Jo Bonanno and the Godsons of Soul summon the “Spirit of Asbury Park” in a free July 14 concert on the West End Beach.

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), June 6, 2019

Imagine if you will a summer concert event with your choice of first-come/first-served seating. No shuttle queues, no turnstile patdowns, no confiscated cameras, water bottles, umbrellas or Pringles packs. And best of all, no platinum-club pricing levels or service charges. In the words of Zappa, it’s all Absolutely FREE, so you low-budget Lotharios and daddy-track Don Juans can do your cheap-date thing.

Yes, it’s Free Outdoor Concert Season again — and from Avon on up to Sea Bright, the boardwalks, beaches, and bandshells are getting set to welcome a beach-blanket brigade of neighbors in search of some savvy sounds, ‘neath the setting sun and stars. It’s a musical menu that runs the gamut from operatic arias, big band jazz, and streetcorner soul, to show-band grooves, acoustic Americana, Latin jams, garage rock, hip hop, and all stylistic territory between. And did we mention FREE?

While the late-spring breezes have already been tested by various festival performers (as well as by hardy souls like Stringbean and the Boardwalk Social Club, in session Monday evenings outside Langosta Lounge, and Wednesdays at Anchor’s Bend), the plein-air panorama starts in earnest right here and now — so grab your freshly webbed lawn chairs and broken-in blankets, and enjoy the complimentary sunsets and the prime people-watching opportunities.


With the Atlantic waves and the whole wide-screen sky as the backdrop, few live music settings are as made-to-order as that of Jams on the Sand, the annual series that stakes out the beach-top bandstand, bar and dance floor of Anchor’s Bend off the north side of the good ship Convention Hall. While attendees are encouraged to come on down and enjoy the specialties of the Bend’s kitchen and cocktail crew, all are welcome to take in the show from the boardwalk “mezzanine,”starting on June 20 with midwest funk/rock unit The Main Squeeze — and continuing Thursdays at 5 pm through August 29 with a diverse dance card of Asbury returnees (guitar prodigy Brandon “Taz” Niederauer, July 18; JAZZ is PHSH, August 15) and buzzworthy newcomers (New England jam juggernaut Percy Hill, June 27; “gospel ninja soul” exponent Zach Deputy, July 4). Each date also boasts an After Party set spotlighting some of the Shore’s finest, at the nearby Wonder Bar.

June 20: The Main Squeeze/ Ron Artis II & the Truth. June 27: Percy Hill/ After Funk. July 4: Zach Deputy/ Shady Street Show Band. July 11: Southern Avenue/ Mike Montrey Band. July 18: Brandon “Taz” Niederauer/ Dogs in a Pile. July 25: Chris Jacobs/ Evanoff. Aug. 8: E.N. Young/ The Pembertones. Aug. 15: JAZZ is PHSH/ Funky Dawgz Brass Band. Aug. 22: Mystic Bowie’s Talking Dread/ Secret Sound. Aug. 29: Bella’s Bartok/ Kat Wright.

Just announced — and returning on Wednesday evenings to the “First Avenue Green” across Ocean Avenue from the Stone Pony SummerStage — the Asbury Park LIVE series showcases double (and even triple) bills of some of the area’s best makers of original music. The 6:30 pm events programmed by the nonprofit Asbury Park Music Foundation (and sponsored by MOGO Tacos) float their first note on June 26 with an indie-pop serenade starring Asbury’s own Sonic Blume and frequent AP guests The Vaughns — and the series continues each Wednesday (save 7/17) through August 28, with the spotlight on such local luminaries as Black Suburbia Music Group, Dark City Strings, Pamela Flores, Rachel Ana Dobken, The Vansaders, and Waiting For Mongo, to name but a very few (proceeds benefit the Asbury Park Music Foundation, on whose Facebook page you’ll find complete schedule details).

June 26: Sonic Blume/ The Vaughns. July 3: Dark City Strings/ Jackson Pines. July 10: Waiting On Mongo/ Whodat!. July 24: Black Suburbia Music Group/ Blaise/ Pamela Flores. July 31: Latewaves/ Well Wisher/ Extensions. Aug. 7: The Vansaders/ Tide Bends/ Sunshine Spazz. Aug. 14: Rachel Ana Dobken/ Mercury Brothers. Aug. 21: Vendetta Rose/ Brian Wood & Co. Aug. 28: Connor Bracken & the Mother Leeds Band/ Shoobies.

