MOTION ON THE OCEAN, AT SEA.HEAR.NOW’S CLAMBAKE

Oceanport native Fred Schneider (center) returns Shoreside with The B-52’s, for a 40th anniversary tour spot in the 2019 Sea.Hear.Now Festival.

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), September 19, 2019

In that “uncompromisin’, enterprisin’, anything but tranquilizin’” place called Asbury Park — where Local Summer is practically as big a deal as everyone else’s “regular summer,” and it’s never a fashion faux-pas to wear Life after Labor Day — the season of open-air concert activity continues to expand its horizon ever closer to the flat-earth edge of autumn’s threshold. And, even as Fall 2019 officially drops ready-or-not this coming Monday, Summer saves up what’s arguably its biggest finishing-move salvo for the weekend ahead.

Going up for its sophomore edition this Saturday and Sunday, September 21 and 22, the Sea.Hear.Now Festival commandeers an ample slice of the city’s beach, boardwalk, Bradley Park, and briny Atlantic for A Celebration of Live Music, Art and Surf Culture that spills over into several circuit-satellite locales. While the born-big event has been SOLD OUT since right around tax-filing time, there’s still a chance to get in on some of the ancillary action and after-parties taking place at such local landmarks as The Stone Pony, Wonder Bar, House of Independents, and The Saint — and potentially partygoing parties are advised to check into it right now, at seahearnowfestival.com.

Unlike such hyper-local hootenannies as last weekend’s Bond Street Block Party, and next weekend’s Asbury Park Porchfest (or that downtown strolling smorgasbord AP Underground, returning on October 19), Sea.Hear.Now takes much of its cues from the national/ international profile of its founder, photographer, and fellow-traveler musician Danny Clinch. Following up on the 2018 schedule co-headlined by Jack Johnson and Incubus, Clinch’s Between the Sets and producing partners C3 Presents secured a slate of performers topped by one of the most consistently popular concert tour and festival-circuit draws of the past 25 years — the Grammy-winning, platinum-selling Dave Matthews Band — as well as by another, more recently minted (but still precious metal-plated) act: Jersey-bred, Denver-based folkrock/ alt-Americana band The Lumineers.

The rest of the schedule’s no slouch, either, representing a shuffle-mix of Hall of Fame trailblazers (Joan Jett) and punk-electronica upstarts (Matt & Kim); frequent Asbury flyers (Donavon Frankenreiter, Bad Religion, Dropkick Murphys) and occasional returnees (Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Chan “Cat Power” Marshall, St. Paul); world-beat emissaries from other shores (Steel Pulse), and even some able ambassadors from our own big back yard — notably Ken “Stringbean” Sorensen and The Boardwalk Social Club, the blues-roots unit that boasts the distinction of generally being the first and the last band playing out of doors each extended-summer season (the latter courtesy of their still-ongoing stand outside AP Yacht Club/ Langosta Lounge every Monday eve).

Then there’s an internationally renowned act that carries with it a Jersey Shore connection that might still be a surprise to some — The B-52’s., fronted as ever by perennial party-starting toastmaster (and onetime resident of Oceanport, NJ) Fred Schneider.

In the process of gifting the world with perhaps the most epic beach bake anthem of all time in “Rock Lobster,” the alumnus of Shore Regional High School, who found community and delightfully unlikely rock stardom in the fertile music scene of Athens, Georgia, has never exactly exploited his roots in the sandy Shore soil. Drawing instead from elements of Southern culture, gay culture, thrift-shop pop culture, and the benificial-bacteria culture of infctious fun, Schneider and his cohorts Kete Pierson, Cindy Wilson, and Keith Strickland (plus the late Ricky Wilson) created something all their very own; a universal party music that breaks down all resistance in the squarest (and don’t-carest) audiences.

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THE RIBEYE BROS. BRING THE MEAT ‘N MORE, TO BLOCK PARTY & BEYOND

The Ribeye Brothers showcase some prime cuts during a prime slot at the Bond Street Block Party on Saturday, September 14…then return to Asbury town for a special “Taint at The Saint” evening on September 19. Photo by William DeVizia for Cool Dad Music

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), September 12, 2019

 They’re the indoor/outdoor carpeting that ties the music-mad ROOM together — connecting the 20th century Shore scene with the hypercurrent hipsterverse; the roots-rock traditionalists with the alt-rock trailblazers; the experience of playing before international stadium-size audiences, with the bump ‘n grind of an old neighborhood go-go bar.

