OK BOOMERS: VAN ZANDT ‘N MILMORE HAVE A GENERATION’S NUMBER

L-R: Gary Shaffer, Tom Frascatore, Billy Van Zandt, and Jeff Babey are THE BOOMER BOYS, when the musical comedy returns to Tim McLoone’s Supper Club in AP on November 10. (photos by Rich Tang)

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), November 7, 2019

 Granted, many composers of song and verse have addressed the realities of entering one’s “autumn years” with bittersweet beauty and elegiac elegance — but it’s safe to say that only one mature work of art has had the courage to couch its sentiments in a lyric like “My Prostate is the Size of a Buick.”

Returning this Sunday evening, November 10, to the Asbury Park stage where it was first workshopped a few years back, the musical comedy The Boomer Boys is a full-length revue in which a four-man “Fat Pack” of fifty-going-on-sixtysomething guys examines the march of time, the ebb of tide, and the inevitable degeneration of a generation, through laff-worthy laments on such topics as snoring, hair loss, weight gain, and lost keys. With Tim McLoone’s Supper Club the setting for the show seen previously under the title The Man-O-Pause Boys, the single 7 pm performance marks the latest in a series of boardwalk homecomings, for a pop-culture dynamo by name of Van Zandt.

That’s Billy Van Zandt to be precise; the half-brother of Little Steven Van Zandt, and a Middletown Township native who’s always maintained a foothold in the sandy soil of his Shore spawning grounds, even as he “went Hollywood” during a decades-spanning run as an award winning writer and producer for stage and screen. Segueing from his time as a young actor who scored plum parts in high profile films like Jaws 2, Taps, and Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the comedy specialist who wrote his first produced play in junior high school built his reputation and resumé as a playwright and a producer, in close partnership with his friend (and fellow Monmouth County local) Jane Milmore.

Writing and staging some two dozen fast-paced farces and tuneful titterfests with names like Love, Sex and the IRS, The Senator Wore Pantyhose, What the Rabbi Saw, and Confessions of a Dirty Blonde — and premiering many of their scripts in “homecoming” engagements at Brookdale Community College — the two built a brand that would rival the old British empire for global sprawl, and inspire the tongue in cheek showbiz adage, “you know you work in community theater if you’ve ever appeared in a show written by Van Zandt and Milmore.”

Their hard-earned success on the far (and fun) fringes of the “legitimate theatah” earned the collaborators entree to the high-pressure, highly competitive realm of TV sitcoms — and it’s there that Billy and Jane forged a career as staff writers and co-producers for shows that included Newhart, Martin, The Hughleys, and Anything But Love. It’s an interlude that saw them working with everyone from Don Rickles and Lucille Ball to Martin Lawrence and Andrew Dice Clay; garnering Peoples Choice awards and an Emmy nomination, and even marrying in ways that placed each of them a single degree of separation from the late and legendary Bea Arthur (Billy to ex-wife and Maude daughter Adrienne Barbeau; Jane to Golden Girls co-producer Richard Vaczy).

With the network TV game more chaotic than ever, Van Zandt and Milmore resumed their focus (or actually, never turned their backs) upon the creation of new works for the stage — scoring an international hit with You’ve Got Hate Mail, an intimately scaled “fingertip farce” that plays out with characters seated at computer terminals, and a crowd-pleasing comedy that was seen previously at Mr. McLoone’s. Making the connection with veteran actor, musician, cabaret artist and composer Wayland Pickard, Billy and Jane kicked around the idea for the project that would become The Boomer Boys.

Reporting in from his California home (where just days before he’d marked himself “safe from the Getty fire”), Van Zandt explains that Pickard “came to Jane and me to pitch us the idea of writing a show together that explains what men of a certain age go through.”

 Jane said yes right away,” he recalls. “She said ‘I’d rather write about it than hear you continue to complain about it’…and the show took off from there.”

