Long-lived indie-rockers Yo La Tengo — among the progenitors of the fabled Hoboken music scene of the ’80s — will top the bill at Frantic City, an all-day festival in Atlantic City bringing together a mix of indie, punk and post-punk on Sept. 24.
Another familiar Hoboken name — promoter Todd Abramson, longtime booker and onetime co-owner of Maxwell’s — curated the festival in conjunction with Joe Koukos (of Holdfast Asbury Park) and the Orange Loop Amphitheater (or OLA), which is hosting the outdoor event. Bands will alternate on two stages, keeping downtime to a minimum and allowing 11 acts to perform between noon and 10 p.m.
Fans of guitar rock in all of its many permutations can wallow in walls of distortion and feedback from a bill that includes Jersey punk rock favorites Titus Andronicus and The Bouncing Souls, Detroit post-punk rockers Protomartyr (with special guest Kelley Deal of The Breeders), reunited Berkeley, Calif. punks Samiam, Chapel Hill, N.C. indie-rock legends Superchunk, Seattle post-grunge rockers Murder City Devils, veteran San Diego rock ‘n’ rollers Rocket From the Crypt, and garage-punk from Oakland, Calif.’s Shannon & the Clams.
Newer bands on the bill include Snail Mail, the project of 23-year old guitarist and singer-songwriter Lindsey Jordan, and the Philly post-punk trio Control Top. (Car Seat Headrest originally was scheduled to headline but dropped off the bill for personal reasons.) Actor, comedian and musician Fred Armisen, of “Saturday Night Live” and “Portlandia” fame, will host.
The festival will also feature local vendors selling records, art and clothing; a merch concierge; and even axe throwing.
“My partner Joe from Holdfast Records was involved with the people from (the restaurant) Bourré, which is right across the street from the Orange Loop Amphitheater,” Abramson said. “The same people own both businesses and they were really excited about doing a music festival. They also owned a bunch of businesses in Asbury Park and they saw how music venues and festivals helped revitalize that city, so they’re hoping the same can ultimately be true for Atlantic City.”
Abramson noted that the festival includes quite a few bands he’s worked with before — in fact, a majority played Maxwell’s on numerous occasions — with the idea of appealing to an indie rock audience.
“If you try to appeal to everybody, you wind up appealing to nobody,” he said. “But I do think it’s well curated in times of quality. For instance, Rocket From the Crypt and Murder City Devils appeal to a certain demographic, but then you have Snail Mail. We’ve heard from various people who have said things like, ‘I really want to see Rocket From the Crypt but my girlfriend wants to see Snail Mail, so it’s perfect.’ ”
Vegan and non-vegan food options will be available, and the large variety of vendors will help create an atmosphere similar to the old Warped Tour. When asked for the contingency plan in case of rain, Abramson replied curtly, “It’s not going to rain.”
For Yo La Tengo, playing a destination festival may not be new, but with a songbook that includes hundreds of songs, it does provide a challenge. The band has sustained a long career without the kind of chart-topping hits that make up many festival bands’ set lists.
“I actually think that’s fortunate for us,” said singer/guitarist Ira Kaplan. “We don’t have that one song that people start pelting the stage with garbage if they don’t hear. So consequently, even the songs that we perceive as our most popular are not songs we do every show, under any circumstances. So we’ve never come close to getting tired of playing any of them.”
Kaplan added that there may be a half dozen songs that rank as all-time fan favorites, “and we do try to make sure we do a couple of them,” he said. “In that sense, a festival is no different than a concert where people are coming just to see us.
“I think we’re always drawn to those songs that people come to hear, but we’re always motivated by something I’ve said myself so many times: I would rather miss the one song I really wanted to hear if I get to hear something that I never thought the band would ever play. That’s a little hard to do at a festival, so we do try to be more conservative in our choices.”
One thing Yo La Tengo fans will want to hear is an announcement about the band’s possible 2022 “Eight Days of Hanukkah” concerts. In a tradition begun at Maxwell’s, the band curates eight nights of often astounding guests, including bands and often famous comedians.
“It’s such a huge endeavor that we never fully commit to it until we have to,” Kaplan said. “When other people ask us, ‘Okay, which way is it going?,’ then we’ll make up our mind. I will say that we always lean toward doing it but we’ve not had to say thumbs up or thumbs down for this year just yet.”
For Frantic City tickets and information, visit franticcitynj.com.
Here are the set times:
Noon: Control Top
1:25 p.m.: Protomartyr
2:55 p.m.: Superchunk
4:45 p.m.: Shannon & the Clams
6:45 p.m.: Rocket From the Crypt
9 p.m.: Yo La Tengo
12:40 p.m.: Titus Andronicus
2:10 p.m.: Samiam
3:50 p.m.: Murder City Devils
5:40 p.m.: The Bouncing Souls
7:50 p.m.: Snail Mail
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