IT’S WHAT’S UP FOR WEEK OF NOVEMBER 15-21

Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, November 15 2018

SCENES: Dr. Sketchy’s Belly Dance at Bond Street Basement 

The always-amazing and energizing CJ Mars IS the latest regeneration of the good Dr. Sketchy, the local chapter of the monthly series of themed drawing-class sessions that’s found a subterranean home at the Bond Street Basement Bar. Join CJ (pictured front and center in photo at left) and friends TONIGHT, November 15, for a very special event centered around the ever-exotic realm of Belly Dance — and featuring the incredible Brazilian-American dancer Yamé as guest live model! The teacher and leader of the SharQui Dance company (pictured above, during a previous Sketchy session keyed to the signs of the Zodiac) invites sketchers to sketch ‘er at 6:30 pm; it’s $10 admission to reserve a seat (via eventbrite.com or at the door); there’s a prize package giveaway of art supplies, plus unique merchandise for sale AND more details at the Facebook page for Dr. Sketchy’s Asbury Park.

STAGES: ANNIE at Axelrod Performing Arts Center 

Andrea McArdle, the original Little Orphan Annie of the Tony winning 1977 Broadway original, returns to the hit musical (this time as mean Miss Hannigan). Performances at 8 p.m. on November 15, 16 and 17; at 2 p.m. on November 17; and at 3 p.m. on November 18. Reserve tickets ($46-$56 adults, with discounts for seniors and students) at axelrodartscenter.com. Check upperwetside.wordpress.com for our archived Coaster interview with McArdle on the new production.

STAGES: THE DROWSY CHAPERONE at Monmouth U

A clever pastiche of 1920s Jazz Age tunefests (and the fans who love them), the Tony winning 2009 meta-musical (with songs by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison) comes to the Lauren K. Woods Theatre in a production from the Department of Music and Theatre Arts at Monmouth U. Professor Sheri Anderson directs a student cast, with performances at 8 p.m. on November 15, 16 and 17, plus a 3 p.m. matinee on November 18. Reserve tickets ($20; free for MU students) at http://www.monmouth.edu/arts.

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A HAPPENIN’ HALLO-WEEK, IN AND AROUND ASCARY PARK

Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, October 25 2018

Let other towns lay claim to being the area’s capital of Christmas cheer; home to the longest running St. Patrick’s Day celebration; scene of the most star-spangled July Fourth display. With dozens of venues in which to dance the witching hour away — and plenty of world renowned boardwalk and boulevards on which to strut one’s carefully costumed stuff — Asbury Park has a lock on the days and nights leading up to the Eve of All Hallows, making the seaside city that so famously “came back from the dead” the undisputed headquarters of Halloween festivity.

It’s an interlude that sounds an early-October keynote with the Asbury Park Zombie Walk, the annual lurch previewed in these pages a few weeks back. And in between there are events like this past Saturday’s Haunted Carousel Dance Party, the gala-ghoul benefit for local charities from which images can be seen at ahauntedcarousel.com. But from the moment the sun goes down tonight, October 25 — and on through the moment the clock strikes midnight on November 1, the Day of the Dead — both the legendary haunted landmarks and the shiny new haunts of the greater Asbury area are where the sights, the sounds, and the seriously fun cosplay can be found.

CONCERTS

On the Asbury boards, the major concert event in the season of the witch is Convention Hell — and in this year’s edition of the Hall-rocking happening, the venerable venue welcomes the jam-circuit juggernaut Pink Talking Fish, a band that — as the name implies — triangulates a tribute to the collected works of Pink Floyd, Talking Heads, and Phish. On Saturday night, the four-piece group and friends will be saluting Floyd’s epic album Dark Side of the Moon in sound and light — and joining in the spirit of dress-up fun are three local favorites portraying acts who appeared at Convention Hall in summers past: Wild Adriatic (as Led Zeppelin), Waiting For Mongo (as James Brown and his Famous Flames), and The Burns (as Jim Morrison and The Doors). Doors open at 7 pm, with tickets ($20 advance; $25 d.o.s.)  at the box office or via apboardwalk.com.

While the Convention Hell show is open only to concertgoers age 21 and up, fans of all ages can take it over to the headquarters of the Asbury Park Music Foundation (in the Lakehouse complex on Lake Avenue) on Saturday night, where from 7 to 11 pm the annual Diamond Concerts Halloween Show presents a bill headlined by the up-and-coming Brick Township-based band The Ones You Forgot. Continue reading

THE SUMMER OF TUNES STARTS NOW!

