DECEMBER IN MUSIC-MAD ASBURY PARK IS A SONIC SAMPLER!

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.

SPECIAL SOMETHINGS

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.

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WAG GATHER TOGETHER, FOR A HECTIC HOLIDAY SCHEDULE

L-R: Brian Ostering, Alicia Van Sant, and Don Lee of THE WAG take it outside, in any kind of weather.

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

You’ve probably spotted them, on the stages and under the ceilings of some favorite watering holes within the local music ecosystem: The Stone Pony; The Saint; The Wonder Bar. But chances are much more likely that you’ve encountered The Wag out of doors, in the wild, within a natural habitat that extends from pretty much every area park, plaza, and Porchfest, to the docks, gazebos, and grassy knolls of our municipal marinas, public libraries, baseball diamonds, and even the odd zoo.

With the weather turns warmer, the Shore-based purveyors of radiantly sunny power pop can be counted upon to take it outside; dashing out the door like a pet that’s been cooped up all winter, and getting downright ubiquitous with gigs that include such longstanding commitments as the Monmouth County SPCA’s Dog Walk and Pet Fair at Brookdale Community College (where the band has entertained since the springtime event’s inception), and the many manifestations of the NJ Friends of Clearwater Festival (where Wag bassist-vocalist and songwriter Brian Ostering assumed the role of music director for the eco-friendly fest that’s drawn the participation of wand’ring troubadors named Springsteen and Seeger).

That said, the fall-back season of dwindling daylights is hardly one of hibernation for the Middletown Township combo, established more than 20 years ago by Ostering and his vocalist/ multi-instrumentalist wife, Alicia Van Sant. Newly decked out in their winter coats, the core couple and their bandmates (guitarist/vocalist Don Lee; drummer/ guitarist/ vocalist Joshua Van Ness) prepare to prosecute a cold weather schedule that begins in earnest this weekend — or, as Ostering puts it, “once Thanksgiving hits, it’s nothing but holidays for The Wag!”

Shoreside, the band returns to one of its favorite summer-season sites — Riley Park on Main Street in Bradley Beach — to warm the cockles at the borough’s annual tree lighting ceremony, going on this Sunday, December the First. The Wag (whose catalog of seven indie recordings includes an EP of self-penned Christmas tunes) is scheduled to perform a set of seasonal signatures and original spins during the family-friendly festivities that begin at 4 pm — and which further promise appearances by opera singer Olivia Youngman, the terpsichorean talents of Robin McGill School of Dance and The Dancer’s Workshop, plus Frozen’s Princess Elsa and of course The Big Red Guy himself, arriving in style via fire truck.

For the Wagsters, it’s just part of a very busy interlude that keynotes on the evening of Black Friday up in Red Bank, where the band continues a recently minted tradition of warming up the crowd for the big Town Lighting show by Tim McLoone and the freight-train force of positive vibes known as Holiday Express. The post-Thanksgiving/ pre-Christmas activity climaxes on Saturday, December 30, with a first-annual hometown extravaganza dedicated to the benefit of the MCSPCA.

Going up at 7 pm inside the Middletown Arts Center (the reborn and rebranded warehouse building located just steps from NJ Transit’s North Jersey Coast Line train platform), The Wag’s Christmas Spectacular is being pitched as a step beyond just a holiday concert event — something that’s “more of a variety show, with Santa and dancers (including Jamie Marie Hannigan, featured in the band’s award winning video for their song “She’s a Devil”), and comedy sketches starring the band members.”

“My wife thinks I’m crazy, spending my time on things like painting an 8-foot tall cat snowman,” laughs Osterling, who notes that all profits from the show will be donated to the Monmouth County SPCA’s shelter facility in Eatontown. “But we really want this to become an annual thing…and we’re determined to bring back the concept of the Christmas special!”

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ASBURY’S GOT TALLIE (AND LOTS OF TALENTED WOMEN) DURING 3-DAY FEST

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), November 21, 2019. Tallie design by Eric Schiabor

Tallie? Tallie Who? According to producing partners Brittney Dixon and Bob Makin, she’s the “overlooked girlfriend” of Tillie, the iconic figure whose toothy Cheshire-cat grin has graced many a souvenir and signifier of Asbury Park. She’s also someone whose name means princess in Gaelic, and from Friday, November 22 through Sunday, November 24, she’ll serve as spirit guide namesake for a three-day/ three venue happening designed to “shine a light on 22 female and female-fronted music acts, as a means to raise funds for two impactful women-operated Asbury-based charities” — an ambitious project called Tallie Fest.

