How Jack Antonoff's Shadow of the City Festival Did It Better

How Jack Antonoff's Shadow of the City Festival Did It Better

Bigger isn't always better, and Jack Antonoff's Shadow of the City festival proves it

Bigger isn't always better, and Jack Antonoff's Shadow of the City festival proves it

Text: Ian David Monroe

On Saturday, Bleachers frontman and fun. band member Jack Antonoff threw the second annual Shadow of the City festival at the Stone Pony Summer Stage in Asbury Park, New Jersey. The one-day, one-stage, event might pale in comparison to its bloated big city counterparts, but it still manages to out charm and out impress, by getting back to the basics.

“I was thinking about how overblown festival culture has gotten in America. There’s festivals everywhere all the time and there’s always like 100,000 people and it’s crazy,” Antonoff says of the festival’s origins on Monday following the event. “The whole idea for this festival was if I could just invite a thousand friends to a party, what would it look like?”

HANA with fans in the crowd

What it looked like was a frill-less close-knit neighborhood block party, complete with hot dogs and a dunk tank. The latter saw Antonoff, his father, and sister, designer Rachel Antonoff, get soaked in the name of charity—all proceeds went to the Ally Coalition, in support of Orlando. Antonoff’s father also joined his son on stage, to play guitar with the rest of Steel Train, for what must have been an incredible early Father’s Day present. “He did it last year, too. When Bleachers headlined Shadow of the City, he played guitar with us then, too.”

While plenty of the Antonoff family was present, friends were the focus of the day. Of the eight billed bands—an alt-pop leaning line-up that included HANA, BØRNS, Shamir Bailey, Bishop Briggs, Carly Rae Jepsen, and the 1975—Antonoff figures that “a good 70% of them are real friends. The day after the festival Carly came over and we hung out, and worked on music as friends.” The closeness spread into the audience as well. Throughout the day, it wasn’t uncommon to see earlier acts HANA and Shamir standing in the crowd, dancing to the music as much as taking pictures with fans. Not far from them, Antonoff stands, catching every act. “It’s like we’re all at the same party.”

As an industry insider, the singer/producer/musician has spent plenty of time stage side. “I’ve probably played every big festival at the world at this point and it’s given me a lot of understanding of what works and what doesn’t—and that’s one of my biggest pet peeves: like fuck, there’s so many amazing things happening and you’re gonna miss nine out of ten of them at every festival.”

Allegra and Shamir

Another, more personal, reason for the creation of Shadow of the City comes from an unfortunate logistical reality that gave the festival its name: “Jersey is the ultimately located place to be skipped over. Philadelphia, DC, New York, and Boston are four of the biggest markets for any touring artist in the world. I swear, I’ve lived in Jersey my whole life. Every great show I ever saw was getting my parents to give me a ride somewhere or getting a friend to pack their car with a whole bunch of people or taking a train. We never had shows in Jersey.

"No matter how much fucking work the thing actually takes to put on, the heart and soul is—I’m from New Jersey, I want to put on a show.”

Bishop Briggs post set
Matty Healy of The 1975
HANA and fans
Credits: PHOTOS IAN DAVID MONROE

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