The APMF is also the driving force behind the returning MUSIC MONDAYS at Springwood Park, the series that brought live music back to the West Side with a mix of legandary veterans (Ray Goodman & Brown; Gary U.S. Bonds) and rising local luminaries. While the 2019 schedule hasn’t been announced as we go to press, mark those calendars for the inaugural event on June 24; with shows continuing each Monday at 7 pm (and a finale starring the Sensational Soul Cruisers on Tuesday, August 27).

If there’s one summer diversion that can trace a direct line back to the old-timey days when the Shore’s first music superstar Arthur Pryor and his famous march orchestra held court on the boardwalk, it’s the Asbury Park Concert Band, the multi-generational institution that returns to the boards (outside Robinson Ale House, at Fifth Avenue) on the evening of Wednesday, July 3 — and then each Thursday thereafter through August 29. Now under the baton of longtime director John Luckenbill, the band plays a schedule of special themed 7 pm concerts, to be announced imminently by the APMF (


Also helping to introduce new generations of Shoregoers to the classic sounds of summers past — courtesy of acts like the Ragtimers and Strings by the Sea — the open-air entertainments at the Woodland Avenue boardwalk also feature the contemporary sounds of Full Of It, now a 10-year tradition in their own right when they return to the boards on Saturday, July 6. Check the borough’s website ( for the soon-to-be-announced 2019 slate of live and DJ music.


A genuinely diverse smorgasbord of sounds awaits locals this season, in the borough’s open-air settings of Riley Park and the Boardwalk Gazebo. It all starts with The 401K Project, who inaugurate both the Wednesday Night Music at the Gazebo series on June 19, AND the Monday Night Music in the Park series on June 24. The concerts continue select Wednesdays at 6 pm through August 21, and on select Mondays through August 26 with guests that include a Broadway salute from noted devotional singer Nancy Scharff (July 8), and a Beatles tribute by Monmouth County-based pop band The Wag (July 29).

June 19: The 401K Project. June 24: The 401K Project. July 8: Nancy Scharff. July 10: The 401K Project. July 22: Evalve Jazz. July 24: Let Them Eat Cake. July 29: The Wag. July 31: Sam Levine. Aug. 14: The 401K Project. Aug.21: Mondays at Six. Aug. 26: The Extra Innings Band.

The Gazebo also hosts the return of DJ music nights (Fridays at 7 pm, June 28 through August 23) and Country Music Line Dancing (Tuesdays at 7 pm, July 2 through August 27), with the park further featuring an Opera by the Sea slate that spotlights favorite Italian arias Monday nights in July at 7 pm. Visit the borough’s website at for full schedule details, plus info on other offerings — including a (details to be announced) Thursday Night Singers and Songwriters Concert Series beginning on June 27, special appearances by The Dune Grass Band (August 2 and 24, 7 pm), and even a weekend of Shakespeare at the Gazebo.


With no less than three action-packed weekly music stages, plus an annual slate of festivals and special events, Long Branch really comes alive in summer 2019 — and the keynote to it all sounds this coming Sunday, June 9, when regional fave The Philadelphia Funk Authority stakes out the corner of Ocean and Brighton Avenues for the first in the series of Bands by the Beach at West End Park. The 7 pm Sunday schedule resumes on June 23 with Sandy Sasso & Her Swingin’ Big Band, and continues through August 25 with such bluesy bandleaders as Billy Hector (July 21), Eryn (August 4) and SaRon Crenshaw (August 11), as well as the zydeco-infused sounds of The VooDudes (August 25) — and, on July 14, a special set by Jo Bonanno & the Godsons that finds the ever-popular showband delivering its “Spirit of Asbury Park Revue” on the nearby West End Beach. In case of inclement weather, bands take it indoors to Jack’s Goal Line at 149 Brighton Ave.

June 19: Philadelphia Funk Authority. June 23: Sandy Sasso. June 30: Chuck Lambert. July 7: Bob Lanza Band. July 14: Jo Bonanno & the Godsons. July 21: Billy Hector. July 28: Peter V Blues Train. Aug. 4: Eryn & the Whiskey Devils. Aug. 11: SaRon Crenshaw. Aug. 18: Blues People. Aug. 25: The VooDudes.