Adam Ant makes a not-at-all-desperate and very-much-indeed serious July 21 stop on his summer Singles tour; just one of many high-profile happenings at Asbury Park’s venerable venue the Paramount Theatre.

Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, May 24 2018

From the days of Arthur Pryor’s long-running seaside serenades, to the syncopated incubations of the legendary Springwood Avenue nightspots…and from those amplified guitarslingers who plugged into the Circuit during its 1960s-70s heyday, to the new generations of dreamers who seek their fortunes on our boardwalk, boulevards, barrooms and bowling alleys…Asbury Park has long been that unique little town that comes equipped with a soundtrack.

Granted, it’s a pulsebeat that emanates year-‘round from venues located throughout the downtown and waterfront…but the coming of summer turns up the volume and ups the ante on all that, as open-air bandstands, festival stages, and suitably flat surfaces transform parks, plazas, and prime portions of beachfront real estate into vehicles for musicians of all stylistic stripes to do their thing. It all begins in earnest this Memorial Day weekend…so here’s to every maker of sweet sounds who ever turned their sandcastle dreams into concrete reality in this city of summers (plus every awesome out-of-towner who ever made Asbury Park a must-play whistlestop on the never-ending tour), and here’s a round-up preview of all the sounds coming your way. Continue reading

5/9: Gentleman Jim: Have Triv, Will Trav

NortonTrivia3“YOU’RE the idiot!” points out genial Quizmaster™ Jim Norton, as Tuesday Night Trivia returns to the very Birthplace of Trivia…Asbury Park. (photos by Stuffy)

The question was a tricky one, regarding the founding of the NHL, and the number of member teams at the time that the league came together in 1917. The correct answer (four) fairly flummoxed fans who were brought up on the legend of the hallowed “Original Six” franchises — prompting Quizmaster™ Jim Norton to observe with a dry drip of feigned arrogance, “To all of you who actually submitted ‘The Original Six’ as your answer…and who even underlined it, like I’m some kind of an idiot…well you’re wrong. Fuck you. YOU’RE the idiot!” It was just another Tuesday in Asbury Park — traditionally a day of rest for many local businesses, there in the drab foothills of the working week — and a day often given over to some creatively wacky pursuits; a fact hammered home by this Tuesday’s head-spinning Steel Cage Match of a city council election. But on May 7, a homegrown tradition returned to take root, as the pop-cultural force of nature known as Tuesday Night Trivia reappeared with a reassuringly familiar host (Gentleman Jim) and a new lease on life, at an all-new host venue — the atom-age retro rec room Asbury Lanes. Continue reading

4/10: Asbury’s Trash Cannes by the Sea

LloydToxieLanesTroma Studios multi-media mogul (and barnstorming Barnum) Lloyd Kaufman — seen here with studio mascot TOXIE on the steps of Asbury Lanes — returns to the Shore’s atom-age rec room for the 14th TromaDance Film Festival, Friday night and all day Saturday. 

In an interview with Dorothy Creamer on our old Red Bank oRBit site (archived here on the upperWETside), Troma Studios merry mogul Lloyd Kaufman described his ultra-underground, infra-indie empire as “the jalapeño peppers on the cultural pizza” of a fastfood entertainment industry…a resolutely outsider paragon of poverty-row pedigree, now closing in on 40 years’ worth of a decidedly vintage-vaudeville approach to “creating movies of the future.”

The film production and distribution marque that gave us The Toxic Avenger hasn’t mega-morphed too far beyond its 1980s roots as a video-age inheritor of a proud drive-in tradition; a successor to all of those sub-American International outfits that were little more than a stogie-chomping would-be mogul with a three-line phone and an art-metal desk. Under the leadership of Yale-educated businessman Kaufman and co-founder Michael Herz, the Troma brand would accrue a library of cult favorites that numbered among them Class of Nuke ‘Em High, Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD, Surf Nazis Must Die!, and Poultrygeist (for which our own Mike Black contributed to the score).

Armed with both a gore-drenched Herschell Gordon Lewis sensibility AND an extra edge of “strong social satire,” the “Toxie” franchise made mainstream inroads with a trio of sequels,  Marvel comics adaptations, a Saturday morning kidtoon and an off-Broadway musical that boasted music by Bon Jovi’s David Bryan. And, in the tradition of Roger Corman and his various proteges, several Troma epics would see some of the earliest screen work by Samuel L. Jackson, Vincent D’Onofrio and director James Gunn.

