MARSHALL CRENSHAW’S JOYFUL WINTER DANCE PARTY

Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, February 28 2019 (photo by Jeff Fasano Photography)

For a guy who’s rather successfully cultivated his own voice within an often crowded singer/songwriter wilderness — a stake that boasts a reputation as a go-to crafter of universally appealing tunes, a relaxed and unpretentious delivery, an understated (and underrated) rock guitar style, a self-effacing sense of humor, and a frankly awesome passion for pop music — Marshall Crenshaw can sure make himself at ease in another performer’s skin.

It’s a phenomenon that dates back even before the Detroit native emerged as a maker of music under his own name, when Crenshaw clocked countless performances as John Lennon in the official late-70s touring troupe of Broadway’s Beatlemania. When the producers of the Richie Valens biopic La Bamba were “Crying, Waiting, Hoping” for someone who could both act and make heartbreakingly sweet sounds as Buddy Holly, they turned to the bespectacled musicologist who had previously appeared in Francis Coppola’s film Peggy Sue Got Married. And when the surviving members of the legendary 1960s Detroit countercultural rock force MC5 assembled for a tour in 2004, Crenshaw was among the trusted peers who ably stepped up and kicked out the jams, on behalf of the departed Rob Tyner and Fred “Sonic” Smith.

Of course, for more than a quarter of a century Shore audiences had embraced Crenshaw as a frequent visitor to venues that ranged from Clarence Clemons’s Big Man’s West, to Monmouth University,  the House of Independents, and even a neighborhood church in Atlantic Highlands. Crenshaw returned the love in kind; penning a tune called “Bruce Is King” (retooled as “Blues Is King”), recording his La Bamba contribution at Shorefire Studio in Long Branch, and releasing a live album of a 2001 Stone Pony gig under the title I’ve Suffered For My Art…Now It’s Your Turn.

That special bond with musical fans of all things Jersey attained a new level in the latter half of 2018, when the surviving Smithereens called on Crenshaw to take over lead vocals and guitar in  honor and memory of the band’s longtime frontman Pat DiNizio, the hitmaking songsmith (and onetime city councilman in Scotch Plains) who performed one of his final shows at Asbury Park’s Wonder Bar — and who, as an honorary icon of the city’s scene, was included among the most recent inductees to the Asbury Angels memorial hall of fame.

Making an acclaimed appearance at  last summer’s Hoboken Arts & Music Festival — and taking their act out to California for a leg of shows in early February — Crenshaw and the Smithereens created something that they’ll be revisiting regionally on May 25, when they reconvene for a show at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia. But when Marshall Crenshaw takes the Wonder Bar stage this Saturday, March 2, he’ll be once again focusing upon his own prodigious catalog of compositions — the kind of track record (“Someday Someway,” “Whenever You’re On My Mind,” “You’re My Favorite Waste of Time,” the Gin Blossoms’ “Til I Hear It From You”) that most singer-songwriters would give the right side of their brain to be able to claim.

Curiously, this will mark the very first matchup of Crenshaw with Lance and Debbie’s Circuit landmark, even as it places him in comfortable company — longtime backing combo The Bottle Rockets. Continue reading

IT’S JUST AROUND THE CORNER: LIGHT OF DAY KEEPS THE AP HOME FIRES LIT

Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, January 17 2019

To hear the man tell it, “Longevity is a benchmark of greatness” — and given that the speaker is Tony Pallagrosi, the words are no mere fridge-magnet platitude. After all, this is the veteran music scene mover ‘n shaker whose unimpeachable cred extends from his days as one of the cats in the band (The Shots, The Asbury Jukes), to host of some much-missed Shore nightspots (The FastLane, Xanadu), to co-founder of major concert venues and promotion entities (Starland Ballroom, Concerts East), to manager of The Weeklings — and quite possibly all the way to “the other side,” thanks to Asbury Angels, the musical memorial initiative that he chairs.

Pallagrosi, however, isn’t referring to himself, or to any of those aforementioned feathers in his cap, but to the endeavor that may ultimately stand as his most lasting legacy: Light of Day, the music-driven fundraising vehicle that’s  illuminated some of the darkest winter days and nights in this City of Summers for well nigh two decades.

Co-founded by Pallagrosi with music promo/ management pro Bob Benjamin as an awareness resource for Parkinson’s Disease research — and inspired by Benjamin’s own diagnosis with the disorder — the annual slate of star-studded happenings grew out of a 40th birthday party for Bob at the Stone Pony; taking its name from the Springsteen soundtrack song “Just Around the Corner to the Light of Day” on its way to becoming a sprawling affair that’s spanned several continents, major North American cities and additional satellite events throughout the calendar year.

