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In an interview that appeared almost four years ago on our since-skyfallen Red Bank oRBit site, Robert Pinsky waxed rhapsodic about Long Branch, the seaside city of his youth; telling us “In the Golden Age, you could have a Ballantine’s and a Max’s hot dog when Max’s was on the boardwalk side of Ocean Avenue. When there was a Long Branch boardwalk! Pizza at Freddie’s or Nunzio’s, clams at Danny Maher’s. Crabbing at Pleasure Bay, the circus at Flanagan’s Field. Tea dances at Red Bank Catholic.”
Pinsky — the internationally renowned, Pulitzer-lauded author of more than a dozen volumes of poetry and essays on art — was briefly back on his old turf for a reading appearance at Monmouth University, and a preview of his 2009 book Thousands of Broadways; a meditation on the “Dreams and Nightmares” of small town American life. The man who produced what for many is the definitive translation of Dante’s Inferno — and who served for an unprecedented three terms as Poet Laureate of the United States — had visited Monmouth U previously (even giving the commencement address one year). But when he stepped out onto the stage of the Pollak Theatre that March, he may not have realized at the time that he’d be making the West Long Branch campus a habit.
For a formidable figure who earned a doctorate in philosophy (in addition to many major awards and fellowships), Robert Pinsky has remained an approachable advocate for the role of poetry in mainstream 21st century life. It’s a mission that’s seen him consent to appearances on The Simpsons and The Colbert Report — and a calling that’s seen its purest expression in the Favorite Poem Project, in which Americans from all walks of life were recorded reading and discussing the works of verse that have meant the most to them.
The past few years have seen Pinsky — a genuine jazz aficionado and amateur saxophonist — step up his schedule of appearances in which he performs his poetry to the accompaniment of live jazz musicians. It’s a mode of expression that the Laureate has branded PoemJazz, and it’s an attraction that returns to the Pollak stage on Friday, February 15.
The 7:30pm performance is a followup to a 2012 event at Monmouth, in which Pinsky was joined by the New York-based double bassist Ben Allison. Since that time, Pinsky has released his first words-and-music CD, also called PoemJazz — a set that finds the poet collaborating with pianist Laurence Hobgood on an array of compositions that range from the intensely musical “The City” and the Pinsky favorite “Samurai Song,” to a rendition of the 17th century Ben Jonson verse “His Excuse for Loving.”
Pinsky — who’s jammed live with a variety of instrumentalists, and in settings ranging from duo to quintet — will be rejoined by Allison (as well as by guitarist and Allison bandmate Steve Cardenas) for Friday night’s fricassee of verse and vibe; an event that promises to recall some of the best sonic experiments of the Beats (minus the bongo’d cliches), while custom-crafting a zone that’s pure Pinsky perfection.
Your upperWETside correspondent had the tremendous honor of conducting a virtual interview with America’s pre-eminent ambassador of the spoken word, a few days prior to the Monmouth stopover….and it’s all here, at the flip of a pixelated page…
Goddammit, we’ve still got it. As one of the original, inimitable and otherwise unemployable Season One cast members at the now-legendary Haunted Mansion of Long Branch (that’s your upperWETside corespondent as Jack the Ripper, here in an old brochure), we practiced the venerable craft of live-action ghoulery from May thru October; braving ThunderDome lockdown conditions, a crashcourse in way-out human behaviours, the dreaded Mansionaire’s Disease and a pay scale only slightly more humane than those found at Foxconn or the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Made a lot of friends, too — best job we ever had; no contest.
So it’s gratifying to know that we can still make people jump or at least jitter when we enter a room — in fact it’s got us thinking comeback. And so emboldened, we take our place up in our lonely garret, inside a legendary local haunted house — repeat after us: we live in a hidden apartment, inside a haunted house — to type out a little guide to the peculiar diversions to be found around the Upper Wet Side of NJ in and around that season when the Great Pumpkin comes on like Galactus or Godot.
We probably don’t have to tell you much about the horrendously scary-expensive thrills to be found at Fright Fest 2012 at Six Flags Great Adventure, or the summer-like traffic jams that have made so innocuous an activity as an afternoon of Corn Mazes and Pumpkin Picking into a regrettable must to avoid. No, we’re here to have a GOOD time, during an interlude that’s defined not so much by eerie presences as it is absences — such as the grand party events (such as Circus of Hell, and the one where the Berkeley Hotel became one huge tableau out of The Shining) that made Asbury Park the undisputed regional capital of Halloween not too many moons ago. We’re also still stinging over the absence of Keyport’s Macabre Manor, the abandoned cop-shop that combined special-FX savvy with the best actor-driven experience since the Hell-cyon days of the Mansion itself — although the guys who brought you that attraction are reportedly hard at work on a 2013 opening of their ambitious new S.S. Scream project in Perth Amboy.