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A JOE GLOWS IN ASBURY (AND THE HARVARD BEATS GO ON)

The life and luminous legacy of the late JOE HARVARD — one-of-a-kid maker of music, savior of “trash,” and bringer of positive radiation — is celebrated with a new trash-art installation (and a special black-light opening reception) at Asbury Park’s art629 Gallery. (Joe photo by Kristen Driscoll)

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), October 31, 2019

 In Asbury Park — a place where a few too many landmark structures have met the wrecking ball — lovers of the local landscape can attest that the loss of a favorite haunt or hang can feel like losing a longtime friend. On the flipside of that thought are the people whose passing feels like the removal of a beloved building or public space; a loss that gets one pondering how that missing puzzle-piece could have continued to contribute to local life, or served to inspire those who will come to stake out their own experiences and visions for this city.

Joseph Incagnoli Jr. — better known as Joe Harvard — was just such a figure on the scene; one whose madcap energy (and seemingly undimmable enthusiasm in the midst of often monumental adversity) served to embody the very scrap and spirit of a certain little city by the sea. A genuine legend in his native East Boston (where he co-founded Fort Apache recording studios, and had a hand in the creation of some significant records by The Pixies, Radiohead, Hole, and many others), Joe would find his way to a raggedy-but-re-emerging Asbury Park around the turn of the new millennium — and, before his death from cancer in the early spring of this year, would tickle the fancies and touch the lives of people from all all corners of town.

A songwriter, guitarist, sound collagist, event promoter, painter, published author, community volunteer, cool dad, and actual ivy-league Harvard Man, Joe was furthermore a master raconteur and storyteller-slam champion — although the stories he told were anything but tall tales, as witness the outlandish but entirely true story of how this guy very nearly became a member of the ruling family of Pakistan. Regardless of how you might have made his acquaintance — as the gadget-laden “One Banned Man” busker on the boardwalk; as ringmaster of a series of “Long Weekend” open mics at venues around town; as a softball teammate; as a worker with local kids or homeless adults; as a rescuer of animals; as a member of combos with names like Dub Proof, the Cockwalkers, or the Velvet Underground tribute “Velveeta;” as an advocate for diversity, inclusivity and acceptance in this weirdly welcoming city — Joe was somehow many Joes, seemingly existing everywhere at once.

That said, Joe Harvard left his biggest impression with the widest cross-section of humanity, via the signature endeavor known as The gARTen — “the world’s first all-trash, open-air, walk-through, black-light, glow-in-the-dark art gallery,” and a project via which Joe (ably abetted by partner Mallory Massara and other gleefully hoodwinked volunteers) collected, curated, and created a vividly colorful something from “invisible” plastic nothing; transforming a drably vacant patch of downtown business-district real estate (between Parlor Gallery and Cookman Creamery) into a sur-real estate that served as zany Zen contemplation garden by day, and luminous destination attraction by night.

Puttering like a farmer in his fertile fields of reclaimed household detritus and rebirthed containers of laundry detergent, Joe played host to a passing parade that featured curious passersby, musical performers, and his longtime friend, underground rock/ folk icon Jonathan Richman. And it was a philosophical Joe who would be charged with the task of breaking down the gARTen (and a short lived sister location on the west side of town) at the end of 2018, shortly before receiving a Stage 4 cancer diagnosis. For the irrepressible creative spirit, those last months were ultimately another chapter in a decades-long campaign to seize life and passion and compassion and curiosity and good cheer, from the same devils that tend to trip up so many of us less alive souls.

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LIVE THEATER? IT’S NO ZOMBIE ART FORM

Dan Lauria of TV’s WONDER YEARS is among the actors, directors and playwrights taking part in a Theater Brut Festival of Short Plays this weekend in West End…while Ray Dademo and Frank Falisi star as the brothers Mizner, when Ocean Grove’s NENAproductions takes on Stephen Sondheim’s rarely seen ROAD SHOW.

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), October 3, 2019

On a weekend when the Zombie hordes lurch once more along the boards and boulevards of Asbury Park (and the force of nature known as Shatner walks the land, and a couple of veteran Springsteen bandmates play a free concert), a couple of seemingly unrelated happenings serve to remind us that — when it comes to resolutely original, routine-breaking, risk-taking live theater — this place sits squarely within the Land of the Living.