Here in the Local Summer interlude — when many of the season’s busiest bands curtail their activities, and some of the Shore’s most venerable venues up and fold their patio umbrellas for a long winter’s nap — the year-round institution that is The Ribeye Brothers is perhaps more visible and audible than ever; pushing the open-air envelope well into the post-Labor Day afterbirth, seeking out and exploring strange new places to play, and boldly Going There with an all-new, as yet untitled, recorded music project.

Pretty ambitious and confident for a group whose thematic stock in trade has been the musical tale of woe — short and bitterly sweet blasts of “detached garage” rock with titles like “Drinkin’ and Stinkin,” “Swagger Turns to Stagger,” “D.W.I.,” “Disappointment Punch,” “Wrong End of the Leash,” and that crossover crowdpleaser, “Sh*t Car.” Working a side of the street once occupied by classic “tears in my beer” country, the songs of former Monster Magnet men Tim Cronin and Jon Kleiman are vroomed-up vignettes of rejection, recidivism and ruin, narrated by characters whose dreams of grandeur have been curb-jawed by store-brand booze, romantic betrayals, suicidal brooding, and an unerring instinct for the Bad Choice.

Even when Cronin and company channel Andy Griffith’s megalomaniacal Face in the Crowd character in “Lonesome Rhodes” (a purported favorite of no less a public figure than The Boss), or landing songs on the soundtracks of network TV shows (Criminal Minds) and indie features (Let Me Down Hard), there’s a fatalistic (but fun) vein of Eeyore-attitude soaked into every fiber of “the band who hates themselves more than you do.” But, whether the Sons of Mrs. Ribeye are stomping out a brand new number or cutting up on covers of old Black Sabbath (or very old Pink Floyd), the fact remains that, for the band’s devoted audience, a Ribeyes roast is a guaranteed and garage-rested good time — or, as this correspondent has said before, “the most raucously pounding pity party you’ll ever encounter.”

Though still a Red Bank-based band by pedigree, the lineup of Cronin (lead vocals), Brent Sisk (guitar), Kleiman (guitar, vocals), Joe Calandra (bass), and Neil O’Brien (drums) can stake just as much of a claim to the coverage area served by your friendly neighborhood Coaster and Link newsweeklies, with the latter three hanging their hats these days in Neptune, Eatontown, and Asbury Park respectively. In fact, Asbury habitues might better know O’Brien under his alter ego DJ Foggy Notion, with the man and his milk crates remaining a fixture at Anchor’s Bend, Salvation Lounge, AP Yacht Club and numerous other nightspots (in addition to the odd participation in performance-art events like Andrew Demirjian’s Lines in the Sand, presented on the AP beach this past August by DC’s Transformer collective).

This Saturday, September 14, the Brothers (with adopted sibling Sweet Joey filling in on drums) are among the featured acts taking it outside at the 2019 Bond Street Block Party, the annual presentation of the Bond Street Complex venues (about which more momentarily) that commandeers the stretch of Bond between Cookman and Mattison Aves for a festival of bands, beers and BBQ that runs from 1 to 10 pm. Then on the evening of Thursday, September 19, a busy-season Neil rejoins his mates; once more steering the back of the firetruck as the band opens for the satirically satanic stylings of Witch Taint (‘the most extreme Norwegian Black Metal band from Gary, Indiana ever, probably”) at that downtown boxcar berthplace of rock, chief engineer Scotty Stamper’s The Saint..

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REMEMBER JONES WELCOMES YOU TO TOMMY’S HOLIDAY CAMP

An all-star team of talents celebrates the 50th anniversary of The Who’s rock opera TOMMY, with three performances of a special concert adaptation in Ocean Township.

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), September 5, 2019

Rain or shine, the Labor Day holiday just passed is traditionally a time of last-licks recreation and relaxation for most; a somewhat arbitrary DMZ between the interlude in which we are expected to “make memories,” and that in which we return our attentions to the great filled-beyond-capacity IN box of our lives.