That said, there’s plenty to float your Ship of Lost Souls here, from the (final?) re-lurch of Jason Meehan’s spectacular NJ Zombie Walk, to some welcome walk-through horrors, a little mystery history, performing ARRGHs and even a couple of modest offerings right here at our historic Crane House haunts, where the restless spirits of Crazy Lois and Laudanum Luther keep things from getting TOO deathly quiet in the wee wee hours. Creak open the crypt for the arcane and eldritch details…
Fifteen offbeat works of art, framed and nailed to the wall for your perambulating perusal…that not only sums up our first recommended item in this roundup of the WetSide weekend wobble, but it encapsulates the wobble itself. It’s a Pictures-at-an-Exhibition promenade that begins with:
1. FRIDAY! John van Hamersveld: Graphic Works at Red Bank Frameworks. The man himself is not expected to be in attendance, but this reception for the latest installation at Red Bank Frameworks is worth checking out for a succinct retrospective look at some of the most burned-into-the-cultural-retina images of the surf-a-delic poster/graphics designer who famously created the poster for pioneer surf doc Endless Summer — and went on to visualize the vibes of The Beatles, Jefferson Airplane, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and the Velvet Underground to name but a few. The works on paper, drawn from a half century of activity, remain on display during regular gallery hours through October 27 — and you’ll pin the details right here on the local Patch site. Red Bank Frameworks, 160 Monmouth St., Red Bank • 7-10pm
2. FRIDAY-SUNDAY! TOPDOG/ UNDERDOG at Two River Theater. It’s the FINAL WEEKEND for the Two River Theater Company revival of the Pulitzer-winning play by Suzan-Lori Parks, directed by the playwright herself. Take it here for tickets — and look here for the review that we originally did for the Asbury Park Press. Two River Theater, Bridge Ave., Red Bank • 8pm Friday and Saturday; 3pm Saturday and Sunday/ $20 – $57
A baker’s dozen more to follow; flip the pixelated page for best results…
Yes, Caldonia, there IS such a thing as a Louis Prima, Jr., and he’s coming to this weekend’s San Gennaro Festival of the Jersey Shore with his “rock band disguised as a swing band” The Witnesses (a combo that carries on in name from Sam Butera’s classic bunch of lounge lizards out of the golden age of Vegas) AND vocalist Sarah Spiegel (a locally bred lass who fulfills the role of the great Keely Smith and then some). The younger Prima picks up the legacy of the senior Louie — who your parents would know as the guy whose immortal rendition of “Just a Gigolo/ I Ain’t Got Nobody” was copped wholesale by David Lee Roth, and who your grandparents would know as the author of cross-generational swing monument “Sing Sing Sing” PLUS a performer whose “Wildest Show in Vegas” ate the lunches of every greenhorn rocker back in the day. Better still, it’s an act he’s polished to a sharkskin sheen over the course of several years and an increasingly high profile on the national stage — and Saturday night at 8pm, he’ll be taking it to the festival stage adjacent to Nicchio Ristorante in Belmar, as just one of many standout offerings in what’s shaping up as a way-out weekend of weirditude…
While we’re not necessarily going to join the raspy chorus of townies who greet the post-Labor Day outflux of summerers with a heartily predictable Good Riddance Bennys — we has met the Benny, and he is us — we do tend to dig this time of year before the zombie winds grow cold and the smoke detector batteries get replaced (let’s not and say we did). A time to reclaim beach spots, parking spaces, speed limits, and a certain degree of proprietary pride and pleasure in the place where you’ve opted to put down roots, all too often because you could’t afford a NJ Transit ticket to someplace closer to the electrified train lines.
That said, is it just us, or do we detect an extra little edge of weirdness in the happenings in and around the Upper Wet Side this week? Whether by hidebound tradition or happy accident, sometimes it seems as though we save the strangest (and hence most intriguing) stuff for the warm weeks in which we have the beat-up beach pad all to ourselves — a completely unscientific theory borne out by the humble handful of recommendations we’ve wrangled for you here. Sure, you could just as easily map out a strategy of safely stodgy fare (Darius Rucker at the Count Basie; The Offspring at Stone Pony SummerStage) and leave it at that, but at this late date, why go ANYwhich where but weird? Take a look behind the curtain, you don’t believe us…
We promised that we wouldn’t continue to kill ourselves with these increasingly complicated Weekend Roundup features, but these particularly blastworthy last-gasp days of August simply cannot be ignored…so we’re gonna drop and give you a fast 28 from NOW thru Sunday, beginning TONIGHT with the return of the eber-intriguing, eber-elegant CHRISTINE EBERSOLE to the Upper Wet Side of NJ. Read on for more, much more…
THURSDAY: Christine Ebersole at the AxPAC. This is one of those events that we really should have been “on toppa” like flies on sherbert; like an arts journalist-slash-theater correspondent putting in for an interview with one of the most multi-faceted talents in the modern biz of stage. But we let the beat drop, and now we are “Ebersole humbled” so that we can only say Sorry About That, Chief, and Missed It By That Much.
A 2007 Tony winner for her vivid star turn in the improbable musical adaptation of Grey Gardens; a costar with Rupert Everett and Angela Lansbury in the 2K9 revival of Blithe Spirit; a winner of another, earlier Tony for 42nd Street and a much-lauded star of everything from Steel Magnolias to Dinner at Eight, Christine_Ebersole is brought down to earth only by some sillier TV work (Sullivan and Son; Retired at 35) and a not-so-A-list movie resume (uh, My Favorite Martian? My Girl 2? Richie Rich? Tom Selleck’s Folks!?!). And so we concentrate here upon her critic-conquering cabaret skills, her major concert work and the fact that this platinum-plated performer is appearing tonight right here on the Upper Wet Side of NJ, in the intimate auditorium of the AxPAC (at the JCC of Monmouth in Ocean Township). Tickets are not so much as you might think, too, and the opportunity to see this caliber of performer, in this custom-crafted a setting, might not soon present itself again. Axelrod Performing Arts Center, 100 Grant Ave., Ocean Township • 8pm/ $45 – $75 (reserve in advance)
But wait, there’s more: order in the next ten minutes and you’ll get…
It wasn’t a week that started or ended on a high note for the musicky scene here in the place Where People Actually Live — from the cop crackdown on the boardwalk drummers, to the abrupt shuttering of The Press Room rock club (after just six months, several visits by Springsteen, a slew of well-received shows and a positive write-up in the New York Times), and the coup de grace, the announcement on Friday that the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival would NOT be returning to Asbury as heavily promoted, but would beat a hasty escape to Manhattan’s Pier 36.