What Kaufman and Troma appear to have done best is to remain a boil on the butt of the industry — both the one-dimensional dumbdowns of the MilkDud multiplexes, AND the predictable pretensions of the fair-trade-tea festival circuit. It’s a dynamic that inspired Kaufman and kompany to crash the annual Sundance Festival to establish the pirate-satellite celebration of all things inconveniently indie known as the Tromadance Film Festival — and it’s extended to an ongoing online crowd-funding campaign to invade the 2013 Cannes Film Festival for the purpose of producing a documentary (“about how independent art must fight corporate conglomerates to stay alive”) with the working title of Occupy Cannes.

Before anyone gets to go sunning their bikini lines away on the French Riviera, however, the time has come for TromaDance, an event that’s moved from the snowy slopes of Utah — to Asbury Park; specifically the atom-age tenpins taproom turned retro-rocking rec room that is Asbury Lanes. The fightin’ Fourth Avenue landmark — pretty much the only thing left standing on a block characterized by vacant lots, boarded-up bars and the skeletal carcasses of bankrupt condo projects — has provided snug harbor for the freakishly free of charge filmfest, and on Friday and Saturday, April 12 and 13, the center Lanes once more welcome the distinguished ambassador of the alternative arts for the 14th edition of the event that’s turned the Asbury waterfront into a “trash Cannes” for slumming cinephiles, unrepentant rockers and Fat Guys who go Nutzoid for vaudeville that remains verboten even in a post-ironic age where the concepts of the underground and the taboo have been rendered moot.

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10/17: Bouncing into PLAYDATE

Bouncing Souls frontman Greg Attonito joins singer-songwriter-spouse and PLAYDATE partner Shanti Wintergate for a special all-ages party celebrating the release of IMAGINATION, the debut “kindie-rock” release from the creators of the kids’ book I WENT FOR A WALK.

This one’s just TOO made to order: an event and an ongoing story that touches the aged punk rocker within us; by extension the clueless “cool parent,” and particularly the guy who worked for years in the cut-throat, mercenary world of children’s publishing — designing, copywriting and ghost-illustrating titles in the Clifford the Big Red Dog and Bill Cosby’s Little Bill series, among other things.

Most of all, this is a NEIGHBORHOOD story for us — said nabe being the eastern end of Fourth Avenue in Asbury Park, where we make our home (and our lonely writer’s garret) inside the historic haunts of the Stephen Crane House. Just cattycorner ‘cross the street from Crane’s Crib is the rambling, whimsically arcane ‘n eldritch place known as Little Eden — world headquarters/ clubhouse to The Bouncing Souls and the epicenter of that always-amazing combo’s Chunksaah Records empire. Wave to proud proprietress and Souls den mother Kate as you stroll past, then proceed down the street to the Fellini-esque pageant that we can all call our Corner Bar — everyone’s retro tenpins taproom (turned alterna-arts odditorium) Asbury Lanes.

It’s here on the sprawling steps of Little Eden — one of those majestically seedy old Asbury houses; combining the grooviest attributes of The Monkee’s TV pad, the Sanctum of Doctor Strange, the House of 1000 Corpses and your favorite aunt’s sunlit, frozen-in-time “cottage” — that Souls singer Greg Attonito is joined by his collaborator in the “kindie-rock” project known as Playdate, wife and singer-songwriter-actress Shanti Wintergate. And it’s there at the Lanes that the co-creators of the children’s book I Went for a Walk will set up shop on the afternoon of Saturday, October 20, for a special kid-friendly show celebrating the release of the debut Playdate CD, Imagination.

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5/12: The Con is ON, at the Center Lanes

Pow! Zam! Comics Conventions Aren’t for Shitty Highway Hotels Anymore… Focused upon Saturday’s Asbury Park ComicCon is CLIFF GALBRAITH, who joins with Pope of Popculturizm ROBERT BRUCE as promoters of  the city’s firstest-ever scholarly seminar/ swapmeet for the uplift of the sweetly sequential science.

One’s a satanic-bearded solid citizen who birthed unto the world a rodent named Roscoe, and a slew of instantly iconic screenprint ‘Sauruses. The other’s an all-seeing, all-knowing pontiff of Popculturizm; he who is invoked by name when conflicts must be resolved, and spot appraisals rendered.

Together they’re teaming up to fight crime — if by “crime” we mean the near-criminal lack of homegrown Comix Conventions here in the big-tent neighborhood that’s been home to so many comics creatives, not to mention some of the most influential collectors and connoisseurs the artform has ever known.

