Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, August 30 2018
The traffic cones are being brought in from out front of neighborhood driveways; the “Bennys Go Home” banners carefully furled and stored away for another season of sun and sand and sight and sound.
All around us, the coming of Labor Day Weekend signals the imminent arrival of Local Summer, that golden interval of gorgeous days, comfy-cool nights, and just enough breathing space to maybe seem like an invitation to a private party; a bit of a reward for all those who “survived” another prime-time summer of action and activity, as interest in the Asbury Park area continues to explode onto the national stage.
Of course anyone who makes their home here these days knows that it doesn’t exactly become a place of quiet contemplation when September’s curtain comes down — why, just one weekend from now we’ll be welcoming the annual Asbury Oysterfest, the Ocean Grove Giant Fall Flea Market, and the Bond Street Block Party, about all of which more to come in the pages of next week’s Coaster. The weekend after that brings the Indian Summer Music Festival beachside — and the annual Porchfest to some novel side-street settings — while the tail end of September ups the ante big-time, with the ambitious arrival of the first Sea.Hear.Now Festival.
But when the last warm-weather wave recedes from shore, we’ve still got the music — the ever-eclectic array of homegrown sounds that keep the party going pretty much year-‘round, and that extend the Local Summer vibe to a point long after the last taillights of the Bennys (oh, and by the way guys: it’s pronounced “Be Nnice”) fade into the west.
The seven days and nights to come represent a genuinely fine opportunity to sample many of our indigenous musical entertainers, and it fittingly begins TONIGHT, August 30, with the final seasonal outing by an organization that traces its pedigree back to the Arthur Pryor Band’s wildly popular performances of a hundred years ago. Now under the baton of John Luckenbill, the multi-generational Asbury Park Concert Band delivers the old-school goods with a FREE set of patriotic standards, on the boardwalk outside the iconic HoJo’s building at Fifth Avenue (now home to McLoone’s Supper Club and Robinson Ale House). In case of rain, the 7 pm show moves down to the other end of the boards, inside the “Casino Walkway” — but it’ll take more than a few drizzly drops to keep this living tradition from flying its grand old flag.
Downtown at House of Independents, a Thursday night of all-Jersey bands spotlights sets by some very frequent visitors to the city’s scene, including ‘Brunswick-based (plus Bruce and BonJo-blessed) Bobby Mahoney with his band The Seventh Sons, and Middletown’s wonderfully witty-wise singstress and songwritrix Avery Mandeville, backed as always by The Man Devils. Then there’s Levy + the Oaks, a pride-of-Asbury act that’s gradually evolved from a straightforward Americana trip to a punchier powerpop platform that’s shown to good advantage on recent recordings like “Another Night Out in Asbury.” North Jersey band The Vaughns headlines the bill, with doors at 7 pm and tickets ($10) from houseofindependents.com.
Springsteen notwithstanding, when the re-imagined Asbury Lanes reset its pins this past May, the first big bill of the “soft opening” was highlighted by Asbury’s own The Cold Seas, the “dark alternative pop” band whose exceptional psych-mare songscapes top a Friday night program at The Saint that opens door at 7:30 and further features another star on the ascendant — Drew the Recluse, of the Black Suburbia Music Group (watch for him in the upcoming inaugural of a new Suburbia Fridays series at the Asbury Park Music Foundation).
Just over the Neptune line at Clancy’s, Jonathan Tea hosts another in a monthly local-spotlight series of Nashville Style Songwriters in the Round sessions. Down on the boardwalk, the sister stages of Marilyn Schlossbach’s Langosta Lounge and AP Yacht Club respectively feature later-nite Friday sets by Desiree “Des” Spinks and the Swagmatics (the fantastic funk/soul unit that makes itself very much at home in settings that range from black-tie galas to open-air freebies), and Matt Wade (the multi-instrumentalist who’s logged many heroic missions as a Hammond B-3 flying ace).
Any discussion of far-out, finely honed, full-tilt funksoul bands based in Asbury town must by all rights include The Shady Street Show Band, the 6-7-8-9 piece organization that plays the Langosta on Saturday night, September 1 — and that’s been taking the big-band SOAP template into welcome new territory. Same can be said for Waiting For Mongo, the seven-piece combo that has really upped its public profile in recent months — and that brings its unique take to the Wonder Bar for an 8 pm start and a $10 ticket (they’ll be at the Asbury Hotel the next night, and out in the field for Oysterfest weekend). Right across the street at Robinson’s, Allenhurst original Sal Boyd entertains in a stripped-down setting that promises to show the son of promoter Sammy Boyd as a pure talent who can own any size room from piano bar to proscenium theater.
