The Radio 104.5 Birthday Party in Camden, NJ was a day filled, quite appropriately, with radio-rock and many big names in pop. The day-long festival saw huge crowds that filled the Susquehana Bank Center pavilion, as well as the lawn behind. The lineup featured up-and-coming artists such as Foals, Kongos, and St. Lucia, as well as current heavy-hitters like Cage the Elephant and Foster the People.
The day kicked off with a colorful performance by St. Lucia, a relative newcomer to the US, hailing from South Africa. Singer and instrumentalist Jean-Philib Grobler brought a full backing band with him, complete with multiple synthesizers, samples, and traditional instruments to create his unique blend of electronic-infused indie pop in a live show that got many fans excited for the performances to come. Grobler has been making his rounds on the indie festival circuit this spring, and is slated to be one of the breakout acts of 2014 with his unique, rather upbeat, piano-driven style.
Next up was yet another newcomer to the radio-rock scene, Foals. The English band brought yet another blend of synthesized rock, with driving beats and intricate keyboard parts, and haunting echoed vocals. They played a short, five song set, ending with their current hit “Inhaler.”Foals is yet another band making the festival rounds at the moment, as their facebook page quickly approaches one million fans. Though they are still fairly new to their respective scene, they put on a performance that would be expected from seasoned pros, with a huge colorful backdrop, fog, and an overall moody yet energetic stage presence well suited to their music.
After Foals came Kongos, another up and coming band from South Africa. The band consists of the four Kongos brothers, and combines folsky, almost tribal beats with eclectic instrumentation (read: accordions and funky synthesizers), and group vocals for a truly unique, yet incredibly catchy sound. The band is currently touring the festival circuit with many of the other bands playing the Birthday Show, however they’ve also made time for small club stops in between. They are also slated to support Young The Giant on their upcoming tour this fall.
The heavy-hitters of the lineup started with perennial rock favorites, Cage the Elephant. They took the crowd by storm with their funky guitar riffs and the over-the-top stage presence of frontman Matt Schultz. They played a longer 13-song setlist that included some of their bigger hits like “Ain’t No Rest for The Wicked.” What the band lacked in large-scale production, they made up for in sheer style. Shultz was flailing around the stage, jumping on top of other band members, and even flinging himself into the crowd at one point.
Third Eye Blind followed Cage the Elephant, with frontman Stephan Jenkins making a point to let the audience know that they were playing this show not because they were on tour, but because it “sounded like fun.” The played a 12-song set laden with songs that made them famous in the 90’s and early 2000’s such as “Semi-Charmed Life.” Their set featured the first real examples of production for the night, with bright tour lights, incredibly thick fog, and a huge backdrop emblazoned with their name.
Bastille was up next. As some of 2014’s current radio darlings, the band did not let the audience down. Their applause was arguably as loud as that for the headliner, with seemingly every fan singing along to their current hits such as “Pompeii.” The bands’ incredible stage presence was on par with any popular indie act, with members flying around the stage, and singer Dan Smith banging on drums and jumping up and down throughout the set. The stage was fairly dark for the majority of their set, with a spotlight on Smith’s flying limbs as he stayed in almost constant motion throughout their 52-minute set. At the end of their set, the audience was primed for Foster the People, and Bastille had proved why they are one of 2014’s acts to watch.
At around 10pm, Foster The People took to a stage that had been transformed into a crystallized wonderland. With giant, illumanted crystals dominating the back half of the stage, the backing band took their positions on their instruments, and the band took the stage. Frontman Mark Foster was clad in a black suit with a white t-shirt underneath, and throwing off every bit of attitude that one would expect for a band that wrote the sassy hit “Pumped Up Kicks.” Indeed the band’s performance was a sigh to behold, filled with color changing backdrops, and a stage that was treated more like a playground by the musicians than anything else. They hit it hard for 15 songs, playing many new hits such as “Coming of Age” as well as the perennial classic that made them famous, “Pumped Up Kicks.” With such production and energy, the fans sang along to every word, making it clear why Foster The People are still one of the biggest indie acts of the decade.
Check out our exclusive gallery of live shots from the show by Alex Messick below!