A couple of black eyes for the town Where Music Gotta Wear Shades, to be sure — still, the city Where Music-types Fib has survived worse in its toughened-up decades, and no matter what explanations you’ve heard for the abovementioned setbacks (everything from complaining merchants, unpaid hotel bills and infighting owners to landlord money problems, vendor money problems and money-man money problems), it all boils down to money — who’s footing the tab, who’s secretly not as moneyed-up as you might think, and whose money thinks it can tell everybody’s else’s money what to do. In the tug of war twixt Music and Money, we point out that no one ever called this the place Where Money Lives.
Cockeyed optimists that we are, we’re always looking on (and for) the bright side, and in this week’s litter of picks we pheel the phrenological bumps of a brighter phuture. It’s a phuture that includes the arrival of a favorite hyper-international cult band to our favorite hyper-local rockbar; the debut of some pleasingly site-specific entertainments (Point Plez Jazz Fest, Bolero Red Bank), and the continuation of some events that truly help to make our beloved Upper Wet Side what it is: Songwriters in the Park, FilmOneFest — and Sand Blast Weekend, the big happy gay machine that brings thousands of guests to town; shows them a good time, lets them roam freely (plus spend $$$) throughout the city, and inspires them to come back and maybe even make the city their home or workplace. A festival done right.
There’s lots more going on in terms of music, theater, film, words and weirdnesses in the day ahead, and we needn’t tell you which side of the pixelated page it’s printed on…
MONDAY! Joe Piscopo and His Big Band at Surflight. We all know way-Jersey Joe Piscopo from his 1980s-era tenure on Saturday Night Live — as well as a handful of bad movies, painful commercials and that whole bizarre bodybuilder interlude that made his post-SNL career more of a punchline than the never-funny “What Exit?” Well, some thirty years later a still-smilin’ Joe has not only maintained a toehold in the business of show through countless charity functions and pro-bono appearances — he’s actually parlayed his old parody of Frank Sinatra into a seriously musical nightclub act that even won him his own nightclub (Club Piscopo at Resorts AC) for a spell. Teamed with his longtime music director (and our pal) Joe “Mooche” Muccioli and the Red Bank Jazz Orchestra, Piscopo deals a slick supperclub-style act that spotlights singing impressions (The Boss of course, as well as The Chairman), comical characters and some surprising multi-instrumental dexterity. The original Jersey guy and Mooche’s marvelous organization take the stage of Surflight Theatre, as part of the summertime comedy/ concert series presented in partnership with Catch A Rising Star. Keep it tuned for the slate that further features Robert Klein (7/18). Jackie Martling (7/25), Judy Gold (7/30), David Brenner (8/8), Pat Cooper (8/20), John and Bucky Pizzarelli (8/22), Uncle Floyd (8/29), and John Cafferty (9/29). Surflight Theatre, Beach and Engleside Aves., Beach Haven • 8pm/ $60
MONDAY! Radio Moscow at The Brighton Bar. Score another one for the Home of Original Music on the Jersey Shore — and on a Monday yet; that night of off-peak rates and the occasional surprise booking. Tonight, the psych-infused garage stomp of Iowa’s Radio Moscow — an internationally touring trio with a Mad Alchemy light show — squeeze the Brighton into their itinerary between big-city gigs in NYC and Baltimore. The headliners hit the famous Brighton stage at 11, preceded by The Dirty Secrets (8pm), Buzzard Wagon (8:45), Iron Front (9:30) and The Loose Roosters (10:15). Brighton Bar, 121 Brighton Ave., Long Branch • 8pm/ $7
WEDNESDAY! Robert Klein at Surflight. While the mainstage schedule at LBI landmark Surflight Theatre is light on celeb candepower this season (last year’s memorable schedule offered extended stays by everyone from Justin Guarini and Judd Hirsch to Cindy Williams and Eve Plumb), the summertime comedy/ concert series presented in partnership with Catch A Rising Star continues to impress with some talent worth hitting the Causeway for. A worthy contemporary of Pryor and Carlin — and like those late legends, a skilled storyteller who built his career on album-sized routines instead of just playing off drunk hecklers — standup, actor, writer, interviewer Robert Klein provides a textbook example in How It’s Done in an age of diminished expectations. Keep it tuned for the slate that further features Jackie Martling (7/25), Judy Gold (7/30), David Brenner (8/8), Pat Cooper (8/20), John and Bucky Pizzarelli (8/22), Uncle Floyd (8/29), and John Cafferty (9/29). Surflight Theatre, Beach and Engleside Aves., Beach Haven • 8pm/ $60
THURSDAY! Cabaret for Life at the Supper Club. The nonprofit, nonpareil troupers at Ocean Grove-based Cabaret for Life, Inc. continue their productive partnership with Tim McLoone’s Supper Club — and as part of their ongoing 2012 series of showcase events, that sophisticated space-age saucer on the Asbury Park boards hosts this year’s edition of the annual fun(d)raiser mirth-and-music revue to benefit The Center in Asbury Park and its ongoing assistance programs for local people living with HIV/AIDS. The Glitter of Oz brings a cast of area stage pros together (under the direction of CFL’s Andrew DiPrisco) in a loose salute to what could only be called The Ultimate Road Movie; tix can be reserved by calling 1.877.CFL.TKTS — and if you miss this one, they’ll be doing it all over again next Thursday, July 26. Tim McLoone’s Supper Club, 1200 Ocean Ave. (at Fifth Ave.), Asbury Park • 7pm/ $25