A must-see series for aficionados of Latin sounds — and a genuine best-kept-secret for music hounds in general — the Tuesdays On Broadway series returns to downtown LB’s Broadway Bandshell (located behind the Brookdale CC Learning Center, between McDonald’s and the municipal parking lot) beginning on July 9, with a 7 pm performance by the Asbury area’s own Xol Azul. The shows continue each Tuesday at 7 (excepting August 6) with the big-combo salsa sounds of David Cedeño & His Orchestra (August 13) and Swing Sabroso (August 27); 50s/60s oldies tributes by Jersey Sound (July 30) and The Girls Next Door (August 20) — and, on July 23, the annually antcipated return of next-generation Latin jazz bandleader Tito Puente Jr. Rain location for these shows is the nearby Portuguese Club of Long Branch at 191 Broadway.

July 9: Xol Azul Band. July 16: Eco Del Sur. July 23: Tito Puente Jr. July 30: Jersey Sound. Aug. 4: Eryn & the Whiskey Devils. Aug. 13: David Cedeño. Aug. 20: Lind Miller & The Girls Next Door. Aug. 29: Swing Sabroso.

The promenade bandstand at Pier Village is once again the setting for Thursdays by the Sea, the series that kicks off on June 13 with the one and only Tim McLoone & the Shirleys. The 7 pm shows (for which rain location is the Long Branch Middle School at Indiana and Bath Aves.) offer up some of the area’s most fervently followed and crowd-pleasing showbands, tribute acts and rising stars, including Motor City Revue (July 11), The Weeklings (July 25), The Nerds (August 15), Remember Jones (August 22), and an August 29 series closer by Brian Kirk & the Jirks that climaxes with a fireworks display.

June 13: Tim McLoone & the Shirleys. June 20: The ASAP Band. June 27: Moroocan Sheepherders. July 11: Motor City Revue. July 18: So Watt July 25: The Weeklings. Aug. 1: 9 South. Aug. 8: After the Reign. Aug. 15: The Nerds. Aug. 22: Remember Jones. Aug. 29: Brian Kirk & the Jirks.

Take it to for the full schedule details on these and other outdoor happenings in the city, including a West End Cruise Night starring pop music perennials Shirley Alston Reeves and The Coasters (August 17), the return of the Jersey Shore Jazz & Blues Festival (August 24), and of course the 29th annual edition of Oceanfest on July 4.


Beginning at 3:30 pm on Friday, June 14, and continuing all the way through September 7, The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association runs a busy schedule of Gospel Musical Ministries presentations that take place within the semi-enclosed setting of the Boardwalk Pavilion. With as many as three sessions daily during the height of the season, it’s a summertime staple for which a day-by-day breakdown can be found at

There’s plenty more where that came from, with seasonal festivals and other free music series in many other neighboring locales — so for best results, be sure to check the area’s most complete music listings in the print editions of The Coaster (Asbury Park) and The Link (Long Branch), each and every Thursday!

STAGES: Ace Young in AIDA at Axelrod PAC

The Elton John-Tim Rice Tony-winning adaptation of the operatic evergreen continues at Ocean Township’s Axelrod Performing Arts Center, in a new production from producer Andrew De Prisco and returning director/ choreographer Luis Salgado (APAC’s In the Heights, Ragtime).

Heading up the cast is American Idol finalist and Broadway veteran Ace Young, with the Grammy nominee making his area stage debut as Radames, and Anita Welch appearing in the title role of the captured Nubian princess whose love for an Egyptian soldier shatters dynasties and transcends time. AIDA offers performances at 8 pm on June 7, 2 and 8 pm on June 8, and at 3 pm on June 9, continuing for one more weekend through June 16. Reserve tickets ($38-$64) at

STAGES: Fundraiser premiere at NJ Rep

The “Tuckerberrys” are back — and NJ Rep’s got ‘em! That’s Michael Tucker and Jill Eikenberry, the multi-talented and multi-tasking partners in personal and professional life (recall them as co-stars on the long-running drama L.A. Law) — and on Saturday, June 8, New Jersey Repertory Company, the company that previously premiered two Tucker-penned plays at their downtown Long Branch (179 Broadway) theatre, will host a pair of readings of the playwright’s new work The Vegan and the Barbarian, as a benefit for their continuing programs and West End Arts Center project. Eikenberry and Tucker star in this collection of four stories based on the couple’s lives (covering such topics as personal crises, TV stardom, comings of age, and of course olive picking), with musical direction by Jimmy Horan, and performances at 3 and 8 pm. Limited-seating tickets ($150) can be reserved at 732-229-3166, while a $250 ticket also includes a 1 pm Intimate Cocktail Brunch with the Tuckers on Sunday, June 9, at 2nd Flr. Restaurant (71-A Brighton Ave. in LB).