In fact, with more professional and semipro companies active in the area than at any time in recent memory — and several more ambitious fledgling troupes prepping for their turn in the spotlight (Asbury Park Theater, Dromio Theater, and Shore Thing Improv — about which more to come in this space), those who branded the art form a “fabulous invalid” in general, and a walking-dead issue on the local front, have to up and admit that the live local stage is most definitely No Country for Old Zombies.

THE SCENT OF BRUT

The French defined “Art Brut” (“raw” or “outsider” art) as a creative work that “colors outside the lines” of socially accepted, polite, or even legal norms — and while “Theatre Brut” as practiced by the folks at New Jersey Repertory Company is done entirely according to copyright law, Equity rules, and public permit, the (more or less) annual festival of that name represents an opportunity for the Long Branch-based company to assemble an allstar team of their favorite frequent-flyer guest artists — having fun, and playing fast-and-loose with expectations, in a way that allows actors, directors, and playwrights to invade each others’ wheelhouse.

Going up for four separate sessions between tonight, October 3 and Sunday, October 6, the 2019 Theater Brut Festival of Short Plays presents 16 never before seen works, loosely collected under the assigned theme “Some Like It Hot.”

It’s the eighth such event presented by NJ Rep co-founders SuzAnne and Gabor Barabas, and the third to be hosted inside the West End Arts Center, the reborn and repurposed elementary school building (occupying a whole city block worth of Long Branch’s West End neighborhood) that’s the subject of some truly ambitious plans for future seasons. It’s also the centerpiece of the latest West End Festival of the Arts, a five-day fling that kicked off Wednesday night with an all-star poetry reading hosted by poet/ educator/ editor/ musician Daniel Weeks and his magazine This Broken Shore (there are also concurrent visual art and photo exhibits on display for the duration of the weekend).

As with previous years’ themes (some of which have included “The Seven Deadly Sins,” “The Circus Comes to Town,” and “America’s Pastime”), playwrights are invited to submit scripts that interpret the given title in any number of ways — and, as SuzAnne Barabas explains, the concept of “Hot” has inspired the authors to deal with topics that range from sexual relationships, to climate change — and even “elements from the movie Some Like It Hot, like gangsters and drag!”

And, as is the custom, those playwrights are a diverse lot, ranging from award-winning veterans to newcomers — and even a couple of scribes who are more familiar as faces on our nation’s TV screens.

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DIG IN TO THOSE IN-DIG-ENOUS SOUNDS THAT ABOUND ALL AROUND

L-R; Karl Denson (August 23), Billy Hector (August 24), JT Bowen (August 24) and The Sensational Soul Cruisers (August 25 PLUS August 27) are among the foundational sounds to be found in days to come, here within NJ’s capital community for live music.

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), August 22, 2019

 It’s known as “indigenous music” in certain scholarly and appreciative circles — and, while it doesn’t connote the sort of sounds that might have been in the air before the first settles arrived on this shore, it’s all about the Jazz and the Blues (and, by extension, pretty much everything else) that form the backstory of America. Here in NJ’s capital community for live music, the place where the sand meets the surf has also historically been a place where diverse groups of people meet up; in ways that have spanned the spectrum from tinderbox-tense to terrifically tuneful.

With arguably more original music organizations working this patch of sandy soil than ever before, more places to put ‘em in — and a heightened sense of the Shore scene’s past, present, and future — it’s no accident that numerous nonprofit entities have stepped up with a shared mission to both preserve the best of the past, and to promote the now and next generation of players. Orgs like the Asbury Park Music Foundation, the nascent African American Music Project, the Red Bank-based Jazz Arts Project, and the Lakehouse Academy continue to make their presence felt in a myriad of ways — but for sheer continuity and consistency of cause, they’ve all got to tip their hat to the 30-plus years’ mission of the Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Foundation.