THURSDAY! Plays and Musicals Continue, on the Upper WET Side! The Summer Shakespeare Ensemble at Brookdale Community College presents a cast of returning Shakespeareans and newcomers in The Merchant of Venice, out on the lawn adjacent to the Performing Arts Center on the Lincroft campus. Admission to all performances is free; so call 732.224-2411 for weather-related updates and additional info on parking and such. Brookdale Community College, Newman Springs Rd., Lincroft • 7pm/ FREE/ also FRIDAY and SATURDAY at 7pm; SUNDAY at 6pm… The Starving Artist at Days in Ocean Grove teams once again with producer-director Nick Montesano (NENAproductions Theater Project) to Celebrate Summer, the latest in a series of musical revues (presented on the restaurant’s porch) that are as part of the season in OG as, well, a Dtwo-scop cone from Days. Montesano (who co-conceived the show with Jessica Berger) directs a cast that spotlights Jennifer Nelson, Casey Grady Surgent, Heather McLaughlin, and Bryan Vitalo — as well as Berger, Montesano and Starving Artist co-owner Arnold Teixera — with musical direction by Jeff Brown. Reserve at 732.988.1007. The Starving Artist at Days, 47 Olin St., Ocean Grove • 7:30pm/ $20/ also FRIDAY and SATURDAY at 7:30pm… In Tony Glazer’s American Stare — currently in its world premiere engagement at New Jersey Repertory Company — a South Florida trailer park is “a microcosm for all that’s gone cattywampus with the American Dream.” Evan Bergman directs this dark comedy of despair, dipsomania, dumbass schemes and possibly the Devil himself that pushes the envelope of the audience’s comfort zone in its “pointed parable that seethes with the playwright’s projected frustration over an America seemingly lost to the ages.” New Jersey Repertory Company, 179 Broadway (at Liberty St.), Long Branch • 8pm/ $40; also FRIDAY and SATURDAY at 8pm; SUNDAY at 2pm… The relationship between the 26th President and his famous First Daughter is at the heart of Teddy and Alice, the musical slice of Americana (adapted from music by none other than John Philip Sousa) now playing inside the unique and historic Woods Theatre at Monmouth U. Tickets can be reserved by calling 732.263.6889, or taking it here. Lauren K. Woods Theatre at Monmouth University, Cedar and Norwood Aves., West Long Branch • 8pm/ $25 – $35/ also FRIDAY at 2pm and 8pm; SATURDAY at 8pm; SUNDAY at 7pm (through July 29)… Producer-director Mark Fleming and the folks at Asbury Park’s Premier Theatre Company return to The Premier Room — their all-new, custom-crafted, 120-seat space inside the ever-accommodating Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel — for a fresh look at the Kander-Ebb classic Cabaret, the bracing musical that’s set in a seedy German nightclub on the eve of the Nazi era. Tickets for any of the eight scheduled performances can be reserved via the Premier website or by calling 732.774.STAR. Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel, 1401 Ocean Ave. at Sixth Ave., Asbury Park • 8pm/ $28 (discounts for students and seniors)/ also FRIDAY and SATURDAY at 8pm; SUNDAY at 2pm…
FRIDAY! The Fairlanes reunited at Chico’s. We all know Billy Hector as the ubiquitous master of brine-basted Jersey Shore blues (see Saturday’s Blues Fest item, below), but the man has mastered many contexts in many bands over the years — the best of which was The Fairlanes, the late-1980s bluesrockpop combo that he co-fronted with longtime partner Suzan Lastovica. A long battle with MS forced the ever-stunning Suzan out of the everynight band biz (though she’s continued to pen songs and join her “hippie married” husband on stage every now and then), but this Friday night at Chico’s House finds the much-missed lineup of the ‘lanes — Billy, Suzan, harmonicat Bill Lilley, bassist Tim Tindall and iconic drummer Ernest “Boom” Carter — sharing the stage for the first time since 1987; a “once in a lifetime concert event” that unfolds at the earlybird hour of 6pm. Call 732.774.5299 for more info. Chico’s House of Jazz, 631 Lake Ave. (Shoppes at the Arcade building), Asbury Park • 6pm/ $10
FRIDAY! Mindy Smith at Riverside Gardens. The Songwriters in the Park slate continues at Red Bank’s jewel-in-the-downtown-crown Riverside Gardens, for a seventh(?) season by Brookdale Community College listener-supported radio station 90.5 The Night. The template involves pairing a genuinely buzzworthy, better-radio approved, national-profile act with a likeminded local/regional artist — and placing them in a setting that’s insanely convenient to the best of in-town life, with great sight lines all around, excellent sound and of course those aforementioned complimentary Navesink sunsets. Tonight it’s Mindy Smith, a Nashville-based New York transplant who’s billed with Emily Grove, one of the most acclaimed young performers on the Asbury music scene, and an artist who proved to us that the Neptune iHop is where the true talents on the scene congregate. Riverside Gardens Park, West Front St., Red Bank • 7pm/ FREE
FRIDAY! Sand Blast Weekend presents LOST AT SEA in Convention Hall. The flagship party of the annual Sand Blast Weekend in Asbury Park commandeers the Grand Arcade and beachside balconies of Convention Hall with libations, turntable chanteys and landlubber cruising at the Beach Bar (where Watermark’s Russell Lewis and Adam Kentner work the spiral scratch) and the Aqua Bar on the north side of the boardwalk landmark (with DJ Whitney Day plus “fist pumping music by one of Asbury Park’s favorite sons, DJ James Anthony, who returns to the Jersey Shore to make his Sand Blast debut”). Tix at door or online (18 to enter/21 to drink) or free with purchase of weekend pass. There’s lots more Sand Blast activity going on Friday on the city’s beaches, boardwalk and boulevards (including the 10pm – 5am DEEP BLUE party at the Berkeley); take it here for a full schedule. Convention Hall, Ocean and Fifth Aves., Asbury Park, Asbury Park • 8pm-2am/ $15 cover (incl. in all weekend passes)
FRIDAY! Shonen Knife at Asbury Lanes. It’s survived management and ownership changes, watched more ruthlessly financed operations fall by the wayside, and emerged as pretty much the Last Thing Standing on its battered block of Fourth Ave. But the recently renovated retro rec room that is Asbury Lanes continues to survive AND surprise, and even score a genuine coup or two in the realm of band bookings as it cements its place in the short list of truly legendary clubs in the region. With a new album (Pop Tune), a long-awaited US tour and a 30th anniversary to celebrate, the tireless Nipponese cult-punk sensations Shonen Knife take the center Lanes for the first time, with White Mystery, The Recordettes and DJ Jack the Ripper setting up the pins in the spirit of international friendship and progress. Asbury Lanes, 209 Fourth Ave., Asbury Park • 8pm doors/ $12
FRIDAY! INHERIT THE WIND in Holmdel. It’s a controversy ripped screaming from the headlines — in 1925, that is, when the famous “Scopes Monkey Trial” brought the Creationism vs. Evolution debate to a head in a Tennessee court of law. With the issue somehow remaining a bugaboo of American life well into the 21st century, the folks at Holmdel Theatre Company have reached back to the 1950s — when the Jerome Lawrence-Robert Edwin Lee play Inherit the Wind built a fictionalized but enduring drama around the courtroom rivalry between aging legal lions Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan (their names respectively changed in the script to Henry Drummond and Matthew Brady).
