Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, June 21 2018
Suddenly THIS Summer rears its head; shows its face (and maybe shows its rear, just for benny-time giggles) — and not a moment too soon, as the season of outdoor entertainments brings the top-down thrills to Asbury town’s boardwalk, beach and boulevards…
SOUNDS: Mihali on the Sand
With the official appearance of The Longest Day comes the return of Jams on the Sand, the salt-air concert series that sets up stage tonight, June 21 on the closest thing to a floating bandstand in the city of sounds: the beach-top enclosure on the north side of Convention Hall’s Anchor’s Bend bar. Boasting spectacular views of surf, seagulls, and sky (and offering a pleasing balcony along the boardwalk rail), the schedule keynotes with a 5 pm set by Bencoolen and a 6 pm headliner by Mihali Savoulidis. Touring behind his debut solo release, the moonlighting frontman of Vermont-based band Twiddle (who sticks around town to open up for Trevor Hall at the Stone Pony on Friday) ups the ante on an Anchor’s Bend season that further features the Asbury Park Surf Music Festival on August 18, as well as an a regular Wednesday evening sway with Shoreggae masters the Predator Dub Assassins.
STAGES: THE FANTASTICKS at Monmouth U
It was the longest-running show in Off Broadway history; one that played for more than 17,000 performances at the Sullivan Street Playhouse in Greenwich Village — winning a special Tony Award, and helping to launch the careers of actors ranging from Jerry Orbach and F. Murray Abraham, to Kristin Chenoweth and Glenn Close. Adapted from a comedy by Cyrano de Bergerac author Edmond Rostand, the 1960 musical The Fantasticks has become unfairly known as the show of choice for cash-strapped theater troupes with nothing in the budget for scenery — but the Harvey Schmidt-Tom Jones hit is far more than the sum of its screens and sawhorses, and beginning this weekend, the show rekindles its magic at the Lauren K. Woods Theatre(on the east end of the Monmouth University campus) in a Shadow Lawn Summer Stage production that traces a direct connection to its world-record run.
Starring as El Gallo, the bandit-for-hire who serves as the show’s narrator, is David Edwards (pictured), who played the role for more than 500 performances at Sullivan Street, and who was featured in the 2003 documentary Try to Remember: The Fantasticks. Fellow Off Broadway cast member J.C. Hoyt returns to the role of Henry, the Old Actor who assists the bandit in an elaborate ruse designed to unite the young neighbors Matt Keenan Buckley) and Luisa Sarah Beth Andrews). Directed by Michael Perreca, it’s a tale of young lovers, old actors, faked feuds, staged abductions, and affections genuinely earned by the harsh light of experience — with a compact cast, a bare minimum of set elements, and an engaging score highlighted by the hit ballad “Try to Remember.”
Brett Lowell, Felipe Gorostiza, Brandon M. Wiener and Evan Kudish also star in this timeless tale of both romance and reality, told with a bracing humor and a sense of stage magic that never goes out of style. The Fantasticks opens on Friday, June 21, and continues through July 1 with performances on Thursdays (8 pm), Fridays (2 pm family matinees and 8 pm), Saturdays (8 pm) and Sundays (3 pm). Tickets are $30 for adults, with seniors, Monmouth alumni and employees admitted for $20, and children and current Monmouth students at $10. Reserve through the Monmouth University Performing Arts Box Office at 732-263-6889, or online at www.monmouth.edu/arts.
SOUNDS: Gogol Bordello at the Lanes
Fronted by Ukrainian-born street-singer/ park-bench philosopher (and sometime screen actor) Eugene Hütz; incubated on NYC’s Lower East Side — and seemingly belonging to everyone at once, and no place in particular — the “Gypsy punk” force of nature known as Gogol Bordello remains a dynamite live act that touches something tribal in audiences all over the world, with its mix of old-country instrumentation, urban-bohemian attitude, and the peculiar philosophy of the ringleader whose folk-core stomper anthems “American Wedding” and “Immigraniada (We Comin’ Rougher)” remain caustic commentaries on a society that too often finds itself at odds with the rest of the planet. A fairly frequent visitor to Asbury Park, the band makes its first appearance at the refitted Asbury Lanes with a Friday night fracas, for which tickets ($35) are available at asburylanes.com.
STAGES: David Cross at the Paramount
Despite having pretty much conquered comedy, in all of its forms — from sketchy-skit weirdness (Mr. Show) to offbeat sitcoms (Arrested Development), kid flicks (the Kung Fu Panda and Alvin franchises), Grammy nominated albums and more — David Cross just can’t stay away from the stand-up stage, anymore than he can avoid the semi-regular role of finding himself at the center of a polarizing public stance or showbiz controversy. Here in the early leg of his 46-city “Oh Come On 2018 World Tour,” the veteran writer-performer with the satirically surreal edge makes his Asbury Park debut, with a Friday night concert at the venerable Paramount Theater. It’s an offering that finds the comic “beyond aroused to get back out on the road and bring my very special, artisanal small batch hand crafted, 100% organic jokes and jibberings to a venue near you,” and available tickets ($33) can be reserved through ticketmaster.com.