Not so much Anthony D’Amato. Given his superhuman schedule and otherworldly work ethic, the singer/actor/ bandleader/ producer/ director and master-showman impresario best known these days as Remember Jones can be forgiven for maybe not knowing what season it is, which tour stop on the itinerary, or even exactly which full-length show he’s performing at this moment.

In truth, however, the new heir to the mantle of Hardest Working Man in Shore Business remains completely in command of his faculties, his frankly awesome musical organization, and his vision for a continuously evolving career that’s seen the big Remember Jones band crisscross the country as crowdpleasing ambassadors for the Jersey Shore scene — all the while continuing to explore (and stake a significant claim to) nearly every corner of the popular music landscape.

Having just come in off the road from an extensive 30-city tour — and keeping the momentum going with shows in Atlantic City and Long Beach Island — Mr. Jones and company ushered in September with a full-set outdoor concert at Asbury’s Springwood Park — the capper to a “Funky Fresh Market” event that found D’Amato also lining up the numerous opening acts, coordinating the food trucks, and pretty much taking on everything short of serving as parking valet.

Labor Day proper found the troupe devoting the entirety of that alleged day of rest to some intensive rehearsals for their latest project:, TOMMY in Concert — an all-star, golden anniversary salute to that game-changing album of the classic rock era; one that commandeers the auditorium of the Axelrod Performing Arts Center for three performances this Saturday and Sunday, September 7 and 8.

Speaking at the end of a ten-hour rehearsal session at the Ocean Township venue where he mounted an acclaimed concert version of HAIR in 2018, D’Amato/Jones confides that “they wanted me to do a Woodstock celebration as a follow-up, but I felt that it had kind of been played out by this point…I wanted to do something different; a full recreation of The Who’s original Tommy that will make you believe you’re ‘hearing it again for the first time’.”

While it shares a 50th anniversary with that generation-defining festival — and while it did manage to have a presence on the Woodstock stage, as The Who performed some of its score during their featured set — Pete Townshend’s rock opera of a deaf-dumb-and-blind kid represents a bit of of a break with the spirit of those Three Days of Mud and Music on Max Yasgur’s farm. Taking off from Townshend’s earlier character-driven songs (plus little mini-epics like “A Quick One While He’s Away”), and inspired in part by his own spiritual explorations, Tommy has some pointed things to say about twisted family dynamics, self-imposed isolation, cults of personality, plus the many temptations and weirdnesses of life on post-WWII planet Earth.

 As the Tommy phenomenon took hold of the popular imagination, the ambitious rock record project took on a whole other life of its own; first with a 1972 orchestral album that boasted contributions from Ringo Starr, Rod Stewart, and Richie Havens among others — and, eventually, a Tony winning Broadway musical that departed somewhat from past incarnations, in terms of song selection and the relationships of the characters.

In between appeared Tommy: The Movie, a 1975 carnival from director Ken Russell that starred Who singer Roger Daltrey in the title role — and that paired the first-time actor with a supporting cast that included Ann-Margret, Jack Nicholson, Oliver Reed, and (as the Pinball Wizard), a height-of-his-popularity Elton John. Still, while the Remember Jones conception of Tommy takes some crucial cues from these past endeavors, this golden-jubilee tribute promises to be a thing unto iteself.

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THE TIDE IS HI, AND THE TIME FOR TIKI SOUNDS IS NIGH

L-R; The 5-6-7-8s bring the Woo-Hoo sings…Eddie Angel spreads his wings (in The Neanderthals, plus his Guitar Project),…and Deke Dickerson puts some torchy twang on the strings, as the re-imagined HI-TIDE SUMMER HOLIDAY brings the coast’s biggest celebration of surf/ tiki/ retro culture back to Asbury Park on August 16-18.

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), August 1, 2019

When the stars aligned, and all the elements were in place — as they were on a memorable afternoon and evening in August of 2017 — few summertime events made better use of their seaside setting than the Asbury Park Surf Music Festival. Parked on the Anchor’s Bend bar’s beachtop bandstand just off the good ship Convention Hall; the Atlantic waves at its back and the panoramic scene alight with passing ships, planes, drones and various heavenly bodies, the East Coast’s largest ever such gathering was a cool communal cocktail with a vibe that was both ambitiously international in scope, and as intimate as the most relaxing lantern-lit patio party.

