill about 8oz of beer (read: $14 worth) on one of my notebooks. Never fear, bc I switched over quickly. Salvaged phrases from this section include, out of context, “I miss those days,” “What they lack in cohesion they make up for in energy,” “Can’t believe dude is wearing a Mets’ shirt. Risking his life here, but my grandfather would be proud,” “Much better when employing piano —> saxophone.” [Yes, I drew the little arrow in my notebook.] Towards the end of Bleachers set was one of the oddest covers of “You Can Go Your Own Way” I had ever heard. Not entirely displeasing, but in a weird pitch and totally unexpected. Despite my initial quizzically vibe, the crowd remained unfazed and rocked out along to the band with fervent gusto, absorbing every lick and spitting back choruses where appropriate. As a self-labeled “old head,” some things are lost on me and I resigned to chalk this one up to that category, though I can definitely appreciate some good ol’ fun-time radio rock n roll when I hear it.
To my utter dismay, I am waiting in line for food when I hear the opening notes of Foster the People ring out from the main stage. Most notable for their radio smash ‘Pumped Up Kicks,’ which is a song that a lot of people are troubled to learn is about a school shooter, but hey, there’s no arguing with lyrics. They’d save that payoff for later though, and it wouldn’t be until their 2nd to last song of the night that we’d be able to sing along about people needing to “run for cover!” Seated in time for “Pay the Man” and “Doing it for the Money” one could almost guess there was a running theme in Foster’s set, and I sat doe-eyed in the audience, now a mixture of standing and seated, to absorb the tracks that FTP were putting down.
The recognizable ‘Don’t Stop (color on the walls)’ brought the crowd to life once more, and finishing their set with ‘Kicks’ and ‘Houdini’ Foster the People left the stage leaving the audience wanting more, especially me, because they didn’t play a lot of my favorite tracks and this was my first time seeing them. I’m okay with that though, as I got the impression that Foster is a band you need to see at their own concert, free of time constraints and the necessity of rushing to the hits. I’d love to spend 75-90 minutes or more getting deep into their catalog, live in the future, and I look forward to the day that opportunity presents itself..most likely at a 104.5 show!
Just after 9pm it was time the main event. After our Radio 104.5 hosts got us primed up one more time, The Killers took the stage to purple lights and thunderous applause but sadly the band did not allow anyone to photograph their set. Unlike the preceding band, The Killers wasted nary a second ‘getting to the hits’ and the instant their instruments were in hand the opening notes of their smash-hit “Mr. Bright-side” erupted into the pavilion. At this point there wasn’t an ass left in a seat, and the power of approximately 20k people singing the chorus in unison provided a very telling realization of the true power of radio airplay. This was the perfect way to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY, 104.5!
The hits just kept coming as the band, accented on stage by one lone letter “K” filled up with light bulbs, profusely thanked the audience for being so receptive and “reminding them why they do this.” Frontman Brandon Flowers was all smiles and gestures as tracks like “Smile Like You Mean It” and “Somebody Told Me” were met with enthusiastic approval. Sandwiched in between those rockers, however, was a very thoughtful cover of Joy Division’s “Shadowplay.” Displaying an ultra tight-knit sound and taking the stage to Elton John’s “Philadelphia Freedom,” it’s clear that the Killers are firmly cemented in the upper echelon of what is considered Radio Rock today. Although Brandon Flowers has enjoyed mainstream success as a solo artist, the combined package of the entire band is a true rock and roll tour de force. There just really isn’t anything left like it these days, and we must clutch these showmen near to our breast and appreciate every nearby stop of the tour: when they rock for 20k you can really still feel the personal connection and that electricity was present in waves at the BB&T Pavilion last Sunday.
Now supercharged up for the dual closers of “All These Things That I’ve Done” and “When You Were Young” the audience for the Radio 104.5 10 Year Anniversary Show was set forth into the cooling Camden air, totally spoiled, and rocked to the core. Hearing so many hits in rapid succession on such a beautiful day was a glorious experience; so many different genres covered (and beers consumed) in such a short amount of time had me feeling like a college freshmen again, stumbling towards my unamused Uber driver still whistling “Mr. Brightside.” I could hear those hits all over again right then and not be bored for a second. Perhaps in an attempt to not to have to listen to me ramble incoherently about the concert, my driver asked me what I want to listen to.
“Smash that FM Button my friend, and turn it to 104.5 FM… maybe the Killers is on.”
[Photos by: Brockswell Photography]
[Article by Aaron Ruxbin]
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