For this latest offering from what’s become one of the most exciting semi-pro stage troupes in New Jersey, Tom Frascatore (Holmdel’s Taming of the Shrew) directs a large cast of top-notch players, highlighted by Michael Kroll (like Frascatore, a veteran of many Billy Van Zandt-Jane Milmore comedies) as Drummond and Ed Schiff (whose many roles have ranged from King Lear to the Gorton’s Fisherman) returning to the part of Brady. Michael Irvin Pollard (Night Train and many other premieres from New Jersey Repertory Company) plays a cynical reporter based on legendary journalist H.L. Mencken, while Volney Stefflre is cast as the young teacher at the center of the controversy. Inherit the Wind runs through August 4 at the charmingly rustic Duncan Smith Theater (adjacent to Holmdel High School on Crawfords Corner Road);tickets can be reserved online or by calling the box office at (212)868-4444. Duncan Smith Theater, Crawfords Corner-Everett Rd. (at Holmdel High School), Holmdel • 7pm/ $22 (senior and student discounts); also SATURDAY at 8pm; SUNDAY at 2pm (through August 4)
FRIDAY and SATURDAY! BOLERO RED BANK. Yeah, we took a dim view of this whole idea last week, but having gotten a look at it in rehearsal, well, color us pleasantly surprised. Designed exclusively for the Red Bank area audience, choreographer Larry Keigwin‘s dance project uses the magnificent musical merry-go-round of Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero” as the soundtrack to a celebration of the greater Red Bank area — and the things that the people who live here love the most about it — starring a cast of some 60 local “pedestrians” and at least one dog. Encapsulating the spirit of summertime recreation and Shore life through movement, humor, and accessories (ranging from from roller skates, boogie boards and hula hoops, to metal detectors, kites and Frisbees), Bolero Red Bank will be performed on the mainstage of Two River Theater as the centerpiece of an 8 pm program that also features four short works (Caffeinated, Love Songs, Triptych and Contact Sport) spotlighting the professional dancers of the Keigwin + Company troupe. Tickets ($20, $37, $42) are still available and can be reserved right here. Two River Theater, Bridge Ave., Red Bank • 8pm/ $20 – $42
FRIDAY! POETRY U in Red Bank. A relatively recent arrival in town, Robert Langdon’s Gallery U and Boutique continues to set the pace in artier Red Bank circles — and beginning tonight, this rather Unique and Unorthodox artspace inaugurates a local edition of Poetry U, a monthly poetry reading series that saw success at the gallery’s flagship Montclair location. Langdon himself joins Josh Dogmatic, Yolanda Torres and couple of our absolute favorite Monmouth County wordsmiths — punk poet laureate Gregg G. Brown and pure creative dynamo Kathy Polenberg — for a free event during which light refreshments will be served (and enlightening thoughts will be lobbed your way). Langdon’s looking to spotlight 5 to 7 local creatives at each monthly outing, so if you think your kung foo is king, send samples of your work to email@example.com. Gallery U and Boutique, 80 Broad St., Red Bank • 8-10pm/ FREE
FRIDAY! Donavon Frankenreiter at the Stone Pony. A successful surfer could tell you that you’ve got to keep all the various components of body and board working in concert, and down on the Asbury boards, there’s synergy in spades to be found when iconic surfer, recently minted recording sensation and Billabong spokesman Donavon Frankenreiter rules the waves as headline attraction atop a Stone Pony that further features Rayland Baxter. During the 2012 edition of what’s fast become a traditional Asbury stop by Frankendude, each ticket buyer receives a free copy of his new CD, Start Livin’. Stone Pony, Ocean and Second Aves., Asbury Park • 8pm/ $21 advance, $26 door
FRIDAY! The Royal Teens at The Supper Club. During their short-short time in the limelight as one-hit purveyors of the 1950s hit “Short Shorts,” the Jersey-bred Royal Teens created a swingin’ summertime anthem that would live on in Nair commercials — but who knew then that the band was led by Four Seasons singer/songwriter (and pop music mastermind) Bob Gaudio? Original Teens drummer Tom Austin has assembled a new gigging edition of the band whose Number 3 hit was co-written by him, and it’s these fully experienced Teens who’ll take the stage of Tim McLoone’s Supper Club, sophisticated saucer-shaped scene of some pretty memorable visitors from the first rollicking decade of the Rock Era, with their Crazy Chicks, Kate and Becca (“these two extremely talented young women wearing their short shorts consistently light up the room”). Call 732.774.1400 to reserve table. Tim McLoone’s Supper Club, 1200 Ocean Ave. (at Fifth Ave.), Asbury Park • 8:30pm/ $15 (show only)
SATURDAY! FilmOneFest in Atlantic Highlands. Speaking of Who’s Got Short Shorts: the Atlantic Highlands Arts Council and filmmaker Robert O’Connor present the Main Event of the year at the borough’s beautiful Municipal Harbor; a festival of SHORTshort (like, literally Gone in Sixty Seconds) films from all around the world (from Southeast Asia to, well, Atlantic Highlands) that’s preceded by a street fair beginning at 12pm, and a set of live music by Sibling Rivalry (augmented by clowns, stilt walkers and other colorful diversions) at 7pm. First film on the big inflatable screen at 9pm; admission’s free (bring your own lawn seating) and best entries will be judged by a distinguished panel of film critics and industry pros. Look for more on this year’s FilmOneFest right here on the upperWETside red-carpet roomba. Atlantic Highlands Municipal Harbor, foot of First Avenue • 7pm/ FREE ($10 VIP seating)
