An era-defining inductee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; a next-generation scion of one of American music’s most awesome bloodlines; a foundational figure from the big musical house that Bruce built — and a producer-director whose most recent project earned the Academy Award for Best Picture. All in a weekend’s work — and maybe all at the next table over, here in an ever-accelerating Asbury Park entertainment scene. But with the arrival of the Asbury Park Music and Film Festival, the celebrity-spotting carries a positively charged connection to the city’s rich cultural legacy, and to the young performers who will carry that torch into the future, and the wide world beyond the boardwalk.
Beginning with a special screening and jam session tonight, April 25 at the Paramount Theatre, and soldiering on through the weekend days and nights ahead, it’s the fifth annual edition of the sprawling event that originated under the auspices of the hard-working Asbury Park Music Foundation — and which serves as a high-profile fundraising vehicle for the nonprofit APMF and its ongoing endeavors in the fields of musical education, historical preservation, and live-concert presentation.
Coordinated in its earliest days by Matt Hockenjos (profiled in this space recently, in his role as drummer for alterna-surfpop band Dentist), the festival is guided these days by principals that include Sony Pictures Classics co-president Tom Bernard, Grammy nominated photographer-filmmaker (plus Sea.Hear.Now Festival founder) Danny Clinch, and Asbury Park Press publisher Tom Donovan. The board of directors, an august group of music biz pros, filmmakers and philanthropists, boasts such names as the Grammy Museum’s Bob Santelli, Batman franchise producer Michael Uslan, and radio personality Shelli Sonstein. What hasn’t changed is the core theme of “exploring music in film” — a mission that’s brought the likes of Bruce, Little Steven, Wyclef Jean, Doors drummer John Densmore, and Asbury’s own movie-biz mover ‘n shaker Danny De Vito to the festival’s stages — as well as the call “to benefit underserved youth in Asbury Park,” through organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs, the “traveling “Beat Bus” program, and the after-school program of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel church.
The historic Paramount proscenium is once again a centerpiece of the action, starting with tonight’s NJ premiere presentation of Andrew Slater’s documentary Echo in the Canyon. The chronicle of the pivotal sounds and scenes that issued forth from California’s Laurel Canyon community is chased by a post-show Q&A featuring Wallflowers frontman (and son-of-Bob) Jakob Dylan, as well as by a mini-concert in which Dylan joins Cat Power and Jade in a tribute to The Byrds, Beach Boys, The Mamas and the Papas and other signifiers of that scene.
Friday evening finds the boardwalk auditorium playing host to an honorary Asbury Parker whose “Quarter to Three” and other raucous party-starting hits of the early 60s became early Springsteen set staples — and who further cemented his Asbury connection when Bruce and Steve Van Zandt co-wrote and produced two popular “comeback” albums for him in the 1980s. Last seen locally delivering a dynamic free concert at Springwood Park, Gary U.S. Bonds never went away of course — and when he returns on April 26, it will be for an “Unusually Big Birthday Bash” that finds the R&B ringmaster heralding his approaching 80th birthday(!) in the company of Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers, plus those promised “special guests.”
As if that weren’t enough music-biz majesty to contain under one roof, the iconic David Crosby is in the house on Saturday night, as the Laurel Canyon linchpin (seen just last year in full concert mode at Monmouth University) makes a special live appearance at a screening of A.J. Eaton’s bio-documentary David Crosby: Remember My Name. He’s scheduled to be joined on stage by the film’s producer, boy rock journalist turned screenwriter (Fast Times at Ridgmont High; Singles) and director (Jerry Maguire; Almost Famous) Cameron Crowe.
Two titanic musical presences are there at the Paramount in spirit this weekend, as the immortal Big Man is remembered in the Saturday night NJ premiere of Clarence Clemons: Who Do You Think I Am?, a screening that’s followed by a Q&A featuring the participation of director Nick Mead and CC’s nephew Nick Clemons. And on Sunday at noon, a screening of Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool is augmented by a live jazz set featuring six-decade Asbury music maker (and APMF board member) Dorian Parreott (at left).
Also hovering over the Paramount in spirit are the aforementioned Boss, Springsteen specialist Thom Zimny presents a program of rare and never-before-seen footage from “The Thrill Hill Vault” of The Bruce Springsteen Archives, dating from the early years to recent tours. Backstreetseditor Chris Phillips moderates a panel discussion following the 3:30 pm Saturday screening.