Taking place on the stages of Marilyn Schlossbach’s Langosta Lounge and Asbury Park Yacht Club on the famous boardwalk, as well as Scott Stamper’s Main Street mainstay The Saint, the inaugural Tallie Fest celebrates “the many talented women based in Asbury and throughout New Jersey,” even as it raises funds and awareness for Food For Thought, the nonprofit initiative through which Chef Marilyn’s flagship restaurant feeds the homeless and hungry with free holiday dinners (on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter), in addition to operating a food truck that employs inner-city youth. The slate of shows also aims to benefit the Asbury Park Women’s Convention, the annual empowerment event (and its related year-round activities) that occurs during the Women’s History Month of March.

As the onetime manager of the landmark New Brunswick nightclub Court Tavern, and the promotional powerhouse behind the Brittney On Fire music showcase events (seen regularly over the past few years at venues like The Asbury Hotel’s Soundbooth Lounge), Dixon has indisputably ranked among the most influential women on the Garden State’s burgeoning music scene — although, as she readily observes, this highly anticipated “female powered” festival was originally the brainchild of Makin, the Dean of NJ Rock Journalists, and the veteran event organizer whose Makin Waves programs have raised beaucoup bucks for many a worthy cause.

“Tallie Fest was actually all Bob’s idea…I ran into him at a show at a local cafe, and he brought it up to me and I told him I loved the idea,” she says. “This is the first time we’ve ever officially done an event together, and I’m really thrilled with what we’ve created.“

“There have always been fantastic women doing their thing in the scene, and I’ve worked with a bunch of them from the get-go,” Dixon observes. “But it does seem that in recent years, bands with females or female fronts are taken a bit more seriously…it’s still not where it needs to be, but hopefully the scene can keep improving.”

Tallie floats her first notes over the chilly Atlantic with a pair of concurrent-but-connected concerts on Friday night, at the Schlossbach group’s sister saloons on the boardwalk. Langosta Lounge offers up an eclectic bill of locally based music makers, beginning at 9:30 with an unusual and exotic twist: the Middle Eastern percussion and instrumentation of music educator (and co-founder of the NY Arabic Orchestra) April Centrone. She’s followed by a young mainstay of the Shore scene, pop vocalist/ songwriter and bandleader Taylor Tote, with a closing set by Leah Voysey (from Brooklyn via Joisey).

Meanwhile, the Yacht Club features Pony-pedigreed singer and songwriter Stella Mrowicki, launching a Friday triple bill that further features Mamadrama (“a mom-only Jersey Shore band spicing rock and punk covers with inspired originals”), and Ella Ross, teamed here with a genuine Asbury original, Blaise. Both shows (as well as the two Saturday night events) are free of charge, but half of the entertainment budget will be donated to Food for Thought, which also will benefit from a 50/50 raffle, a silent auction (for color prints of co-sponsor Eric Schiabor’s Tallie poster), and a food drive through which attendees are encouraged to bring canned, nonperishable items to the show.

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LIVE, LOCAL & LOYAL, RIGHT HERE IN MUSIC CITY

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), November 14, 2019

 LOYALTY! It’s a concept that only truly functions as a two-way street — mind you don’t get thrown ‘neath one of those passing buses — and one that arguably attains its highest calling in that special relationship between singer/ band and audience. And, as Jeff Warshauer puts it, “in a time where 40,000 tracks get uploaded to Spotify every day and music is being relegated to the background, it is very important that we facilitate a deeper connection between artist and fan, and elevate the local music scene.”

Here along the Monmouth County Shore, that epicenter of the NJ music community (where sounds are a cash crop and principal export), the emergence and influx of new musical acts in recent years (added to an already substantial scene’s worth of veteran acts) fairly cries out for a reliable guide — and with that in mind, Warshauer developed Asbury Park-based Live Music Loyalty as a mobile app that focuses on “helping musicians connect with their fans and grow their audience” — a mission accomplished via comprehensive live music listings, detailed artist profiles, and an option that encourages fans “to check in to events so artists know who come see them play” (there’s also a recommended playlist each week, spotlighting tacts who are locally based, or who’ve paid a recent visit).