SATURDAY! Sand Blast Weekend presents SIREN OF THE SEA Pool Party. It’s Sand Blast Weekend in Asbury Park, and the opportunity continues to “join the hottest women from up and down the east coast to party with at our new and improved location: the Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel pool.” There’s music spun by DJ Susan Levine, plus “frosty drink specials and hot Go-Go girls from the Jersey Shore for eye candy poolside all day!” And, there’s lots more Sand Blast activity going on Saturday on the city’s beaches, boardwalk and boulevards; take it here for a full schedule. Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel, 1401 Ocean Ave. at Sixth Ave., Asbury Park • POOL PARTY: 11am-6pm/ $15 advance, $20 door
SATURDAY! Point Pleasant Jazz & Blues Fest. Dennis Eschbach and his all-volunteer crew at the Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Foundation present the second of three day-long outdoor Blazz-a-thons — considered as a whole, the spiritual successor to the old weekend-long blowouts that got blown out of Red Bank a few years back. For this first-ever installation at Pernt Boyo’s Riverfront Park, the “dynamic fusion mix” of Burr Johnson sounds the keynote at noon. He’s followed on the bill by Outside the Box (1:15 pm), Eryn Shewell (2:35pm), violinist Yuri Turchyn’s Grupo Yuri (3:50 pm), and the Blackberry Blues Band (5:10pm). A true signifier of the Shore scene, bluesbender Billy Hector (pictured above) headlines at 6:30pm, just 24 hours after reuniting with his great 80s band The Fairlanes in Asbury Park — and the JSJBF wraps up their festival season in Long Branch on August 25. Riverfront Park, Maxson Ave. and River Rd., Point Pleasant Boro • 12-8pm/ FREE
SATURDAY! Sand Blast Beach Party in Asbury Park. It’s Sand Blast Weekend in Asbury Park, and the centerpiece event unfolds on the sands of the city’s top-rated beach with a BIG beachtop dance floor, and music by “Masterbeat’s Meistro” Brett Henrichsen. There’s lots more Sand Blast activity going on Saturday on the city’s beaches, boardwalk and boulevards; take it here for a full schedule. Sixth Avenue Beach, Asbury Park • 12-7pm/ $60 advance, $75 door
SATURDAY! Wynonna & the Big Noise in Ocean Grove. Even though her catalog includes the requisite Silverado-lode of chart-topping hits, both solo and with momma Judd, when Wynonna comes to the Ocean Grove’s great wooden flagship of family entertainment she’ll be fronting a more rock-oriented new band (featuring fiancee Cactus Moser on drums) and dealing out some “rocking new covers that fans are loving” — surprising choices that range from Rufus (“Tell Me Something Good”) to Lenny Kravitz (“Are You Gonna Go My Way”) — making this, despite the obligatory nods to GodFamilyUSA, potentially the edgiest show going on this season at the Great A. Ticket reservations can be had right here. Great Auditorium, Pitman Ave., Ocean Grove • 8pm/ $45 – $55
SATURDAY! Summerland Tour at Pee ‘N See. And so it has come to pass. The bands you thrilled to on the radio back around the mid-90s have put aside their petty beeves (not really), propped each other up like walkers and hit the road in one of those package tours that have long since assimilated the likes of Journey/ Foreigner/ Kansas. Of course when the Summerland Tour — Everclear (pictured above), Lit, Sugar Ray, Gin Blossoms and Marcy Playground — comes to the hyperbaric-chamber world that is the PNC Bank Arts Center, they’ll be assuming that you’ve “grown” and moved on to a higher income bracket; not necessarily the norm anymore but try telling that to the handlers of these late-epoch dinosaurs from the last days of the oldschool music biz. Tix from Live Nation, with all the restrictions, surcharges, pat-downs, confiscations, mark-ups, waits, walks and weather issues that make summer in the Holmdel hills such a magical interlude. PNC Bank Arts Center, Garden State Parkway in Holmdel • 8pm/ $30 – $105
SATURDAY! Darlene Love at The Supper Club. It’s Christmas in July, quite literally — when Darlene Love takes the stage of Tim McLoone’s Supper Club as the latest guest of honor in the “Masters of Music” series, produced by Sammy Boyd and hosted by McLoone on the stage of the fabuluxe Howard Jetsons hotspot above the Asbury boards. The Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and Phil Spector studio session stalwart (’twas her who actually subbed as the Crystals on the breathtaking breakthrough “He’s A Rebel”) is best known for her work on A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector — in particular the soaring “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” a tune that she’s performed on David Letterman TV shows across four decades, five Presidential administrations and countless hairstyles. She returns to Mr. McLoone’s, backed by Tim and the Shirleys, with special guest Bob Bandiera — a master of music who knows a thing or ten about Christmas shows, famous friends and an encyclopedic knowledge of pop history. Call 732.774.1400 to reserve table. Tim McLoone’s Supper Club, 1200 Ocean Ave. (at Fifth Ave.), Asbury Park • 8pm/ $25 – $60
SUNDAY! Sand Blast Weekend presents Rip Tide Pool Party and Tea Dance. It’s Sand Blast Weekend in Asbury Park, and the annual poolside party returns to the Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel, with patio sounds from LA’s DrewG, NY’s Corey Craig and NJ’s Steve Sidewalk. It’s followed at 5pm by the official Closing Party, with DrewG spinning the coda. There’s lots more Sand Blast activity going on Sunday on the city’s beaches, boardwalk and boulevards; take it here for a full schedule. Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel, 1401 Ocean Ave. at Sixth Ave., Asbury Park • POOL PARTY: 11am-8pm/ $20 advance, $25 door • TEA DANCE: 5-8pm/ $5