On this day, May 12, all will be put into perspective, as the first annual Asbury Park Comic Con at the Jersey Shore sets up its folding tables and longboxes inside the only venue that’s surreal enough to contain it — the atom-age retro rec room, tenpins taphouse (and alterna-arts odditorium) that IS Asbury Lanes.

Pencilled in between the hours of 10am and 6pm, the Con is the brainchild of two guys who’ve more than logged their share of hours on the frontlines of our nation’s flea markets, convention centers and drab Days Inn event rooms: Cliff Galbraith, the artist and writer behind RAT BASTARD — and Robert Bruce, the capo di tutti collectibles (and proprietor of the much-missed Groove Spot) who’s parlayed his mastery of the arcane and eldritch into a featured berth on Kevin Smith’s Comic Book Men teevee program.

That Red Bank connection — both Rob and Cliff are residents of the Basie-birthing borough that recently scored third on Smithsonian Magazine’s list of top American small towns for culture (right behind Relocated Bayway and Centralia, PA) — extends as well to the internationally renowned and bracingly branded Jay & Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, Lourdes-like grotto for all who make the Askewniverse pilgrimage and base of operations for Mike Zapcic and Ming Chen (who are slated to conduct a live podcast session from the Lanes on Sat afternoon). As for why this event isn’t set to take place in its spiritual homeland of Red Bank, well, more on that in a moment.

Like any Con worth its acid-free backing boards, the Asbury Park affair boasts some amazing guests — among them the dynamically married duo of Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer (creators, both together and solo, of Milk & Cheese, Action Girl, and Supergirl Adventures). The Girl of Steel’s formidable presence extends to the participation of DC superspecialist Jamal Igle, and there’s a welcome injection of beyond-Bizarro World madness from uncategorizable comicker Michael Kupperman. There are also some 35 vendors on board — and as of late last night Galbraith was putting out the BatSignal for more, in the wake of the new Lanes owners having reconfigured/expanded the available floor space.

In one of the most eleventh-hour interview scenarios we’ve ever entered into, we caught up with Cliff Galbraith at the recently relo’d Zebu Forno in RB, even as the earlybird bargainhounds were doubtless suiting up for the trip to our favorite Fellini-esque Fourth Avenue funnarama. More, at the flip of the pulse-poundingly pixelated page…

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2/4: Save the Roller Disco!

TRAGEDY returns to Asbury Lanes, as the ONLY metal Bee Gees tribute you’ll need see this weekend puts on their bowling shoes for a bit of Saturday Night Kegler — while lensman Mike McLaughlin is among the vibey visionaries represented in PINK NOISE, the 3rd Anniversary group show opening at Parlor Gallery.

All in all, it wasn’t the best week in which to be PINK.

Between the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s face-reddening “Pink-Gate” PR debacle, and the viral backlash against the infamous McNuggets “Pink Slime” photo, the once-proud color of Barbie and Elvis and Quisp was looking a beat-up and pulpy shade of purple by Friday. Which is why Pink Noise, the official Third Anniversary group show installation at Asbury Park’s pop-art paradise Parlor Gallery, could not have arrived with better timing to pull the PINK back from the BRINK.

A chance to feel “In the Pink” is especially needed here in a week with the news that Asbury Lanes — that Cold War-era tenpins taproom turned kitschy-cool alterna-arts odditorium — had been sold by its longtime owner to local developers Pat Fasano and Vince Gifford. It’s a bit of news that set off brain-alarms in anyone for whom the Lanes has served as everything from Fellini-esque corner bar, to a destination worth crossing several state lines to reach — and, justified or not, it was a potential tragedy that put many of us on a reflexive “Save the Roller Disco” alert straight out of 80s movies like Xanadu and Lunch Wagon.

Of course, the Lanes is no stranger to Tragedy, having hosted this hemisphere’s premier all-metal tribute to the music of the BeeGees many times over the years. Tonight, February 4, the 2012 edition of the continent-crossing metalizers (brothers Barry Glibb, Mo’Royce Peterson, and Robin Gibbens, with little brother Andy Gibbous Waning on bass and family patriarch The Lord Gibbeth, on drums) retakes the center Lanes in a late-skewed setsnack for which your award-winning DJ Jack the Ripper will serve as “amuse bouche.”

Before that, however, the windows of the Cookman Avenue arts bloc’s Parlor Gallery will be steaming up like an electric casserole dish, as First Saturday rages in downtown Asbury and some dozen music-minded artists (including DEVO poindexter Mark Mothersbaugh) team up for a de-waxing blast of Pink Noise.

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