Having made its mark, with remarkable momentum, upon the scene’s screens, Live Music Loyalty takes its next quantum leap into the brick and mortar meatworld, with a pair of (concurrent but connected) multi-band “takeover” events this Saturday night, November 16. Beginning at 9:30 pm, the hallway between a pair of sister saloons on the Asbury boardwalk (Marilyn Schlossbach’s Langosta Lounge, and Asbury Park Yacht Club) is the two-way street that allows access to two stages worth of “Scene by the Sea” sounds, with Langosta serving up ace showband Secret Sound, plus the Mike Montrey Band and Matt Cook — while APYC sets sail with The Shoobies, Natalie Farrell, and The Foes of Fern. There’s no cover charge, and proceeds from purchases of products from drink special sponsors Last Wave Brewery and Shipwreck Rum go directly to the youth music education programs of the Asbury Park Music Foundation.

As Warshauer explains it, “Asbury Park is such an unbelievable community, and we need to make sure our artists don’t get drowned out by the noise” — but if ever a scene kicked up a glorious noise of its own, it’s this one; a year-round bash that spans the genres and the generations, and that anymore refuses to abide by the tired old concept of the “off season.”

Embedded within the evolution of the present-day scene is the phenomenon of the musician turned impresario/ promoter/ ringmaster of their own branded events — and the coming nights offer two exciting examples at live music venues in Long Branch. Tonight, November 14, the Freehold-based folks behind the fast-growing surf/ tiki label Hi-Tide Recordings (that’s Magdalena O’Connell and her husband, Black Flamingos drummer Vincent Minervino) return to Whitechapel Projects, as they welcome Rochester, NY’s retro pop trio The Hi-Risers (with some set-up spins by the ever-enigmatic DJ Hi-Tide). Then on Friday, the forever Home of Original Music on the Jersey Shore — that’s Greg Macolino’s Brighton Bar in wild West End — gives the floor to pioneer punk/crunch/skronk drummer Reg “Satana” Hogan, as the veteran pacesetter and recently minted promoter showcases a bill toplined by the buzzed-about band Shut Up, and featuring Reg’s own recent project, the trio 19DRT.

Another homegrown performer whose skills in both nightclub/concert and theatrical settings have served him well as a showman — the ever-industrious Anthony “Remember Jones” D’Amato — takes the Stone Pony stage on Saturday night, as frontman for the latest feather in his career cap; a little combo known as Everyone Orchestra. Under the baton of Matt Butler, it’s “a blissful, masterfully conducted, fully spontaneous explosion of live music created by a rotating cast of world renowned musicians” — in this case including such awesome instrumentalists as pedal-steel paragon Robert Randolph and sought-after session guitarist Vernon (Living Colour) Reid. Check our music listings on page 31 for particulars — and check in around town that night for no-cover sets by local lights Quincy Mumford (Robinson Ale House) and Alex English (Soundbooth Lounge at The Asbury Hotel).

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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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IT’S OCTOBER COUNTRY, AND ‘LILY’ IS IN BLOOM AT NJ REP

Joy Danze and Christopher Daftsios star in LILY, the play by Daftsios making its world premiere in Long Branch this weekend. (photos by Andrea Phox)

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), October 24, 2019

 In screen stories like Tender Mercies (and numerous vanity projects starring singers with actorly ambitions), a tale of a musician’s battles with personal demons, past transgressions, and the po’-side of fortune is told with a pronounced twang — and it’s not hard to see why, since no other genre can match country when it comes to that often tense and too-close dance between star and fan.

Locked into a loop of perpetual touring; grinding out product for an increasingly fractured and fickle marketplace, the country music artists who are compelled to meet and greet their followers at events like the annual CMA FanFair can often look like they’d rather be anywhere but there. And here in the heart of The October Country (that place “where it is always turning late in the year,” as per Ray Bradbury, and where boarded-up seasonal businesses are “nailing summer into a series of coffins”), a frequent visitor to our Shore prepares to debut a new dramatic work that fulfills two of his personal goals: to compose “a modern day Greek tragedy,” and “to play a cowboy.”