Speaking of hot new Asbury Park bands who are gleefully rewriting the rules of the show-band game here in the twenty-teens, we’ve already enthused over Remember Jones here in this space, but this Sunday, September 2 offers the hitherto uninitiated a tremendous chance to get acquainted, when Anthony D’Amato and his truly awesome troupe of tributeers commandeer the Asbury Festhalle for a holiday weekend afternoon session that kicks off at 4 pm. Across town at The Asbury Hotel, the venerable blues-harp virtuoso Sandy Mack reconvenes his Jamily and friends for another 4-7 pm entry in the ongoing series, with Dead diamonds and classic rock gemstones warming up the pool tables, conversation pit, and award winning bar of the Soundbooth Lounge. Then at 8 pm, longtime scene stalwarts Secret Sound have a special treat lined up, as they hit the Wonder Bar stage with a special salute to the songs of David Bowie that promises a jammy new perspective to the Thin White Duke, as they dare to “zag” where others simply “Ziggy.” Tickets ($10) from wonderbarasburypark.com.
Labor Day Monday offers another chance to catch a deeply rooted (if more recently minted) tradition, when Kenny “Stringbean” Sorensen faces the sea once more for another open-air session outside the AP Yacht Club. The lanky Shore-rock icon (subject of the celebrated documentary film Bike Riddim) is joined at 6 pm by The Boardwalk Social Club for a pure blues/rock jam that’s due to continue through the month of Mondays, inside or outside the APYC as conditions warrant.
If ever there was a singer-songwriter whose seasoned voice “gets under your doorstep like that first breath of sweater weather,” it’s George Wirth, the Brick resident whose Words and Music series (begun at the old Twisted Tree) continues up at Keyport’s Espresso Joe’s — and whose epic “Memorial Drive” is a melancholy history lesson on a town that he just can’t quit. The co-host of many a Rosie’s Café house party is among the featured artists on Tuesday, September 4, as the year-round Café Artiste Songwriters Series maintains its “best-kept-secret” stand up at the third-floor café of Ocean Grove’s Jersey Shore Arts Center.
For much of the summertime season, the beachside bar and surfside stage just off the coast of Anchor’s Bend at Convention Hall has welcomed the reggae/rootsrock sounds of the Predator Dub Assassins to the Wednesday week — and on the evening of September 5, Timothy “P-Dub” Boyce and company perform their penultimate humpday dance in slinky style, with songs from their new release Songs in the Key of Sea. The Assassins will be back for one more extended-summer round on September 12 (and plying their hit-men trade throughout the “off” season without fail), so think of these season-capping sessions as merely a prelude to a Local Summer that truly starts in earnest next week — when we trust we’ll see you ‘neath the What’s Up weathervane of The Coaster!
SOUNDS: Ziggy Marley, Steel Pulse on the SummerStage
Asbury Park — that coastal crossroads of jazz, gospel, vocal R&B, and streetwise rock and roll — has long embraced reggae as a kindred-spirit cousin to the soulful passions, eloquent statements, and sea-kissed vibe of our own homegrown sounds. TODAY, August 30, the prime-time beach interval of 2018 is summoned to a close in sensuous style, with a Stone Pony SummerStage triple-bill of unimpeachable pedigree and real majesty. The late and eternally great Bob Marley’s eldest son, Grammy winning bandleader and philanthropist Ziggy Marley faces east to the sea in the midst of a major North American tour behind the new album Rebellion Rises, the most recent milestone for a maturing artist (and a characteristically family-affair project for the extended Marley family). Joining Ziggy and band will be Steel Pulse, the British-based veterans (and tireless champions of social justice) fronted for more than 40 years by David Hinds. The young SoCal reggae unit Tribal Seeds energizes the afternoon show at its 4 pm opening, with tickets ($26-$33) from stoneponyonline.com.
“As a drummer, playing those 9 pm to 2 am club dates, you had to know how to play everything,” Max Weinberg told The Coaster in an interview from this past June. “Dixieland, cha cha, merengue…and whatever was playing on the radio.” Putting those formative years as a hard-working musician to the best of use here in 2018 — to say nothing of his years backing up performers of every musical stripe as Conan O’Brien’s TV bandleader, and his long tenure with a certain prolific songwriter who’s never been shy about pitching a cover-tune curveball to his international audiences — the sartorially splendid skinsman has found himself in the best and most like-minded of company with Max Weinberg’s Jukebox.
