Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), March 14, 2019
So the local St. Patrick’s Day parades — both the long-established ballyhoo in Belmar, and the more recently minted shamrock shake in Asbury Park — have bleated their last bagpipe note; honked their last hook ‘n ladder horn; swept up their last tossed bag of Skittles, Nerf torpedo, or busted balloon animal as they’ve moved on down the avenue.
Here in that strange interlude when our daylight-savings adjusted eyes spring-ahead to visions of the impending summer — but when we’re still dealing with the occasional fall-back of late winter weather — it’s easy to find ourselves in a holding pattern of sorts. With the season of outdoor concerts and beachfront festivals just out of sight, and with early spring attractions like the AP Music and Film Fest yet to commence, we look for a hook to hang our revelry upon in the meantime — something like, say, the actual Day of Saint Patrick, an extended observance that casts a warm green glow over the finer establisments of our fair Shore all this weekend (and then some).
Whether your preference is a publick house that’s been part of the local landscape for a generation — or a stripmall tavern that’s been embraced like a fond family heirloom — you’ll find that the festive weekend seldom announces itself with a whisper. Keynoting it all with a robust blast of the bagpipes is Kelly’s Tavern at 43 Route 35 in Neptune City, where the pipes sound beginning at the noon hour on Friday, March 15. With two sessions of live bagpiping on Friday and Saturday (12-2 pm; 5-8 pm) — and a St. Pat’s Sunday that begins in reveille-wth-revelry fashion at 7 am — the neighborhood landmark keeps the momentum going on March 17 with DJ tunes from 4 pm, and a broadcast by radio station 107.1 The Boss that goes live at 11 am.
Over at Kelly’s sister establishment Clancy’s Tavern in Neptune — just a few staggered steps from Asbury city limits, and right across Main Street from the threshold of Ocean Grove — DJ Dave spins “Irish Drinking Music” from 4 pm as a Saturday “St. Patrick’s Eve Pre-Game,” while the live bagpipers play for two sessions (12-2 pm; 4-6 pm) on Sunday, with DJ Tony seeing the night through to 10 pm.
While the victuals vibe has run more toward vacation cuisine (or an eclectic American experience that’s reflected in the musical menu), Marilyn Schlossbach’s Asbury boardwalk flagship Langosta Lounge continues a newly minty tradition here on the big green weekend, with a Friday/ Saturday double-dose of dexterity from two exemplars of the Shore scene’s blues-rock royalty: harpist Sandy Mack (performing on March 15 as “Sandy O’Mack and His McJamily”) and guitarmeister Billy Hector (supercharging Saturday night as “Billy O’Hector’s Electric Explosion”). Regardless of their bona fides as true sons of the Emerald Isle, these two veteran survivors and signifiers of the Jersey Shore Bar Wars remain consistent crowd pleasers and top-draw attractions at venues up and down the oceanside clubscape. Catch Mr. Mack in his regular Sunday role as patriarch to the extended Jamily on March 17, inside the lobby Soundbooth Lounge at The Asbury Hotel— and check out our archived interviews with Sandy and Billy on our blog site, upperWETside.wordpress.com.
Speaking of Shore blues-rock royalty, couples don’t come much more regalthan the powerhouse partnership of Matt and Eryn O’Ree, the union of two headline-worthy talents that’s served to double the audience’s pleasure and fun on stages that have ranged from theater-scale settings to the most intimate corners of the club scene. On Saturday night, Rooney’s Restaurant on the Long Branch waterfront is the setting as Eryn is joined by some tantalizingly teasered Friends for some sets of her glamorously smoky, torchy vocal signatures. Then on Tuesday, March 19 — in an event that serves to unofficially extend the weekend-long spirit of Irish music heritage into the foothills of the working week — Bon Jovi tour veteran Matt “O’Ree-appears” with his full Band at Asbury Park’s Wonder Bar, as special guests for a Band of Friends salute to the late great Irish-born multi-instrumentalist blues master Rory Gallagher. Catch Matt, Eryn and company when they return to the Wonder Bar stage on May 1st — and connect to our archived interview with Matt O’Ree on upperWETside.wordpress.com.