Regular followers of Long Branch-based New Jersey Repertory Company know the actor Christopher Daftsios from recent-seasons dramas like The Jag, Mercy, and The Substance of Bliss. Beginning this weekend and continuing through a month-long limited engagement, the player steps out as playwright, when NJ Rep’s branded playhouse on downtown Broadway presents the premiere of Lily.

Going up for a pair of preview performances beginning tonight, October 24, the latest in the professional company’s long line of world premiere plays represents the first fully staged production of a script by Daftsios. The actor who saw his one-act “In the Hole” performed at one of NJ Rep’s short play festivals (and who has since expanded that piece into the full-length Circus Dreams) was actually approached by two NYC-based producers who sought to bring Lily to Off Broadway runs — but opted to debut in Long Branch, where “SuzAnne and Gabe Barabas gave me the freedom to explore this story.”

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ASBURY UNDERGROUND RISES AGAIN, IN A CRAWL TO DUTY

Mark “Xylophone of Wrench” Davis returns to Joe Harvard’s gARTen — where he plied his unique musical trade in October 2018 — when the semi-annual sonic smorgasbord known as ASBURY UNDERGROUND comes back to the bistros, boutiques, and boulevards of downtown AP on October 19.

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), October 17, 2019

 It’s a FESTIVAL for sure, here in a seaside destination that’s just signed up for a third go-round of Sea.Hear.Now in 2020. Only this is one that elevates the storefront over the waterfront; the beloved “townies” over the international touring acts — and where the only surfing to be done is in catching the wave of a city’s creative community, within the most delightfully unexpected settings.

This Saturday afternoon, October 19, marks the plucky 13th edition of the Asbury Underground Art and Music Crawl, a strolling/ rolling smorgasbord that commandeers a collection of offbeat venues for a happening that, like the recent Porchfest of a few weeks back, puts the “underground” in street-level sight — placing the fertile scene’s big heart front and center for all to see. The brainchild of Patrick Schiavino — artist, gallery owner, curator, promoter, vanguard Asbury Park developer, and big-time music fan — the Crawl works its way up and down the Cookman Avenue corridor (plus points on Bond Street, Bangs Ave, Lake/ Springwood and Main Street) between the hours of 1 and 6 pm.

Speaking at art629, his Cookman Avenue gallery space that does duty as Asbury Underground’s headquarters, Schiavino explains that “come September, things tend to get very quiet downtown during the week…it’s like someone let the air out of the balloon…and my neighbors here in the business district love that I’m doing something that brings people to town in the daytime.”

With a music business resume that includes stints as booker for such fabled Jersey nightspots as The Fountain Casino and Club Bene, and as a co-owner of the Circuit landmark Wonder Bar (to say nothing of his years as manager of TV/ nightclub icon Uncle Floyd Vivino), Schiavino could maybe afford to rest on the laurels of that well-earned cred — but for him, the event represents “an opportunity for performers to connect with new audiences — younger kids, older people, anyone who doesn’t go out to bars at night.”

Also blinking out into the daylight sun are performers that span the generations and the genres, encompassing longtime local faves (Stringbean, Kevin John Allen) and next-gen breakouts (Taylor Tote, Quincy Mumford, Pamela Flores), plus purveyors of punk, powerpop, Americana, torchy jazz, and the classically inspired compositions of David Ross Lawn. With a number of new additions on board for this year’s tour (inlcuding Amici, Locals ArtSpace, Proven Poké, Sami’s, Wacky Tobacky), the pop-up pop concerts transform the town’s galleries, eateries, salons, and retail spaces into places where one can almost literally stumble over The Next Big Thing.

“It gets a little bigger each year, and it could possibly be even bigger by about a third, if we had the extra manpower…and if there were such a thing as more hours in the day,” says Pat with a laugh. “As it is, we really can’t fit more people on our schedule in a single day, without doing an injustice to those that are playing.”

It’s a Herculean task behind the scenes, as undertaken by Pat’s music organizers, Dark City Entertainment’s Christine Feola and Shore scene veteran Rick Barry. Considerations include maintaining an eclectic shuffle mix; taking stock of who’s going to be on the road at the time (frequent-flyer performers Emily Grove and Dentist are thus missing in action this year), and making sure that musicians who draw an overlapping crowd are scheduled in such a way that fans can catch as many of their favorites as possible. 

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