New Jersey is an interesting place with interesting people. Half the state identifies with New York, half of it with Philadelphia, and you aren’t allowed to pump your own gas. We go to the beach a lot and continuously argue about the proper name of a breakfast meat being “Taylor Ham” or “Pork Roll.” There have been many great movies shot in New York, but hey, at least they filmed Clerks here in Jersey! Above all, it’s a requirement that to live in New Jersey, you have to worship Bruce Springsteen.
Bruce Springsteen is The Boss; the greatest musician I’ve ever listened to. Going to a Springsteen concert as a New Jerseyan is a cultural experience, like going to church on Sunday or going to that bar that stole your old fake on your 21st birthday. You take the trek up to the Meadowlands for a concert that’s going to last, at minimum, four hours because Bruce has the stamina and energy of cheetah that just chugged three cans of red bull. Hurricane Sandy tried to destroy New Jersey, but then Springsteen came out with the rest of the E Street band, fought against its hurricane vibes with “Born to Run,” and the storm retreated in terror. I’ve never been to Chris Christie’s house, but I imagine he has a full-on obsessed high school girl-type shrine dedicated to Springsteen in his closet, locks of hair and all.
Let me walk you through the timeline of seeing Springsteen live. You arrive a minimum two hours early to tailgate in the parking lot of MetLife stadium. You are surrounded by badass forty and fifty-year-olds that give off the vibe that they were probably high school cheerleaders and football players in the 1970s and exclusively drink American beer, which they graciously offer to their fellow Bruce fans. Nearly all are dressed in vintage tour T-shirts from the ’80s and ’90s. You move from tailgate to tailgate in the parking lot like it’s Jersey’s own Bourbon Street and are never more than 12 feet away from a radio playing “Born in the U.S.A.” or “Glory Days.” You will also run into at least 25 people who have some story about meeting him ranging from the tame and understandable (“I met him in Asbury Park in 1975” and “I see his wife at the supermarket”) to the extreme (“I once did peyote with him, Joe Piscopo, and former New Jersey Governor John Corzine during the Lewinsky scandal!”). There’s a stunning lack of hipsters saying, “You know, I listened to him before he was cool;” everyone just unites in Bruce fandom.
After a minimum four Budweisers or Yuenglings (E Street Band fans don’t drink light beer), you walk into the stadium for the concert to begin. Opening act? That’s cute. Springsteen and the E Street Band are the opening and closing act. Get food and go to the bathroom before taking your seat; leaving in the middle of the show is disrespectful to The Boss. Springsteen will most likely stop in the middle of songs to have conversations with Steve Van Zandt while the rest of the E Street Band vamps underneath (“Hey Steve!”), and the entire crowd will borderline orgasm every time Springsteen says “JERSEY!” If he doesn’t play “Jungleland” or “Thunder Road,” you just weren’t worthy of his musical gift. I’m no legal expert, but I’m pretty sure not singing along when Bruce plays “Hungry Heart” is a felony in this state.
Also, be prepared: it doesn’t matter if it’s spring, fall, or the middle of summer, there is a 150% chance he will sing “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town.” It’s actually a Jersey urban legend that if you say “Santa Claus is comin’ to town” three times in your bathroom mirror, Bruce will show up in a Santa hat.
Before you know it, four hours have gone by, Springsteen closes with an unbelievable final performance, and the concert appears to be over. WRONG! Lord Springsteen emerges for an encore that lasts, at minimum, another half hour, and will definitely include “Born to Run” and probably a ten-minute long version of the song “Shout.” If the concert doesn’t end with you on your feet with hands hurting from clapping too much, you’re uncultured swine who’s doing life wrong.
Most people then leave the concert and head home. That’s for rookies. The dedicated fans stay a little longer and sporadically tailgate until New Jersey state troopers tell them they have to leave. In true Jersey fashion, most will retreat to diners for a gourmet meal of diner pancakes as the clock approaches 2 a.m., and they wouldn’t have it any other way..
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