Taking Back Sunday could pretty much have picked any venue or any festival they wanted to launch the yearlong extravaganza of promotion for their forthcoming "New Again" CD. They picked The Bamboozle.
"We played four new songs at Bamboozle Left [The Bamboozle's West Coast cousin], and it was great," says Matt Rubano, bassist for the Rockville Centre-based rockers, backstage at a recent video shoot for the album's first single, "Sink Into Me."
"But I can't wait to play The Bamboozle," adds guitarist Eddie Reyes. "That's going to be so much fun."
John D'Esposito, The Bamboozle's festival director, looks at it differently. "Let's put it this way - in the beginning, Taking Back Sunday needed the festival," D'Esposito says. "Now, the festival needs them."
And now, like Fall Out Boy and New Found Glory and many other bands set for the three-day festival that starts its annual run Friday with the 5 p.m. Hoodwink party in the Giants Stadium parking lot, Taking Back Sunday is more than willing to help out.
After all, that's pretty much what the festival has been about since it started in Asbury Park, N.J., in 2003: Building a scene. Just because that scene has grown so big it can draw more than 80,000 fans - not to mention No Doubt as a headliner for its first major show since reuniting - doesn't mean that anyone is going to stop building.
"The way we look at it, we're not a festival," says D'Esposito. "We're a community."
Coachella may be flashier. Bonnaroo may be groovier. But The Bamboozle? It's definitely grittier, and this year, according to D'Esposito, it will also be poppier.
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"We want to be everyone's festival," he says. "We're trying to morph with the trends. The Warped Tour is very narrow - it's pop-punk. We don't want that label. We can't live in that same niche."
This year's Bamboozle will feature more dance-oriented acts and more hip-hop acts, including hot up-and-comers Kid Cudi and Asher Roth, as well as a lot of tween-and-teen friendly acts such as teen-phenom Demi Lovato and pop bands Honor Society, set to open for the Jonas Brothers this summer, and Long Island sensation Push Play.
"We're adding things that will be for the betterment of a diverse event in a way that's more youth-oriented," D'Esposito says.
It's that diversity that makes The Bamboozle attractive for Fuse, which will be counting down to this year's festival this week with special shows featuring No Doubt and Fall Out Boy, as well as taping interviews at the festival to be shown the following week.
"The promoters are very clever," says David Weier, Fuse's vice president of music programming and talent relations. "They're very 'buy low, sell high.' They start with these bands when they're very young and up-and-coming and form a relationship. It's a bond that's formed both with the bands and the fans. The fans know what to expect - that it's both a cultural and a music event."
Weier adds that by showcasing 70 bands a day Saturday and Sunday, the festival is also tapping into the value-minded music fans during these tough economic times. "The blend of artists is right on track," Weier says. "When they bring back MC Hammer or, this year, with Third Eye Blind, and even No Doubt, they appeal to the parents and the uncles as well as the kids. It makes everyone want to stay longer."
All that helps build The Bamboozle's reputation as a festival, which helped land the newly reunited No Doubt as the festival closer, especially since the band wasn't starting its first tour since 2004 in earnest for two weeks and was already set to play Nikon at Jones Beach Theater on June 27.
"It took a lot of convincing to get them to come out early," D'Esposito says. "We felt like we really wanted to give the kids something incredible."
And judging from No Doubt's reaction, they're looking forward to something incredible as well.
"Can't wait!" added singer Gwen Stefani.
Covering one another
Part of The Bamboozle's charm is its surprises and, this year, organizers promise to honor the tradition.
The Hoodwink, the pre-festival festival which kicks things off Friday, has a whole new theme, with bands performing entire sets of their favorite artists' music. Bayside will do the music of NOFX. We the Kings will do Jimmy Eat World. White Tie Affair will do Lil' Wayne. Cartel will do New Found Glory, and New Found Glory will do Green Day.
And John D'Esposito, The Bamboozle Festival director, confirms that there will be unannounced performances Saturday and Sunday. Will that include 50 Cent, who has been appearing with Fall Out Boy the past month?
"Well, 50 Cent certainly has an open invitation," D'Esposito says, though declining to confirm or deny the report. "Let's just say some friends will be stopping by on Sunday."
WHEN&WHERE The Hoodwink, 5 p.m. Friday, Giants Stadium Parking Lots, East Rutherford, N.J., $27 through Ticketmaster , 631-888-9000. Search for available Bamboozle tickets at NY Tickets Online.