SUNDAY! Matisyahu at the Stone Pony SummerStage. Trying to nail down a “current” photo of Matisyahu has suddenly become a tricky deal, as within recent months the one-time uber-recognizable Hasidic pop-reggae toaster has shaved his beard, lost the hat, regrew the beard, restored the yarmulke, relost the beard, showed up with a blond highlight job and inadvertently kicked off a rumor that we was actually Andy Samberg. What the ever-morphing looks seem to suggest is that this unlikely pop star remains a seeker in more than album title only — and when Matthew P. Miller takes The Stone Pony Summer Stage on Sunday evening, he’ll be working his latest release Spark Seeker and working his American Cat Stevens thing with, if you close your eyes, an earnest degree of consistency. The Dirty Heads and Moon Taxi open outdoors; doors open at 3pm inside the club for sets by Set It Free, Small Town Scoundrels, Scott Paul & the Parlay, X Phase, Turning Down Harvard, Matty Soms AND one of our new local organic favorites, Solo for Dolo — then there’s a “special late show” back inside the Stoney with Loose Fit. Stone Pony, Ocean and Second Aves., Asbury Park • 3pm/ $30 advance, $35 door ($10 after 10:30pm)
Award winning tech and business journalist Jon Gertner visits the Little Silver Public Library on Thursday evening, June 28, to discuss his book THE IDEA FACTORY: BELL LABS AND THE GREAT AGE OF AMERICAN INNOVATION. (photo by Leslie de la Vega/ Penguin Books)
There were those primitive computer-printout images — representations of Snoopy or Abe Lincoln, composed entirely of X’s or punctuation symbols — that our Aunt Shirley brought home from her job at Bell Labs; surely the god-damnedest thing that a circa-1966 kid had ever seen.
There was that oddly shaped tower outside the mirrored box of the corporate complex, a War-of-the-Worlds colossus standing starkly out from the cabbage patches, egg stands and petting-zoo farms of Holmdel. Then, when we got a bit older, there was the sneaking suspicion that this inscrutable center for arcane and eldritch research had more than a little bit to do with nearby Gravity Hill — as well as a lot to do with the eventual reconfiguring/ defusing of the locally famous “mystery spot.”
It’s not at all hyperbole to suggest that in its heyday, Bell Labs was where The Future took shape.
The list of accomplishments claimed by the Murray Hill-based research and development arm of AT&T included some of the genuine building blocks of modern life (transistors, lasers), game-changing milestones of the Computer Age (the UNIX system, C programming language, Information Theory) and a whole lot of landmark work in the fields of radio astronomy, fiber optics, solar cells and satellite communications.
Close to home, its local connection — both via the company’s major presence in Monmouth County, and the caliber of people it attracted to this once relatively sleepy corner of New Jersey — impacts our lives in ways that are as here-and-now as the handheld mobile device that you’re probably reading this on, and as shrouded in wonder as the very origins of the universe.
In the years between 1925 and the breakup of the old Bell System companies in 1984, Bell Labs was there on the frontlines of every significant sea-change in the ways that information is collected, stored, processed, organized, and transmitted. In fact, the work done here in Monmouth was directly responsible for at least two of the seven Nobel Prizes that Bell researchers were awarded in those six decades — an era that nationally known science/tech and business writer Jon Gertner brands The Great Age of American Innovation.
A longtime contributor to The New York Times Magazine and currently an editor at Fast Company, the Maplewood resident has been touring the northeast and appearing on TV/ radio/ web outlets in support of his first book, The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation. It’s a flurry of activity that brings Gertner to the greater Red Bank Green — a community with its own significant link to the Labs legacy — for an in-person appearance at the Little Silver Public Library on Thursday evening, June 28.
Douglas Ferrari, curator of the Shore Institute of Contemporary Arts, welcomes one and all to the 2012 edition of SculpToure in Asbury Park and Long Branch — and whether you’re driving an obscenely expensive Italian sports car or taking the shuttle, you’ll not want to miss this annual installation of three-dimensional visions, on view now through September 16.
We are BACK on the blog — and look out, we’re armed with CARTOONS, which we decided we’ll be messing around with on a trial basis as a way of paying tribute to some of our fave people on the local arts scene.
That said, we were never really “away” from our beat; just busying ourself with other work and sitting out both the (which unspooled just about a block and a half from our front door in Asbury town) in particular and Memorial Day weekend in general. Without bothering to get a press pass to the FlimFlamFest — and definitely without any desire to pay hundreds of bucks to see a bunch of 80s/ 90s oldie acts supported by bands who regularly play Starland Ballroom for cheap — we spent the weekend strolling about town; trolling for stories and listening to the featured acts loud ‘n clear through our living room window.
