The Atlantic City Beer & Music Festival 2019 Brings Bands, Brews & Good Times to the Jersey Shore Hard-Hitting Rock, Smooth Reggae and Lotsa Beer Is A Recipe For Good Times
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ- The annual Atlantic City Beer & Music Festival 2019 kicked off its fourteenth season, at the Atlantic City Convention Center on March 29 and 30. The festival, which started as a smaller local event, has grown over the years into a destination for the craft beer & music community, and is recognized by U.S.A today as one of the best in the Country. The Festival organizers have clearly developed a winning strategy for this event which includes over 150 craft Breweries each year as well as a cast of diverse musical artist, making this a truly major event.
Each year up to thirty thousand hop heads and music freaks make their way to the Atlantic City Convention Center for a day filled with craft beer as well as an impressive list of headline musical artists. The Festival is divided into three sessions over a two-day period, one on Friday night and two on Saturday. The Festival organizers have done a brilliant job of making each session truly stand out on its own, using the musical artist in a way to create a different vibe for each session. This year’s musical artist included the hard-hitting rock band The Used, the smooth reggae sounds of Soja and the local (Philly area) pop-punkers The Wonder Years.
In addition to the beer and music (like that’s not enough) the festival also features a bunch of activities to keep people moving and having a good time, including a wing eating contest, hatchet tossing (seriously), costume contest, blindfolded beer tasting, a comedy show (shitty jokes), a five-k run (hops trot), beer pairings, cooking demonstrations and video games just games to name a few.
Arriving at the venue Friday night I found several thousand beer and music enthusiast already in queue, eager to get the nights festivities under way. After the customary singing of the National Anthem the gates were opened and the A.C. Beer & Music Festival 2019 was officially under way!
It didn’t take long for the large crowd to storm the venue, the true warriors in costume sporting the requisite pretzel necklaces taking their place in que for their fav brew. With over 150 of the best local, and National craft breweries at your disposal it could be a bit overwhelming, but nothing a dedicated hophead couldn’t endure! There were also several local food options available to attendees.
One thing I really enjoy about this event is the social nature of the crowd who clearly enjoy chatting it up and having a few laughs with their fellow suds’ enthusiast. As I walked the festival, I could feel the positive energy in the crowd who seemed to love posing for photos, taking about their favorite breweries, music and sports all while having a few laughs and leaving the day to day grind behind. Being an avid crowd watcher, this event was solid gold, with a continuous flow of people (and groups) in costume, some more creative than others but really adding to the flair of the event. As the opening musical artist finished their sets you could see the crowd beginning to filter its way to the main stage, growing and getting louder in anticipation of Friday night’s headliner, The Used!
The Used are one of those bands that transcend the boundaries of most genres of contemporary music, and just being known as a rock band doesn’t tell the entire story. Combining elements of pop-punk, alternative and post-hardcore with a bit of emo The Used have created a musical style that incorporates a hard driving but melodic sonic approach laced with strong vocal harmonies and lyrics. The Used have been a band since 2001 with current members being Bert McCracken on lead vocals, Jeph Howard on bass and backing vocals, Dan Whiteside on drums and Joey Bradford on guitar and backing vocals. The Used latest album The Canyon dropped in 2017 via Hopeless Records.
The Used started their set with “Take it Away” off the bands 2004 album, In Love and Death, a song that woke the crowd up with its fast grinding tempo and dark lyrics. The band continued to push hard with the next song “Bird and the Worm” the crowd was wild, dancing, moshing and crowd surfing as they sang every word right back at the band. Watching the crowd’s reaction to the music really put things in perspective, the emotional response and mutual respect showing the impact of a veteran band, playing for a crowd that probably grew up on this music.
As the set went on Bert McCracken let down his guard, talking with the crowd about his sobriety, his supportive fans cheering loudly when he proclaimed he’s been sober for seven years. The Used continued to work through a set of early material that took the crowd all the way back to 2004, the bond between the band and its fans undeniable. Music has the ability to take you back to a time in your life, either good or bad, and based on the reaction of the energetic and at times emotional crowd, this show was quite the journey.
Getting things started for session one were two stand out local bands, LateWaves and Cant Swim. Big props to the festival organizers for including local music in this lineup, both bands were perfect a perfect stylistic fit that the crowd really seemed to enjoy.
