Jack Antonoff: Why I’m Starting a New Jersey Music Festival
Bleachers frontman Jack Antonoff is looking to revitalize the world’s image of New Jersey as an artistic hub with the formation and curation of his first annual Shadow of the City festival. On September 19th, eight bands will play the Stone Pony SummerStage at Asbury Park, with Bleachers headlining the event. Charli XCX (who will already be on tour with Bleachers for their co-headlining trek across the U.S.), Vic Mensa, the Front Bottoms, MisterWives, Cults, How to Dress Well and Robert Delong will join the singer.
Antonoff spoke with Rolling Stone about growing up in the shadow of New York City, his upcoming docuseries Thank You and Sorry (debuting on Google Play on June 16th) and his passion for what his home state has to offer.
How did Shadow of the City come together?
It’s something I’ve always dreamed about doing. I love music festivals, and I think that with the landscape of the music business rapidly changing, it’s the one thing that is only getting better and more exciting. With all the conversations about the ways people consume music and about streaming, live music is just this rock. I’ve always wanted to do this. Even more than that, I grew up in New Jersey and lived there for 28 years. New Jersey is part of who I am. I’ve always thought that it’s the perfect place for a festival.
Is your festival modeled after any others?
I’ve played almost every festival. This year, I’m playing Bonnaroo and it’ll be my 10th anniversary of the first time I played it, which is kind of crazy. I’ve just seen so much of what works and what doesn’t, so we’re bringing all of that information in for the first year. We’re starting small. The cap is 5,000, and we have eight bands. The goal is to not jump the shark with this and do something really exciting and really cool and really accessible for people. It’ll slowly grow if it makes sense.
What’s your favorite festival memory?
Playing Bonnaroo for the first time in 2005. At that point, my band [Steel Train] was not big at all. No one had any idea who we are. We didn’t even know what Bonnaroo was. We didn’t know what we were getting into. We were playing Thursday night at midnight, and we were like “What is this?” We showed up, put our stuff on stage, start the show and within five minutes, all the people there were going completely fucking apeshit. The biggest crowd I had ever played to before was 300 people, so jumping to thousands and thousands of people is very hard to describe. It’s just this insane feeling. The energy is completely apocalyptic. I still get this flashback every time I play to a big crowd.