Even when the elements didn’t completely get their act together — as in 2018, when excessive heat and threatened storms forced an indoor relocation to the ConHall floor — the AP Surf Music Fest still stood tall as the region’s only event of its kind; a celebration of a burgeoning worldwide instrumental music scene (and of the retro-rocketing “tiki” culture that tags along for the ride) that proved the Jersey Shore could compete with the likes of this week’s Tiki Oasis confab in San Diego. And, perhaps most impressive of all, the whole thing was the briny brainchild of two young visionaries named Magdalena O’Connell and Vincent Minervino.

For its sixth annual edition, the Festival returns under a new name — The Hi-Tide Summer Holiday, a nod both to the Hi-Tide Recordings mini-empire founded by the Freehold-based couple, as well as to the thematic expansions and logistical changes in store for the slate of happenings that kicks off with an afternoon Meet-Up at the Bend next Friday, August 16.

Speaking between turntable spins at The Wonder Bar — where he, Magdalena and colleague “DJ Devil Bat” preside over a deck-top Tiki Tuesdays series in August — “DJ Hi-Tide” allows that “we picked up a few learns from last year…one of them is the fact that you plan all year round, but you never control the weather!”

“Another factor is that the boardwalk and the beach have gotten really popular in recent years,” Minervino continues, adding that “it’s understandable why they wouldn’t want to block out an area of the beach for a ticketed event.”
With the additional caveat that the old festival format “was just a very long day…for us, the bands, and the audience,” Vinnie Minnie ‘n Mags re-imagined the old family recipe as a weekend-long affair “broken up into smaller events, spread out over a couple of evenings,” and centered largely around the various concert stages, rooftop spaces, lobby-level lounges and poolside patios of the Asbury Hotel and Asbury Lanes complex. Also on tap are late-nite record hops, scholarly seminars, and mixology demos at such “satellite” locales as Anchor’s Bend and downtown’s Little Buddy Hideaway — and while surf in all its reverb-drenched glory remains the active ingredient in the potent cocktail (thanks to the participation of 30-year veterans The Insect Surfers, SoCal’s Jason Lee & the R.I.P.tides, and Impala out of Memphis), the menu also boasts the retro-rootsrock ravings of Missouri’s Deke Dickerson and Canada’s Bloodshot Bill; the lilting luau tones of Philly’s Slowey & the Boats; the rockabilly exotica of California’s Hula Girls, and not one but two great all-female bands from Japan: The 5-6-7-8’s (famed for their appearance in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 1) and Lulufin the Woo Hoo.

“By expanding beyond just strictly surf, we’re tapping into a wider fanbase,” explains Magdalena, who devotes herself full-time these days to the management of the couple’s fast-growing record label (in addition to their previously established Big Slick Pomade line of hair products). “It’s gonna be quirky and fun.”

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FIFTH ANNUAL PROMENADE’S A DAY TO MERM-EMBER

Jenn Mehmaid is front and center at last year’s Asbury Park Promenade of Mermaids, the family-fin event that returns to dry land this Saturday, June 29. (Photos by Mermaid Studio)

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), June 27, 2019

As Jennifer Mehm tells it, she was living far from Atlantis — and thousands of miles from her native Jersey Shore — when she got the notion of bringing her lifelong love of “Mermanity” to finny fruition on the streets of her then-hometown of Sacramento.

“That first year was more like a flash mob than a formal event, because the town wouldn’t give us a permit,” she says of the California city’s Promenade of Mermaids for which she served as founder (or flounder?). “Then all of these people started showing up…and now here they are, in their ninth year, with a big annual happening!”

Upon returning to the Asbury Park area a few years later, the woman known from coast to coast as “Jenn Mehmaid” also returned to her original vision of a fun and family-friendly outdoor event; one that would fold her passion for those “beautiful and exotic” legendary denizens of the deep into a celebration of our seaside setting, in all its colorful diversity and inclusive spirit.

Thus was born the Asbury Park Promenade of Mermaids, an event that’s become a summertime staple since its first inquisitive incursion onto dry land in 2015 — as well as a worthy companion to the generations of grand Baby Parades, elegant Easter Parades, and world-record Zombie Walks that have made the herringboned hardwoods of the famous boardwalk the place to be for walkers, marchers, runners, strollers and rollers of all ages, shapes, sizes, and stages of decomposition.