“It’s a passion with me…I do it to support live music,” says Tom Baldino, a retired banker who first joined the all-volunteer JSJBF “around the turn of the century…that sounds like a long time ago!” — and who has served as the organization’s president for the past seven years.

“I go back a few years myself…the first show I ever saw was Jackie Wilson at Convention Hall, in 1959,” adds the graduate of Asbury Park High School (and veteran of numerous teen-years jobs on the boardwalk). “I was supposed to be at the movies that night…but I ditched the Mayfair to attend that show, and I’m glad I did.”

While the lifelong music fan remembers the Asbury of the late 1950s and 1960s as “a magical time to be there…I even got to sneak into the old Orchid Lounge once or twice,” his focus remains very much rooted in the here and now — with a particular emphasis on the annual Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Festival, the 2019 edition of which goes up this Saturday, August 24 on the Great Lawn area of the Long Branch boardwalk.

Running between 1 and 9 pm — and followed immediately thereafter by a display of fireworks — the one-day event assembles an eclectic collection of pure jazz, R&B, electric blues and bluesrock artists from across the region for the ninth year on the LB waterfront (following a single year’s stand at Monmouth Park). It’s a more concentrated successor to the weekend-long festivals that were once hosted at Red Bank’s Marine Park — large-scale affairs that, while regularly boasting some pretty awesome national/ international names, often had to take a seat as Mother Nature blew the meanest solos (folks still whisper of that fateful and fogged-out night when an allstar band of festival refugees, including Levon Helm, David Johansen, and Howlin’ Wolf guitarist Hubert Sumlin, commandeered the now-defunct Olde Union House restaurant for an impromptu jam that made Shore music history before getting shut down by the fire department after just two songs).

By contrast, “we’ve been really lucky with the weather since we moved to Long Branch…and the people of the city have been really supportive of us, beginning with Barry Stein, as well as the police, Public Works…and I’ve got to give a shout out to Mayor Pallone and his staff, who’ve been so accommodating, and who have allowed us to continue our mission.”

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EASDALE AND CO. RETURN WITH LESS DRAMA, MORE ‘RAMA

John Easdale (second from left) leads the re-energized lineup of Jersey-bred modern rock favorites DRAMARAMA back to the Shore circuit on August 1st. (photo by Amy Martin Friedman)

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), July 25, 2019

As John Easdale recalled it a few years back, “they showed up at my front door one day, when I’m not wearing a shirt…and they worked to make it happen.”

“They” were the folks from a new VH-1 TV series entitled Bands Reunited — and the thing they were looking to make happen, even as Easdale stood there looking more like something out of an episode of COPS — was the reunion, by popular demand, of a little project known as Dramarama.

“It was remarkably flattering that they would even think of us that way,” said the singer, songwriter and forever frontman of the bi-coastally based band that made its reputation in the “modern rock” glory days of The Green Parrot rock club and WHTG-FM — and which returns Shoreside once more next Thursday, August the First.

”It felt like I won some sort of prize; the Publishers Clearing House.”

As it turned out, the cable series spotlight was exactly the thing that the members of Dramarama needed to heal from an early 1990s break-up; to cement their standing as a favorite of fanbases on both the Atlantic and Pacific (plus, for whatever reason, a fairly fervent following in France) — and to enter the new century as an institution that materializes regularly, like some kind of alterna-rock Avengers, whenever and wherever the situation demands the band’s signature mix of supercharged powerpop and sardonic social commentary.

Born and bred on the mean streets of Wayne, NJ; relocated to Southern California (when legendary KROQ deejay Rodney Bingenheimer’s stamp of approval granted them godhood within the greater LA region), the five-man Dramarama returns to Asbury Park’s Wonder Bar with three charter members intact (Easdale, plus guitarists Mark Englert and Peter Wood), an all-new album in the pipeline (their first since 2005’s Everybody Dies) — and a hard-earned cred that’s seen them record and perform with former Rolling Stone Mick Taylor, Blondie drummer Clem Burke, and iconic session man Jim Keltner (they also count Ellen De Generes among their biggest fans, even appearing on her show as her “birthday present” several years back).