That Tuesday toddy stands as an Irish-cream nightcap to a Wonder weekend that pays particular homage to the Dead — as Saturday night boasts an in-person appearance by legend-in-his-own-write Grateful Dead/ Jerry Garcia roadie Big Steve Parish (see our item below), and the St. Patrick’s Day Jam action commences at 3 pm Sunday, with a full afternoon/ evening of sets by those Jersey jammernauts, the Cosmic Jerry Band (pictured above).
Meanwhile, back at Rooney’s Oceanfront, the evening of Saint Patrick offers up a very special Sunday edition of live music, with an equally special guest performer: Brooklyn-based troubador John Rafferty. It’s a welcome return to the local stage for the singer and songwriter whose best known originals (“King of New York,” “Coney Island,” “Brooklyn, You Owe Me One”) capture a sense of time and place like the best of the best.
While it needn’t necessarily be St. Pat’s day to enjoy a round at one’s favorite neighborhood pub, what better reason could there be to stop in at Patrick’s in Neptune City (where live bagpipe music fills the air on Sunday the 17th), or Kim Marie’s on Kingsley Street in Asbury Park (where the doors open at 10 am on Sunday as a followup to last week’s Parade Day festivities), or Johnny Mac’s House of Spirits on Main Street in Asbury, or the Celtic Cottage in Long Branch’s West End (where the spirit of the season pervades and prevails round the clock, round the house, round the calendar year).
If it’s an honest to goodness Pub Crawl you’re angling for, however, you’ve come to the right place if you’ve beamed down to Asbury town on Saturday the 16th. Beginning at 12 pm — and commencing from the Asbury Ale House in the Steinbach building — the Second Annual Luck of the Irish St. Paddy’s Pub Crawl takes in some mighty pretty scenery that extends from the Ale House to the Brickwall Tavern on Cookman Avenue; to the Langosta and Cubacan on the famous boardwalk, to the reborn Asbury Lanes on Fourth Avenue, with more participating places possibly to come. Party pass tickets ($11.77 per person) can be reserved by selecting the Asbury Park option on pubcrawls.com.
Up in Sea Bright, the newly reopened Donovan’s Reef rings in the season with Grateful tributeers Dead Bank kicking off the Friday schedule on March 15, and a Sunday St. Patrick’s Day party that features live bagpipers and a corned beef buffet through the afternoon. And, while the entertainment schedules continue apace at Tim McLoone’s Rum Runner (Sea Bight) and Pier House (at Pier Village, Long Branch), Mr. McLoone himself manifests on Saturday night at his eponymous Supper Club on the Asbury boards; joining his band The Shirleys (including Layonne Holmes of the O’Ree band) for a set with special guest Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Darlene Love (see item below, and of course our archived interview with Ms. Love on the upperWETside).
Indeed, what’s in a name? While there’s no assurance we’ll be hearing traditional and/or stereotypical Irish tunes from Natalie Farrell (Saturday at Asbury Park Yacht Club) or Chris Morrisy (Sunday at The Marina Grill in Oceanport), we have every confidence that the spirit of musical inspiration will guide these performers through their sets — and when the Thunder 106 radio personality (with the liltingly irish name) Megan O’Shea visits Danny Clinch’s Transparent Gallery space at the Asbury Hotel on Saturday afternoon, it will be as emcee and impresaria for another in a series of “Let’s Get Folked Up” acoustic showcases.
In other words, it’s all good, and all appropriately greenon the scene if it moves you musically and ‘motionally. So feel free to spend your St. Patrick’s Day digging the intimate jazz stylings of Doug Clarke (McLoone’s Supper Club brunch) or Debra and Patrick (Hotel Tides, Asbury Park); catch Asbury hip-hop artist Drew the Recluse on a House of Independents bill with Wicca Phase Springs Eternal; groove to the rockabilly-flavored roots combo sounds of the Don Diego Trio (imported from Sicily by Vincent Minervino and Magdalena O’Connell of Hi-Tide Recordings and the AP Surf Music Festival) when they play a 3 pm matinee at The Whitechapel Projects in downtown Long Branch — and follow Vinnie Minnie (aka DJ Hi-Tide) when he takes his monthly Last Call evening spin at Little Buddy Hideaway, the tropic-island-nest annex to Asbury Park’s Brickwall. We’ll see you here for the inevitable Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day celebration — and each and every week, right here in this space!