When the Promenade assembles for its fifth annual edition this Saturday afternoon, June 29, it will boast its signature mix of marching mer-people (and pirates, and sea creatures, and shorebirds) with eclectic music, exotic dancers, unique handcrafted merch, and literal basket-loads of fabulous prizes, courtesy of some of the greater Asbury area’s favorite purveyors of goods and services. It will maintain the vibe with a series of post-Prom meet ‘n greets, special film screenings, and “happy hangover” pool parties — and it will also take things to the next sea-level, when it sets up its base of operations for the first time across from the Convention Hall complex, on the spacious expanse of Bradley Park. It’s there, under the quizzically stony gaze of Founder Bradley, that attendees will find the event’s Registration Tent, where prospective promenaders can sign up to walk the boards between the hours of 12 and 2 pm (while there’s no charge to participate in the march, a $10 registration fee qualifies entrants to compete for the prize packages in various adult, child, and group costume categories).

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JOHN CAFFERTY’S ENDLESS SUMMER NIGHTS

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), June 13, 2019

We’ve said it before, but if there was such a thing as a Mount Rushmore of Honorary Shorecats (you know, those seasoned performers “whose wall-of-sound work ethic has allowed them to make themselves entirely at home among the stars and bars of the Jersey Shore, despite being rooted in other states/ other scenes”), then surely the chiseled features of John Cafferty can stake an undisputed claim there.

A frequent fixture on the Asbury Circuit since the days when music-biz types still spoke of Bruce Springsteen as a “cult” act, the Rhode Island-bred rocker was already a veteran of countless regional bar-band gigs when, as frontman of The Beaver Brown Band, he found a spiritual home-turf on the stages of the Stone Pony and the late lamented Fast Lane. As a true contemporary of The Boss — one whose rock-star cred was also rooted in the teen-dance band scene of the mid-1960s — the lanky guy from Narragansett soaked up all of the same sonic influences; investing the mileage and the man-hours in those rowdy roadhouses up and down the Northeast corridor, while ultimately arriving at a musical place that found the stuff of epic romance and heroism in the working-dude life.

Accompanied by such Beaver bandmates as guitar lieutenant Gary Gramolini and longtime signature saxman Michael “Tunes” Antunes, Cafferty forged a hard-earned reputation as a master showman of the shot-and-beer-joint milieu; competed to catch the ear of the old-school record industry, and — thanks in good part to a mythical music-maker named Eddie — tasted success on a big-time international level, with a pair of hits (“On the Dark Side,” “Tough All Over”) that topped the charts in the 1980s. While the guys could tell tales of having gone through the major-label wringer — an experience they share with felow Honorary Shorecats like Joe Grushecky, John Eddie, and Willie Nile — the band’s path since then has been a satisfyingly centered, back-to-the-basics dedication to that live-room natural habitat, as well an enhanced level of devotion to fervent fanbases in places like Asbury Park, where Cafferty and company return to the famous Stoney stage this Saturday night, June 15.

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IT’S “OUTDOOR VOICES, PLEASE,” AS SUMMER CONCERTS KEYNOTE

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.

ASBURY PARK

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 (asburyparkmusiclives.org).

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‘TUCCI’S BAND OF LOVE, IN THE NAME OF PRIDE

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), May 30, 2019

As Christine Martucci maintains, “the gay community sees beauty in everything…because we have to! You want your world to be filled with love, and I like to be the cup that’s half full at all times.”

A member in excellent standing of that unofficial society of Honorary Shore Rockers — those performers whose fervent local fanbases and frequent-flyer forays to coastal NJ have secured their place in the area’s pantheon — the Tacoma, WA-born singer/ songwriter/ guitarist has staked her claim as a bandleader whose classic-rock swagger and whiskey-belt vocals lend punch to original compositions that often speak of complex and conflicted emotions; of that sense of isolation that sometimes aches its way into even our most raucous tribal rituals.

It’s a “velvet glove inside an iron fist” approach that’s in evidence on signatures like the lonely plaint ”Is Anybody Out There?,” or the returning veteran’s lament “Home Don’t Feel Like Home” — and while the singer allows that “not a lot of cerebral energy goes into too many standard rock songs,” she herself hails from “that school where you write what you know.”