With doors opening at 7:30 pm, it’s a Very Special Episode in the club’s summertime-Thursday series of After Party events, keyed to the open-air Jams on the Sand concerts on the beachtop bandstand outside the nearby Anchor’s Bend bar. It’s also the first local appearance of 2019 for the perennial Shore faves, who were forced to cancel a scheduled January appearance when Easdale was diagnosed with melanoma just days before the band’s customary contribution to the annual Light of Day festival.

Speaking from his home in Whittier, CA (historic spawning/stomping grounds of Richard M. Nixon), the singer assures his public that the health scare “was just that, a scare…they took a chunk out of my arm, and now everything is fine.”

“In the months since then, I’ve realized that I didn’t need to react as much as I did,” Easdale insists. “I went and looked at WebMD, and read about how it’s the deadliest form of skin cancer, and how it killed Danny Federici…I was just isolating myself within my fear at the time.”

“ I feel bad about missing that show,” says the artist whose extracurricular solo projects have also taken him to such area stages as the Stone Pony, the old Donovan’s Reef in Sea Bright, and Joey Harrison’s Surf Club in Ortley Beach. “We’ve been doing Light of Day each year, along with another show in late summer, and we’re definitely gonna try and make it back next time out.” Continue reading

STAR TRACKS & VOYAGERS: SCI-FI COMMANDS THE NJ REP STAGE

Daven Ralston and Joseph Carlson inhabit the recent past and the distant future in New Jersey Repertory Company’s production of VOYAGER ONE, the Jared Michael Delaney play that makes its world premiere this weekend in Long Branch. (Andrea Phox Photography)

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), June 20, 2019

From the small smart-screens of the hand-held mobile device nation, to the grandest IMAX domes of the superhero mega-plex multiverse, the triumph of Sci-Fi over the popular culture is ultimate and undisputed. It’s a fever-dream scenario hammered home all the more by every news report of driverless cars, drone-based deliveries, apocalyptic forecasts, artisanally designed humans, realiTV presidents, and revised UFO protocols — although, strangely enough, there’s one cultural corner that remains largely untouched by its cold and probing light.

According to Jared Michael Delaney, “You don’t see science fiction on stage, hardly ever” — and while the actor-playwright allows that shows like the musical Be More Chill or the Pulitzer Prize finalist Marjorie Prime have incorporated elements like pill-sized supercomputers and android-based immortality into their studies of all-too human relationships, “whether it’s out of fear of special effects or whatever, a lot of producers shy away completely from considering it.”

“I’m a sci-fi fan myself…to me, it’s at its best when it’s tackling some real philosophical questions,” explains Delaney. With that in mind, the Philadelphia-based actor and playwright got busy employing one of the sci-fi genre’s specialty devices as a means to re-examine one of his signature themes — namely, the search for our tribal identity, whether it be through sports-team fandom, nation of origin, or membership in our curious but ever-endangered species.

Going up in previews tonight, June 20 — and opening officially on Saturday, June 22 — Voyager One represents the latest in an ever-expanding line of plays to make their world premiere on the downtown Broadway stage of New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch. And, while it’s the first of Delaney’s full-length scripts to be produced by the company, it stands as a home-away-from-homecoming of sorts for the performer who’s co-starred in several NJ Rep mainstage offerings, most recently alongside fellow Philly phenom (and frequent NJ Rep flyer) Ames Adamson in the 2018 two-hander The Calling.

Like Delaney’s local debut (in 2016’s Mad Love), The Calling was directed by one of NJ Rep’s most industrious and inspired creative partners, Evan Bergman — and it’s Bergman who returns to the NJ Rep director’s chair for the fourteenth (fifteenth? sixteenth?) time, with a drama that unfolds within two distinctly different points on the timeline — the not-so-distant past (where a team of researchers labors on the Voyager 1 space exploration project of the play’s title), and an imponderably distant future (where “a discovery upends everything that humanity has been led to believe”).

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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.