For the past several years, The American Poetry Theater has presented numerous original theatrical presentations on contemporary social issues, at venues throughout Monmouth and Ocean counties — and this Saturday, June 8, the “Blues Theater for the People”collective founded by Rich Quatrone welcomes a new host stage: the intimate Lecture Room theatre of the Stephen Crane House.

For its inaugural visit to the historic onetime home of the celebrated 19th century novelist, poet, short story specialist and journalist (508 Fourth Avenue, between Emory St. and Grand Ave.), TAPT will present American Dreaming, a script by Jim Benner that addresses the ongoing problem of poverty in the midst of plenty. Carl Hoffman of New Jersey Repertory Company directs the ensemble piece, with tickets to the 7 pm performance available for $10 general admission at the door, or reserved in advance by calling 732-822-4338 or emailing

SCENES: Flash Event at Ninth Wave

On Sunday, the ninth of June, Ninth Wave Tattoo takes part in a nationwide benefit to aid and bring awareness to victims of sexual assault. Between the hours of 11 am and 6 pm, the studio at 725 Bangs Avenue in Asbury Park will welcome a special guest artist — and tattoo a selection of new designs created specifically for the flash event — with proceeds dedicated to the nonprofit Joyful Heart Foundation.

SCENES: “Music Saved My Life” Softball Tournament in AP

Throw out the first (pitch-perfect) pitch and play ball: the athletic fields at Asbury Park High School are the setting, as teams representing businesses in and around the city compete in a double-elimination charity softball tournament for a worthy and Asbury-appropriate cause — the Youth Initiative Programs of the Asbury Park Music Foundation. Scheduled for Sunday, June 9 (with a rain date of June 30), the fifth annual contest will once again help to fund VOICES, the vocal training program that was launched in 2017 with the help of that year’s proceeds. In addition, this year’s tournament will dedicate funds to scholarships for an all new Latino music group program being organized by the APMF, joining the many other educational endeavors coordinated from the nonprofit’s headquarters at the downtown Lakehouse complex. The students of Lakehouse Music Academy will be on hand to provide live sounds at the event, with the action set to get underway at 8:30 am, and additional information available by contacting Sue Sleeman at, or 732-977-9235. For more on the APMF’s slate of youth programs, visit

STAGES: ONE NIGHT benefit for The Center in AP

The nonprofit service organization The Center in Asbury Park is the beneficiary on Sunday, June 9, as artistic director Nick Montesano’s NENAproductions Theater Project teams up with the NJ Central Makeup Artists for MAC to present the musical revue One Night on Broadway. A decades-spanning selection of tunes from some of the greatest shows in American stage history, the 7 pm performance finds Montesano leading an all-volunteer cast including Arnold Teixeira, Casey Grady Surgent, Amanda Munice, Heather McLaughlin, Frank Falisi, Tara Beams, Emily Monus, Sean Dickinson and Samantha Maidlow, under the musical direction of Jeff Brown. It all happens on NENA’s home stage at the Jersey Shore Arts Center in Ocean Grove, with a silent auction also offered, and all proceeds dedicated to The Center and its slate of community programs. General admission tickets ($25) are available at or by calling 732-988-1007.

Take it to the June 6 print editions of The Coaster (Asbury Park) and The Link (Long Branch) for the full litany of listings music-wise, including an appearance by son-of-the-Big-Man Jarod Clemons (with Taylor Davis) at the Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel… an Asbury debut for millennial bass virtuoso Tal Wilkenfeld at the Stone Pony… Gregg Allman Band guitarist Scott Sharrard at the Wonder Bar…Fredo Bang making a big splash his first time in town, at House of Indies…and 80s Brit hitmaker Howard Jones (“No One Is To Blame,” “New Song”) joined by fellow MTV-era veterans Men Without Hats (“Safety Dance”), at Asbury Lanes!