Performers appearing in holiday-themed concerts this month include top row, L-R: New Narratives (Asbury Lanes, Dec. 6), Rachel Ana Dobken (Stone Pony, Dec. 6), Brian Kirk (Stone Pony, Dec. 7), Rev. Horton Heat (Asbury Lanes, Dec. 7), Jody Joseph (Stone Pony, Dec. 8), Layonne Holmes (Paramount Theatre, Dec. 8; McLoone’s Supper Club, Dec. 20); bottom row L-R: Jo Wymer (The Saint, Dec. 15), Chris Pinnella (McLoone’s, Dec. 15 & 21), La Bamba (Stone Pony, Dec. 20), John Eddie (Wonder Bar, Dec. 21), P-Dub (Langosta Lounge, Dec. 22), Happy Fits (House of Independents, Dec. 20 & 21)
Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), December 5, 2019
While it’s maybe a tad too early to anoint Asbury Park as a regional Capital of Christmas, try telling that to any of the multitudes who lined up outside Convention Hall this past Saturday, when some of the scene’s favorite makers of locally sourced, certified organic music (highlighted by Remember Jones, following up a big Back to Black Friday gig at the Pony) flipped the switch on another souped-up Santa sleighload of seasonal sounds, here in this historic city of summers.
Of course, nobody hits the latter-day circuit here in this music-mad town expecting such a thing as a Silent Night — and the holiday interlude is no exception, as the season’s traditional hymns, choral cantatas and orchestral chestnuts are given a Santa-run for their money by a set of signature sounds that boast a decidedly more jingle-bell raucous bent. It’s an eclectic advent-calendar countdown that begins in earnest this weekend — and, as becomes abundantly clear, doesn’t necessarily let up when the tree hits the beach dunes or curb.
THE BIG ONE
Back for a second annual go-round as The Hottest Ticket in Town, the all-Shore/ all-star jinglejam known as A Very Asbury Holiday Show commandeers the Paramount Theatre proscenium on Sunday, December 8 for a 2019 sequel to last year’s sold-out inaugrual edition. Produced by those most proactive preservers and promoters of the city’s principal export — that is, The Asbury Park Music Foundation — the early evening extravaganza convenes another jukebox Justice League of performers whose Asbury roots run deep. It’s a multi-generational mashup that boats some of the living-legend linchpins of the SOAP scene (JT Bowen, Billy Hector, Layonne Holmes, Lance Larson, Lisa Lowell), next-wave singer/ songsmiths (Emily Grove, Anthony Krizan, Williams Honor), and some of the true master entertainers of the Shore clubscape (Pat Guadagno, Jillian Rhys McCoy, Pat Roddy, Deseree Spinks, Eddie Testa).
All this, plus a special set by the “Grooveangelicyulegasmicfunknsoulicious” force that is Everett Bradley’s Holidelic; the debut of the new song “Gonna Be Christmas” by The Weeklings, members of 60s heavyweights Vanilla Fudge and The Rascals; a big house band (led by music director Tony Perruso) boasting veterans of such acts as the Jukes, Joe Jackson and Patti Smith; plus returning co-hosts Lee Mrowicki and WABC-TV newscaster Michelle Charlesworth (joined by 107.1 The Boss deejay Michele Amabile Angermiller) handling the play-by-play. It’s dedicated to the memory of Asbury scene stalwart Kerry Layton, with proceeds going to benefit the community programs of the APMF, Mercy Center, Jewish Family and Children’s Services, and Boys & Girls Clubs of Monmouth County (there’s also an invitation to donate new unwrapped items to the Asbury Park Toy Drive). Info on available tickets can be had at asburyparkmusiclives.org.