SOUNDS: John Cafferty at the Stone Pony
Honorary Shore Rockers? They don’t come any more key-to-the-city than John Cafferty, the longtime lanky frontman of The Beaver Brown Band, whose spiritual bond with the big, bluesy, Brucey, anthemic Asbury Park sound dates back even well before the 1980 regional hit single “Wild Summer Nights” — and who cemented his status on a nationwide scale with the passionately purveyed (and platinum plated) soundtrack to the 1983 film Eddie and the Cruisers, as well as its 1985 follow-up Tough All Over. Having emerged from the major-label music biz mangler machine with their reputation as a rock-solid concert act intact, Cafferty and the 2018 edition of the Beavs return once more to the Stone Pony — scene of so many of their wildest summer sets — in a Saturday night stand for which tix ($30 advance; $32 d.o.s.) can be had at stoneponyonline.com.
SOUNDS: The Swagmatics take it outside
Any lover of live music Asbury-style could tell you that Desiree Spinks and her award winning complement of Swagmatics (defined as “one whose swagger happens automatically”) are that rare band that hits the sonic spot in practically any setting and situation, from tux-and-gown formal functions to the sort of street-gritty clubs seemingly held standing by band stickers — or even in fresh-air forums that offer a million bucks’ worth of funkified classic soul, fabulously free of charge. On a week that kicks off with a Friday night set by the band on the indoor stage of Langosta Lounge, Des and the Swagmatics are called upon to keynote the 2018 schedules for not one but two great summer series, produced by the Asbury Park Music Foundation. On June 25, the amazing Music Mondays slate returns to Springwood Park (just a couple blocks west of the train tracks at Springwood and Atkins Avenues) with Des and the boys joined by Aya on a bill that begins at 6 pm. Then on Wednesday, June 27, the inaugural Asbury Park LIVE show of the season finds the Swagmatics opening for the Vansaders at the “First Avenue Green” area on the Asbury Park boardwalk. If you’re not already a Swagmatic fanatic, it’s a fine double-shot intro to the band’s re-energized takes on R&B/funk faves from the 70s, 80s and beyond — with donations accepted for the acclaimed educational programs of the city-based Foundation. Take it to asburyparkmusiclives.org for full schedule details on these and other APMF live music series and events.
SOUNDS: ERYN at the House of Indies
Having recently tied the guitar-string knot with Shore scene stalwart/ championship bluesman/ Bon Jovi tour bandmate Matt O’Ree, the artist formerly known as Eryn Shewell opted to rebrand herself — not with a new surname, but by stripping things down to the essential Eryn. Or, Lady E if you will; the name of her new six-song EP release, and the sorceress-stone signifier for the newest chapter of a career that’s seen the big-voiced belter with the unerring sense of classic glamour delivering her torchy wares in the company of combos like The Whiskey Devils (or in contexts that have ranged from acoustic-duet damsel to big-band bombshell). On Wednesday, June 27, the youngest-ever inductee into NJ’s Blues Hall of Fame returns to Asbury Park (where O’Ree proposed to her on the stage of the Wonder Bar in December 2016) for a House of Independents event in celebration of her ambitious new mini-album. Produced by Jack Daley (Lenny Kravitz, Joss Stone), and featuring an impressive little-black-book of guest contributors, the no-filler thriller boasts breakout cuts like “The You Missing From Me” (penned by Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan) and the first single, the defiantly upbeat “Hallelujah You’re Gone” (which is not, by the way, a sequel to her oft-performed cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”). A monument to new life choices, old relationships, fresh attitudes and fine vintage pop sounds, Lady E is the centerpiece for an evening that also promises to summon several of the singer’s signature covers of hits from Aretha Franklin, Al Green, Chaka Khan and others. It also finds the star supported by the Shady Street Show Band, with special guest (and the scene’s premier flying ace of the Hammond B-3 organ) Matt Wade. Go to houseofindependents.com for tickets ($22-$40), or take it right across Cookman to the brick-and-mortar box office at Lola’s European Café.
But wait, there’s more — including a multi-artist benefit for the AP Music Foundation at Danny Clinch’s Transparent Gallery (Thursday); an evening of masterful acoustic artists at McLoone’s ringmastered by “saloon singer” extraordinaire Pat Guadagno (also Thursday); an entire weekend of Lakehouse Academy student showcase concerts at the Wonder Bar (Friday, Saturday, Sunday); the Saint-ly return of Jim Boggia’s ukelele-Springsteen tribute “Bruce Off Broadway” (Saturday); the latest in a World Cup series of Asbury Park Football Club games-and-music events at the Yacht Club (Saturday and Sunday); a musical celebration of Israel’s 70th anniversary at the Axelrod PAC (Sunday); and some House of Indies face time from Face to Face (Sunday). Check the papery pages of that fightin’ weekly THE COASTER for this week’s full rundown of sights and sounds and screens and stages and such (and look elsewhere on this space for an exclusive conversation with Darlene Love, returning to Mr. McLoone’s on June 22)!