What she’s known, in a life that took her from the Pacific Northwest to New Jersey’s Hunterdon County (and from a bleak moment in which she contemplated closing the book on her own story, to the realization that, as she previously stated, “the repressed, angry, scared Christine died that day”) is that the power of community goes a long way toward illuminating those dark corners of the soul — and that when it comes to stoking that sense of community, few if any things can beat a supercharged rock show inside a packed nightclub.

There was a time when Christine Martucci spent the better part of a decade as an enlistee in the U.S. Army, a significant life experience (during an era that pre-dated “don’t ask, don’t tell”) that saw her rise to the rank of Sergeant, while acquiring an affinity for her fellow folks in uniform that’s manifested itself in her song lyrics, interviews, and regular charitable endeavors. There would also come a time when “Tucci” would find that community within the big, messy, extended family of musicians who worked the stages of New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey (she cites a fellow Honorary Shorecat, John Eddie, as the peer who “got me my start in Asbury Park”) — particularly in the famous seaside city where music has danced cheek-to-cheek with its social history, and where the LGBTQ community can rightly be credited with a lead role in its remarkable resurrection.

About a month ago, Christine Martucci took the stage of Asbury Park’s Wonder Bar in an intimate, solo “Pride in Performance” piece as part of the 2019 Music and Film Fest. This Saturday, she and her full-tilt combo The Band of Love return once more to that Circuit-side landmark, for a set that serves as a kick-ass keynote to this coming weekend’s Jersey Pride Festival. Here in the fiftieth anniversary year of the pivotal Stonewall uprising, it’s an occasion that marks a Martucci milestone in its own right — a tenth annual Pride Show for which the headliner has taken an active stance; securing the opening acts (cover-tune specialists The Eclipse Band, R&B singer-songwriter Stephanie Chin, and Asbury returnees Chix Appeal), and choosing the designated charity for this edition’s fundraising component (the NJ chapter of Happy Trails Animal Rescue).

That take-charge attitude is well in keeping with the “Real Christine” who emerged from those days and nights of self-doubt, to face the challenges of life as an out gay person with a fine-tuned confidence and positivity. It’s a quality that’s in evidence on exuberant originals like the “Parkway Southbound” paean “Jersey Style,” as well as on crowd-pleasing covers like the Stones standard “Honky Tonk Women” (or “Head Held High,” a contribution to a Velvet Underground tribute album that we’d love to hear her perform live; hint hint).

As a solid songsmith in her own right, Martucci (who announces that the June 1 gig will mark her first public performance of “Remedy” by the Black Crowes) has a feel for covers upon which she can put her own sonic stamp, be it the unjustly neglected Faces tune “Stay With Me,” or anything from the canonical catalog of Janis Joplin.

In fact, the Wonder Bar show represents a last (for now) and best chance to catch Tucci and company in full-fledged glory, before the singer hits the road with Glen Burtnik to perform as Janis in the 2019 Summer of Love Tour, the revue that makes its only NJ whistlestop at the Hard Rock Atlantic City on August 24.

“Glen really helped catapult me onto the scene,” she says of the Summer impresario. “People here don’t hold you back, or see you as a competitor.”

Noting that “I love the Summer of Love show, because all I have to worry about is to show up and sing,” Martucci is using that not-at-all-”down” time as an opportunity to continue writing, and to fine-tune a couple of ambitious projects — one of which is a fifth album of original songs, a set that finds the singer reunited with producer Anthony Krizan, himself a co-writer (with Cheryl Da Veiga) of “Home Don’t Feel Like Home.”

“I’ve got some songs that I’ve written but never released; ballads that would work well with a pretty voice like Eryn Shewell’s,” she says in reference to the torchy vocalist who performs these days under her married name of Eryn O’Ree, or simply Eryn. “But I’m going back to my rock and roll roots with the new album…with songs that are more suited to my smokin’, drinkin’, partyin’ voice.”

Then there’s her planned one woman show; an autobiographical mix of story and song tentatively titled My Life as a New Soul. Described as “part comedy, part real life” (with the acknowledgment that the two conceptsare hardly mutually exclusive), it’s a work in progress that’s “gonna be colorful, and awesome…we’re going on a trip, me and the audience.”