The December yesterdays when the likes of Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Andy Williams, and The King Family aired their annual Christmas TV specials have a modern-day corollary in Asbury town, with the ever-expanding selection of special live sets hosted by performers from within and without the local scene. First out of the box (and returning to the Stoney stage on Friday, December 6) is Quincy Mumford, who joins his band The Reason Why for a 2019 Holiday Show that further features Mike Pinto and another of QM’s contemporaries among the exciting new generation of Asbury-based solo artists, Rachel Ana Dobken. Another one-to-watch act on the present Shorescape, the duo New Narratives, is among the performers helping to raise donations for the AP Toy Drive effort during a Friday evening multi-band bill at Asbury Lanes — while over at Little Buddy Hideaway (that tropic-island-nest annex to downtown AP’s Brickwall), another best-kept-secret set aims to keep the beachy vibe alive, with a tinsel-garland twang. Hosted by the folks who bring you the annual surf/ tiki/ cocktail fest Hi-Tide Weekend — Magdalena O’Connell and Vincent Minervino— Friday’s Hi-Tide Holiday session offers chestnuts from DJ Hi-Tide’s private stash of swingin’ sides, plus live and languorous sounds by Philly’s foremost purveyors of party music with a Hawaiian punch, Slowey & the Boats.
The Pony’s the place once more on Saturday morning, December 7, when the conclusion of the fourth annual Asbury Park Santa Run culminates in an after-party presided over by premier partystarters Brian Kirk & the Jirks. Returning to town later that night for another in a series of Holiday Hayrides (this time moving to the Lanes from last year’s Pony hitching post), Reverend Horton Heat plays red-nosed ringmaster to a vaudeville bill that boats the great Dave Alvin, the Voodoo Glow Skulls, and the Lanes return of those feisty femmes from Japan, The 5-6-7-8’s.
A pair of Shore scene perennials who are also well known as educators to a new generation of music makers —Jody Joseph and Jo Wymer — join their students for special holiday showcases in coming Sundays, with JJ’s December 8 noontime show at the Stone Pony including a buffet lunch and dessert in the $25 ticket, while JW’s December 15 Student Holiday Showcase goes up at The Saint in downtown AP. That same Sunday sees the first of two special Christmas in Asbury shows starring AP’s own modern master of songbook pop (and themed tributes to everyone from Sinatra to Billy Joel), Chris Pinnella. It’s a seventh annual seasonal stand for the versatile vocalist at the boardwalk venue he calls “home base” (Tim McLoone’s Supper Club), with a second 7 pm show scheduled for Saturday, December 21.
Speaking of Tim McLoone, the recent inductee to the NJ Hall of Fame and founder of the jinglebell juggernaut that is Holiday Express reconvenes his band The Shirleys for a December 20 Holiday Show at his eponymous Supper Club — while just down Ocean Ave, Asbury icon Richie “La Bamba” Rosenberg makes a homecoming Holiday Hurrah stand in the company of an all-star combo that co-stars walking music encyclopedia (and veteran of many a Xmas concert stage) Bobby Bandiera. And over at Cookman Ave’s all-purpose auditorium House of Independents, the Garden State’s premier guitar/ drums/ cello alterna-pop trio The Happy Fits return for their second annual holiday show, upsized this year to two nights, with a support squad that spotlights such local faves as Deal Casino (December 20) and Sonic Blume (December 21).
It somehow wouldn’t be Christmas without the return of John Eddie, and when the Honorary Shoreguy hits the Wonder Bar for a holiday hoedown on December the 21st, he’ll draw stellar support from Shore evergreens Pat Guadagno (with full band) and Joe Rapolla (in duo mode). That following Sunday, December 22 finds reggae master P-Dub delivering A Very Reggae Xmas set as part of the weekly Acoustic Delight matinee series at Chef Marilyn’s Langosta Lounge — while later that evening at House of Indies, the pride of Keansburg band Can’t Swim bring a bit o’ the Bayshore to a Bad Xmas brouhaha.
The Holiday Shows are still in the House on Friday, December 27, when Jersey City’s Mercy Union joins New Brunswick’s gates for a post-Xmas slab of post-rock parry and thrust. Of course, by then we’re well into the weekend of the truly star-studded Wonder Bar double-header known as What a Wonderful Year — a story for another holiday, and one more reason to keep it tuned here, to your source for the area’s most comprehensive listings of live music.