From an infamously riotous 1958 Convention Hall concert by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers that nearly spelled the death of rock and roll in Asbury Park — to the “overnight” emergence of savior Springsteen, the sounds that kept the lights burning during the city’s darkest nights, and the dizzyingly diverse scene of a supercharged new century — the Tom Jones documentary Asbury Park: Riot, Redemption, Rock ‘n Roll climaxes with footage of the Boss uniting past and present, jamming with some of his earliest bandmates and with the pre-teen prodigies of the Lakehouse Academy, whose Lakehouse Jr. Pros play a special set following the film. The festival closes on Sunday night with Trey Anastasio: Between Me and My Mind). A documentary spanning the (relatively) private moments that go into the creation of Phish frontman Anastasio’s highly personal recent solo work, and the very public spectacle of the band’s New Year’s Eve show at Madison Square Garden. Relix magazine’s Mike Greenhaus joins producer Jamie Schutz for a post-screening Q&A.
Representing the hyper-current history of the city, downtown’s all-purpose auditiorium House of Independents hosts concert appearances by hiphop/pop heartthrob Jake Miller (Friday, 7 pm), and a pair of 25th anniversary shows by Florida-based punkpop institution Hot Water Music; spotlighting the albums No Division (Saturday, 8 pm) and Caution (Sunday, 7 pm).
Also in the House is a noon Saturday screening of Boy Howdy! The Story of CREEM Magazine. The legendary, irreverent, proto-punk rock mag that gave the world Lester Bangs, Lisa Robinson, James Wolcott, and Nick Tosches is celebrated with a post-Q&A by director Scott Crawford and Rich Russo. Sunday morning sees another installment of The Dylan Archives (Sunday, 11:30 am), a followup to last year’s successful event presented by the Dylan Archives at the Bob Dylan Center. Then at 1 pm Sunday, The Show’s the Thing: The Legendary Promoters of Rock steps outside the spotlight that shone on the superstar promoters to illuminate the concert impresarios and agents who built the rock concert touring industry of the 1960s and 1970s. Following the film, Rich Russo is joined by legendary Philly promoter Larry Magid, plus filmmakers Molly Bernsteinand Philip Dolin, for a discussion of a wild and crazy time before the corporate takeover of the 1990s.
Over on the corner of Ocean and Fifth, The Wonder Bar offers up sets by veteran ShoreCat Bobby Bandiera (Friday, 8 pm), next-gen showband Waiting On Mongo (pictured; Saturday, 8 pm), and the all-star, all-instro tribute project known as Jazz Is Phish (Sunday, 7 pm). At 1 pm Saturday, the Wonder stage hosts The Jersey Storytellers Project: Pride in the Arts, an afternoon of storytelling, featuring members of the LGBTQ community and sponsored by the Asbury Park Press.
At Danny Clinch’s nearby Transparent Gallery, significant career “firsts” — and significant firsts that have been learned along the way — are the topic, as Ivy Charmtaz of News 12 New Jersey moderates a Female Firsts panel discussion featuring actress and former MTV VJ Karen Duffy, artist Kris Moran, inspirational speaker Lockey Maissonneuve, and sailor-activist Tracy Edwards, whose 1989 entry as leader of an all-female crew in the Whitbread Round the World Race is the subject of Maiden, a documentary to be screened prior to the 3:30 Saturday panel ($10 donation requested).
Not to be forgotten in the shuffle mix, the far-famed Stone Pony is the setting for a long-overdue return to the Shore by Hoboken-based Jersey alterna-pop tastemakers Yo La Tengo (Friday, 6 pm); a “Po’ Boy Jam” featuring Clinch and his Tangiers Blues Band (Saturday, 8 pm); a Music of Bruce Springsteen for Kids activity session presented by Rock and Roll Playhouse (Sunday, 11 am) — and a climactic Sunday Evening with the Farrelly Brothers (pictured below) that finds Deadline Hollywood’s Mike Fleming interviewing siblings Peter (Oscar winner for 2018’s Green Book) and Bobby Farrelly on their body of work that includes such madcap milestones as Dumb and Dumber, Shallow Hal, Kingpin and The Three Stooges.
The Asbury Park Music and Film Festival makes its maiden voyage outside the city limits of Asbury Park on Sunday night, when Red Bank’s Count Basie Center for the Arts plays host to Yas Queen!, in which master showman Anthony “Remember Jones” D’Amato leads a big 10-piece band and accompanying choir through a celebration of the music of Queen and the late great Freddie Mercury.