Stories of course were actually few (and then again, too few to mention) during what turned out to be one ruthlessly efficient exercise in crowd containment, corporate branding and controlled “chaos.” Having lived in Red Bank through many of those tense, claustrophobic Fireworks extravaganzas and music fests, we’d never seen such a well orchestrated movement of people and resources — to the point where, as reported elsewhere, the city’s streets remained eerily quiet. with parking spots staying vacant during what should have been one of the busiest weekends of the year, and many downtown merchants throwing in the towel early all three nights of the fest.
We weren’t immune to irrational Bamboozle Paranoia ourselves — in fact, in our gig as theater critic we passed on attending a May 19 opening night at Two River Theater in Red Bank (reckoning we’d have a better shot at battling the traffic Sunday afternoon), only to discover afterward that we’d missed an opportunity to meet ‘n greet one of our heroes and personal saviors — Robert Osborne of Turner Classic Movies!
Ah well, live and learn — or just be doomed to repeat, as Hornswoggle Fest recurs in AP next May. Molly Mulshine of the new online news site Asbury Park Sun (who did an ace job monitoring the real-time outlook around town that weekend) summed it up best in a feature article that appears in the current issue of TriCity News; for us it’s Excelsior and onward, into a newly summerized week of amusement and diversion — a few highly anticipated items from which we share with the flip of a paperless page…
Polly, Unsaturated: Poet, painter, priestess of (re)purpose Kathy “Polly” Polenberg — taking a brief breather from creating the scenery and the awesome “Audrey II” for the Forrestdale School production of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS — is among the artists represented in AWAKENINGS, the new installation at Gallery U in Red Bank.
“Freedom of Choice is what you got/ Freedom FROM Choice is what you want” sang the sage men in the flowerpot hats back around 1980-’bouts. It’s a bluesy lament we can simp-athize with, if for no other reason than the fact that our nights generally present such a senses-shattering range of options, invites and tentative commitments. The situation practically guarantees that somebody, somewhere who was kind enough to invite us to their event will be stood up in favor of some equally nice person (or, as happened all too many times this winter, a “Dirty Stay-at-Home” night of cartoon reruns).
Beggars, they say, can’t be choosers — but for experienced freeloaders, the world’s an erster. See if you can help us choose between competing options over the next seven days, March 16 through March 22..
FRIDAY 3/16: AWAKENINGS in Red Bank… Since they hit the Red Bank ground running with the opening of their second gallery space (a hiptown homestead of the original Montclair location), the folks at GALLERY U have brought a “freath o’ bresh air” back to the borough’s largely dormant artscape — and beginning this evening, the busy Broad Street hive hosts a new “mixed medium group show;” an assembly of more than 20 “established and emerging artists” spearheaded by Laura Brunetti (of Caring Canvas Project fame). There’s live music by The Aster Pheonyx Project — and among the many other creative folk represented will be one of our fave locals, Kathy Polenberg, a seemingly tireless creator of indoor/outdoor art, poetry, prose, theatrical scenery (including an awesome made-from-scratch killer plant for a school staging of Little Shop) and home accents that’ll make YOUR expensive decorator take a long walk off a very short Pier One. Gallery U and Boutique, 80 Broad St., Red Bank • 6-9pm/ FREE
…or Colin & Brad at the Basie? In an interview we did several years back with rubberfaced improv action figure Colin Mochrie, the star of TV’s long-(re)running Whose Line Is It Anyway? opined that “We have more of a communal, collaborative relationship with the audience than an adversarial one…you’re laughing from a different part of your brain.” For the better part of the past decade, Mochrie and his fellow Whose Line veteran Brad Sherwood have made an entirely planned and non-spontaneous point of performing an annual show at the Count Basie Theatre — and on March 16, The Two Man Group returns to Red Bank for another evening of impishly improv’d interactions including, but not limited to, “Standing, Sitting, Bending,” “Helping Hands” and the dreaded Blindfold Mousetrap Alphabet Game. Count Basie Theatre, 99 Monmouth St., Red Bank • 8pm/ $19.50 – $49.50
…but that ain’t the 1/7 of it; flip the pixelated page for enough pulse-pounding choices to knock you clear into next Thursday…
In an interview we did with her a few years back, Marjorie Conn told us, “When I first moved here, and I didn’t know anyone, I picked up all the local papers to get a sense of what was going on — and the minute I walked into the Stephen Crane House I knew immediately that it was where I wanted to do my thing.”
Her “thing,” as it turns out, was a brand of theater that was personal and political, confrontational and conversational, intimately cosmic and engagingly guerrilla — like, FRINGE, as in Provincetown Fringe Festival, the quirky quasi-underground brand she cultivated for years in the place that Norman Mailer called “a spit of shrub and dune.”
Ousted from her P’town stomping grounds in the name of upscale rents, exiled like an emperor to the Elba that is Asbury Park, the self-described “Conn Artist” set about doing that aforementioned “thing” in such hermit-crab haunts as restaurants, art galleries and retail establishments — finding her most comfortable berth at the historic Crane House, the circa 1878 cottage whose old dining room and kitchen regularly play host to poetry readings, film screenings, intimate concerts and writers’ workshops (and from which this very blog issues forth into the world).
It was at the Crane that the playwright and thespian introduced local audiences to her dynamite one-woman show Miss Lizzie A. Borden, a character portrait that we observed “took an axe to everything you’ve ever assumed about the infamously accused (but indisputably acquitted) figure of Yankee legend — illuminating a person who lived a life far beyond the morbid quatrain of the familiar rhyme.” Her many other projects at Crane’s crib have even included an original musical about the relationship between President Franklin Roosevelt, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and her longtime friend Lorena Hickok.
This Saturday, November the Fifth, Marj Conn and the Provincetown Fringe Festival in Asbury Park commandeer the Crane for their third annual Short Play Festival, an evening of original playlets collected under the beach-umbrella title By the Beautiful Sea.