Getting things started Saturday morning was the traditional 5K run called the “Hop’s Trot”. This event is rather unique with participants running a 5k route around Atlantic City that included stops at select local watering holes, (pub’s) so participants can recharge on the go. The race ended at the convention center giving the runners plenty of time to quench their thirst at the Festival.
Soja is a very interesting musical group that works within a reggae style framework, but incorporates other influences like R&B & funk to deliver their trademark sound. One thing I really like about this band is their clean, technical instrumentals specifically the integration of percussion and horns which serve to punctuate their musical sound. This band seems to take no shortcuts in the creative department and that would include their lyrics, which can be anywhere from deep and meaningful, to love songs and ballads all the way to songs about social justice. Soja’s music is very relatable, inciting thought and reflection through interpretation. Soja is Jacob Hemphill on guitar and lead vocals, Bob Lee on bass, Pat O’Shea on keys, Ryan Berty on drums, Ken Brownell on percussions, Hellman Escorcia on sax, Rafael Rodriguez on trumpet and Trevor Young on guitar and vocals. Soja’s latest album Poetry in Motion dropped in 2017 via ATO Records.
Soja came in hot, starting the show with “I Don’t Wanna Wait” off the bands 2009 album Born in Babylon, the combination of horns and off beat reggae rhythm compelling the crowd to dance and sing along. I don’t think reggae music gets taken as seriously as it really should, and while I agree it’s not mainstream music, it’s delivery can be a thing of extreme creative beauty. This music (Soja’s) has the ability to connect with people on a truly personal and almost spiritual level not often found in other musical styles.
Soja played a great set of their classics, but also included a few more recent songs for the chill but still energetic crowd. A few high points for me were “Here I Am,” Everything Changes,” and “When We Were Younger” an emotionally moving song that can’t help but trigger intense contemplation.
The opening artist for this set were SensaMotion and Iya Terra who are currently on tour with Soja. Both bands did a commendable job of getting the crowd in the mood for an afternoon of smooth reggae sounds.
One of the best things about living in the South Jersey / Philadelphia area is the music scene. Not only do we have great music, but we also have great music fans who are full of energy and enthusiasm, especially when it comes to local bands. While The Wonder Years are a National touring band, they’ve developed an extensive network of loyal fans in their home town of Philly who show up at their shows ready to throw down. The Wonder Years are known as a pop-punk band but clearly have a style all to their own, pushing the boundaries of the genre while creating a musical place only they occupy. Having a reputation for high energy / intense shows The Wonder Years are Dan Campbell on lead vocals, Matt Brasch on guitar and vocals, Casey Cavaliere on guitar and vocals, Mike Kennedy on drums, Josh Martin on bass and Nick Stienborn on keys, guitar and vocals. The Wonder Years latest album Sister Cities dropped in 2018 via Hopeless Records.
During sound check Dan Campbell talked with the security detail in front of the stage, letting them know that the crowd surfing could get extreme, and that their crowd is usually a good-natured bunch; It didn’t take long to find out. The Wonder Years took the stage to “Sister Cities”, the title track of their latest album igniting the crowd, the dominant bassline and tight harmonies coupled Campbells dominant vocals compelling the crowd to flow over the barrier.
In between songs Dan Campbell talked with the crowd about the Philly South Jersey connection, and that playing in Atlantic City felt like being home, his delivery so sincere you could feel the connection between him and his fans almost like old friends being reunited. The Wonder Years continued working through their set, the intensity continuing to build, the crowd getting louder and louder as the constant flow of crowd surfers crashed the barrier.
The Wonder Years played a total of eighteen songs during their set and closed the night with “Came Out Swinging” off the bands 2011 album Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing, a banging fast paced punk ballad. Local band, local crowd and a spectacular set by The Wonder Years! The opening artist for this set were Have Mercy and save face , both played great sets that the crowd really got the crowd up and moving.
In conclusion The Atlantic city Beer & Music Fest 2019 was truly an incredible event, what could be better that beer, music and a bunch of friends. Living in South Jersey and working in Atlantic City makes me understand the importance of this event for our community. This event takes an unfathomable amount of work to pull off and I would like to thank and congratulate, the fine people of Good Time Tricycle Productions and Near Dark Entertainment for bringing this event to our Community here in Atlantic City!