REG IS MAKIN A GLORIOUS NOISE, AT 4-DAY MUSIC FEST

REG SATANA of Defiance Engine and 19DRT (photo by Judi Hull)

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), May 16, 2019

Although there doesn’t seem to be such a thing as a traditionally recommended gift for a 31st anniversary — most sources have it as somewhere between pearl and coral — that’s hardly any excuse for music fans to skip the momentous milestone occasion unfolding on the famous stage of a landmark rock bar this weekend. In fact, the official designation of the first annual Makin Waves Fest can be regarded as a Year One celebration that merits a gift of paper — namely, the legal-tender currency that allows access to one of the must-see events of the season.

The occasion is the latest birthday for the beloved baby of entertainment journalist Bob Makin — which is to say Makin Waves, the long-running, award-winning music column that appears in The Aquarian Weekly, New Jersey Stage and other Jersey-based outlets. The veteran news reporter has staked out a ringside seat for every significant development on the Shore scene throughout the past few decades; interviewing scores of music makers, promoting live shows, and in the process helping to raise many thousands of dollars for children’s charities, arts education, community food banks, and other non-profit entities.

This time out, the designated beneficiary is one that’s unabashedly close to home, as the inaugural Makin Waves Fest is a “Save the Wave” endeavor designed to help the multi-media venture “sustain itself due to a lack of revenue and funds.” To that end, Makin has partnered with a panorama of co-sponsors (including Wave Resort, BlowUpRadio.com, and Tito’s Vodka, facilitator of featured drink specials for the four-day fest) — in addition to primary host venue The Brighton Bar, the Long Branch-based outpost of the innovative and fiercely indie that carried the torch of original music, when other stages had gone dark, or surrendered to the demands of the cover-band dinosaurs and the disco ball. Under the stewardship of co-owner, public schoolteacher and seasoned punk rocker Greg Macolino, the West End wonder at 121 Brighton Avenue soldiers on into our strange new century; staying connected to its own wall-of-fame legacy, even as it nurtures another new generation of bands, off-beat comics, and other vanguard vaudevillians.

Look closer at Makin’s list of event partners and you’ll notice the banner of “Reg Satana Presents,” a name that denotes the (more or less) official entry into the band booking biz for a figure who is herself no stranger to the Brighton stage: thunderdome drummer, record label exec, pop culture authority and supermom Reg “Satana” Hogan.

“Bob suggested that I help him line up bands for the Saturday show,” explains the scene stalwart whose extensive resume includes stints with fondly recalled bands like Dimebag, Solarized, Freak Theater, and the nationally renowned Daisycutter. “I was happy to do it, since I’ve done some occasional shows at The Saint, and I’m glad to be playing it…twice!”

Reg (whose stage name pays tribute to the late great Tura Satana, one-of-a-kind star of the 1960s cinema classic Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!) appears as a member of two distinct power trios, during the May 18 multi-band blitz that kicks off at 3 pm. The surgically jagged noise-rock incursions of Defiance Engine find the drummer teaming with her husband, bassist-vocalist Jim “Rex” Hogan (with whom she co-founded the now-legendary 1980s/90s label Heat Blast Records), as well as with guitarist Rich Walter. It should be noted that, in addition, to their string-throttling skills, the two guys in the band are ace administrators of a pair of must-view Facebook groups for likeminded fans: Rich as curator of NJ Hardcore Reunion, and Rex as all-seeing watcher over the ever-growing online community known as Noise Rock Now!

The drumminatrix returns to the driver’s seat with the more recently minted 19DRT (a semiprivate-joke reference to a person or thing being so old, that they date back to the year “19-dirt”), in which “I play ‘Sammy’ to my fellow Rat Packers, Frank (Burdynski) and Dean (Monjoy).” Flexing her promoter muscles — and tying in to the day’s theme of bands who boast a connection to the fabled history of the Brighton — Reg also brings aboard the five-piece Full On Empty (featuring Keith Ackerman of The Atomic Bitchwax) and Solace (featuring Tommy Southard and Rob Hultz of the high-profile national recording act Godspeed).

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