For the people-pleasing project personally curated and conducted by Mighty Max, the drummer has joined forces with three of The Weeklings (Grammy nominated songsmith/ Broadway Beatlemania baby/ Jersey music legend Glen Burtnik; counselor-at-rock Bob Burger, and sought-after session ace John Merjave), that most fascinating of excursions beyond the inner groove of Lennon-McCartney-Harrison lore and legend. Together they’re teaming up to fight criminally boring bar-band business as usual — but the most crucial component is the audience, who select from a video menu of some 300 songs (including a generous helping of Beatles and Springsteen signatures), each of which is fielded to fruition by this crack faculty of pop music professors. The Jukebox jury returns to the Stone Pony for the second time this summer on Friday, August 31; take it to stoneponyonline.com for tickets ($45 in advance) to the 7 pm show — then search this site for our archived interviews with Max Weinberg (June 13) and Glen Burtnik (May 17).
SOUNDS: Doo Wop Extravaganza at the Great Auditorium
For the final pop music event in what’s been an abbreviated schedule of summer-season concerts at Ocean Grove’s Great Auditorium, this Saturday night, September 1 sees a Doo Wop Extravaganza package delivered to the doorstep of the venerable wooden flagship of family entertainment — one that actually transcends the streetcorner strictures of the 1950s era, in favor of featuring some of the top hitmakers in the realms of girl group pop, “Brill Building” songcraft, and the sort of mini-symphonies that thrilled listeners during the era of the transistor radio. Anyone who saw the Marvel space opera Guardians of the Galaxy 2 knows that the sound of Jay & the Americans can make for an exhilarating soundtrack — and when Jay Black (above) brings his legendary vocal skills back to the local stage, he’s sure to pack such dramatically sweeping standards as “Come a Little Bit Closer,” “Only in America,” and “Cara Mia.” The original Shirelles frontwoman Shirley Alston Reeves (below) joins her 21st century girl group for a set of awesome hits that includes “Soldier Boy,” “Baby It’s You,” and “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” The 2018 touring editions of The Drifters, The Coasters, and The Duprees round out the bill as stewards to a collective legacy that boasts “Under the Boardwalk,” Up on the Roof,” On Broadway,” “Save the Last Dance For Me,” “This Magic Moment,” “Charlie Brown,” “Poison Ivy,” “Yakety Yak,” “You Belong to Me,” “Have You Heard” and countless others. Tickets ($20-$65) to the 8 pm show available at the Auditorium box office or oceangrove.org.
The Season 11 American Idol winner, and the soulful singer best known for the chart-topper “I Don’t Want to Be” are on the road together — apparently taking turns as the headline attraction — even though neither guy has a new record to plug here in 2018. No matter, as Phillip Phillips (above) and Gavin Degraw (below) have taken this opportunity to acquaint themselves with audiences from coast to coast in top-down summertime settings like the Stony Pony SummerStage, the plein-air proscenium at which both artists make their Asbury Park debuts on Sunday evening, September 2. With gates opening at 5:30 pm, it’s a shot of concert-circuit cred for a couple of maturing young stars who’ve looked good on TV — Phillips on Idol, America’s Got Talent, major sporting events, and al the right talk shows; Degraw on One Tree Hill and even Dancing with the Stars — and whose songwriting and performing skills continue to earn them new fans and burnish their reputations way beyond the realm of last year’s next big thing. Tickets ($37-$67) at stoneponyonline.com.
But wait, there’s more…there’s always more…and when you order in the next ten minutes we’ll throw in an absolutely FREE capper to the 2018 slate of Jams on the Sand surfside sessions on THURSDAY, AUGUST 30, when New Kingston closes things out in style (and with a post-show afterparty featuring Bella’s Bartok at the Wonder Bar)…FRIDAY finds the sandy stage at Anchors Bend continuing to serve, as it hosts the Talking Heads tribute Start Making Sense…even as the Best of the Eagles take it to the occupancy limit, topside at McLoone’s. If you happen to miss Friday’s event at Danny Clinch’s Transparent Gallery, in which the “Zachademy of Music” pays tribute to Queen, take it to the Stone Pony SATURDAY for an encore appearance by fab Freddy mercantilists Almost Queen…then to the Langosta on SUNDAY, when “Los Friends” pay tribute to kingo-popper Michael Jackson…Labor Day MONDAY sees the Anchors Bend hosting the last in a seasonal series of Industry Party events featuring the Princes of Tides, while singer-songster Michael Scotto takes it to The Saint for an earlybird acoustic show on TUESDAY. Keep it Saint-side on WEDNESDAY, for the local debut of Japan’s Mugen Hoso — then be back all the brighter and earlier next Thursday, when THE COASTER brings you the full rundown of music, movies, theater, comedy and MORE, plus a look at the post-Labor Day season extenders that are the annual Oysterfest, and the Bond Street Block Party!