“When you’re a new soul, like me, everything is NEW to you again,” she explains. “One way to put it is, you go into a new soul’s house, right? And you know those tags that you see on furniture and mattresses…’Do Not Remove Under Penalty of Law?’…well, in a new soul’s house they are all there; still attached!”

As Martucci tells it, the two concurrent projects are vying neck-and-neck for her attentions these days, with the latter part of 2019 and early 2020 shaping up to be a launch point for that New Soul performance piece, or an itinerary for promoting that new album. In either case, expect Christine Martucci to return once more to the Shore music scene that has been “such a part of my life…it’s so cool that I can count on Asbury Park to support all that I’m doing.”

“I tell the bar owners, we’re a team…I’m gonna get ‘em rowdy, you get ‘em drunk, and at the end of the night you get paid more,” she says with a laugh. “But the payoff for me is that people come to my shows and leave feeling better about themselves, and about the world.”

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The Saturday night Wonder Bar event — and its now-traditional Sunday night bookend show featuring the band Kathouse — are part ‘n parcel of an Asbury Park weekend that’s centered around the 28th annual Jersey Pride Festival in Bradley Park and the accompanying AP Pride march. The hi-energy procession makes its way to the park, where between the hours of noon to 7 pm, the statue of Founder Bradley stands watch over a serious celebration that boasts a full slate of live music, a food court, craft and merch vendors, kids’ activities, and informational displays from an array of nonprofit community organizations. The festival stage — always a great showcase for both locally based and internationally renowned acts — is headlined this year by (pictured above) original disco-era diva France Joli (“Come to Me,” “Gonna Get Over You”) and the band BETTY, with comedian/ activist and emcee Sandra Valls introducing soul singer Dezi 5, electro-pop artist JLine, the Green Planet Band, and Virago, with that always-amazing world-music duo (who also appear at the Asbury Hotel on Friday night) augmented for the occasion by the horn section from the Motor City Revue (check the social media postings of the Jersey Gay Pride Festival for updated schedule info).

A new and novel addition to the weekend’s festivities — and a slate of activities that spans the whole three-day interlude — is Paranormal Pride, a multi-faceted event hosted by Paranormal Books and Curiosities proprietor Kathy Kelly (fresh off her recent success with the annual Jersey Devil Festival) with Adam Berry of the Travel Channel’s Kindred Spirits. With the venerable Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel as home base, the program boasts what promises to be the first-ever ghost investigation of that landmark building, along with lectures, gallery readings (with famed psychic medium Chip Coffey), and a Drag Brunch featuring special guest Pissi Myles. Participation is limited, so visit paranormalpride.com for updated info on available tickets.

There’s plenty more of interest to attendees going on around town throughout the weekend, from tea dances and poolside parties at the city’s waterfront hotels, a Friday night Pride Prom event at Asbury Festhalle presided over by the beyond-busy DJ Tyler Valentine (who also works a same-day Super Tea at the Asbury, and a Saturday night WERK dance party at House of Independents), an ABBA/ 70s dancefest at House of Indies, and a Drag Queen Storytime session at the Asbury with Miss Savannah Georgia. Check the music listings in this week’s print editions of The Coaster and The Link for the full rundown.

And in Long Branch, where city officials recently designated June as Pride Month, New Jersey Repertory Company’s West End Arts Center is the nexus for a slate of events that kicks off with Our Way: The Art of Life, Love, and Inclusion, a visual art group show that opens with a 12-4 pm reception inside the gallery space of the reborn primary school building at 132 West End Avenue (corner of Sairs Ave.).

The exhibition curated by Mare Akana remains on display Saturday and Sunday afternoons through June 9, while the Arts Center plays host on Friday, June 7 to a 5 pm screening of the Robin Kampf documentary Love Wins, with a post-film panel featuring the film’s subjects and director.

At 7 pm on that same Friday night, West End Arts goes live with Revenge of the Gays: A Night of LGBTQ+ Comedy hosted by Jess Alaimo (left), who in addition to being a seriously organizational powerhouse behind the Asbury Park Women’s Convention (and numerous other community endeavors), is also the ringmaster of the weekly So You Want to Be a Comedian open mics at the Anchor’s Bend. Admission to both of those Friday evening events is free of charge, although reservations are recommended at 732-229-3166 or njrep@njrep.org.