Of course, along the way Light of Day became indelibly identified with the stamp of Benjamin’s long-time friend Bruce Springsteen — not just via the organization’s name, but in the very real presence of The Boss as an onstage participant and de facto ringmaster for the majority of those all-star Bob’s Birthday concerts. As an undeniable draw (and a focal point for some tantalizing will-he-or-won’t-he buzz each year), the Bard of the boardwalk has generously shared the stage with a core cast of frequent-flyer performers (including Joe Grushecky, Willie Nile, and Steve Forbert), as well as drop-in guest stars that have ranged from Southside Johnny, Darlene Love and Gary US Bonds, to Light of Day movie star (plus high-profile person with Parkinson’s) Michael J. Fox, and  The Sopranos’ Vincent Pastore.

While the nonprofit Light of Day Foundation is a year-round entity upon which the sun never sets, the heart and soul of the positively charged enterprise remains LOD Winterfest, the mid-January jamboree of activity that commandeers the stages, storefronts and saloons of Asbury Park during the post-holiday “off season” interlude when most other Shore towns are deep into a long winter’s nap. Having offered up a couple of preliminary pace-setter events on January 13 (see the feature on Bob Burger in last week’s Coaster), the circus comes to town in full force for a long weekend that begins tonight, January 17, with a choice of tuneful entertainments that includes a “Hall of Fame Jam” featuring veteran Bruce drummer Vini Lopez (Langosta Lounge), a special edition of Sandy Mack’s Wonder Jam at the Wonder Bar, and an official kickoff concert at downtown’s House of Independents that spotlights such next-gen talents as Williams Honor and Anthony “Remember Jones” D’Amato.

“No other town this small has such a vibrant music scene,” says Pallagrosi. “And at the end of the day, I want everyone involved.”

Continue reading

PICTURE OF DORIAN: THE SAX MAN BRIDGES ASBURY’S MUSICAL THEN & NOW

Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, December 13 2018

As Dorian Parreott recalls, it was Frank Bryan — longtime conductor of the Asbury Park Concert Band summer sessions on the boardwalk, and the heir to the baton passed down by the legendary march-meister Arthur Pryor — who gave the aspiring musician an early and crucial lesson in patience and persistence.

“He’d see me coming down to the boardwalk every week to watch the band, and he knew I wanted to play,” says the veteran jazz cat who would spend his school year performing under Mr. Bryan’s direction in the Asbury Park High School band. “Finally he told me, ‘when one of the drummers passes away…you got the job!’.”

It was the saxophone, rather than the skins, that would eventually capture young Dorian’s fancy; a decision that was inspired by his admiration for such mighty reed men as Charlie Parker, Illinois Jacquet, and Frank Foster — but mostly by his uncle George Fauntleroy, who played the sax in New York nightspots, and who came down from the big city to accompany his nephew when he bought his first instrument at Scott’s Music on Springwood Avenue.

More than sixty years on from that summer, Dorian Parreott is himself a longtime core component of the summertime Concert Band that’s now skippered by John Luckenbill; a retired educator who would go on to take up Bryan’s mantle as director of the APHS musical program, and who in between semesters would earn a reputation as a leader of professional jazz combos, and as an ambassador for the homegrown music scene of his native West Side Asbury.

None of which is to suggest that Parreott is wont to rest on his well-earned laurels — in fact, the seasoned saxophonist is arguably more plugged in to the city’s deliriously diverse soundscape than he’s been in years, with a ringside seat on the board of the Asbury Park Music Foundation, and a renewed spurt of activity that finds him still open to new artistic challenges. One of those opportunities came his way just this past weekend, when the saxman joined an all-star house band (under the direction of Tony Perruso) for A Very Asbury Holiday Show; playing to a jam-packed Paramount Theatre audience (and enjoying “ a first-time experience with the rock and rollers”) as he backed a battalion of singers who ranged from Circuit stalwarts (Bobby Bandiera, JT Bowen, Lance Larson), to next-generation stars in the Asbury firmament (Remember Jones, Williams Honor, Desiree Spinks).

This Sunday afternoon, December 16, Dorian switches gears back to the cool and cozy context of small-combo jazz, as The Dorian Parreott Trio entertains during a special Jazz Brunch that’s hosted at one of the newest additions to the city’s timeline of “best kept secret” treasures: the Brown Performing Arts Center. Bill Brown’s intimately scaled storefront space (located next to Santander Bank at 312 Main Street) is the setting for a catered affair that promises a sublime avenue of momentary escape from the hyper-kinetic holiday rush, with Trio colleagues Mark Cohn (keyboards) and Jimmy Givens (drums) contributing to the mix, and seating ($30) reserved by calling 732-320-1660.

“It’s a little something that Asbury needs right now; a room that’s an alternative to the big rock clubs,” says the performer whose long résumé includes numerous sets at a previous musician-managed space, Chico’s House of Jazz. Continue reading

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 DOUGHBOYS COME HOME FROM ‘OVER THERE’

Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, October 18 2018

“The Rolling Stones were representative of the angst of the culture in the 1960s…but as far as I’m concerned, Eric Burdon from the Animals is the greatest lead singer of all time.”

The speaker is Myke Scavone, Eatontown resident and lifelong music fan, and the opinion carries a great deal of weight, since the veteran vocalist has spent more than fifty years experiencing the rock life — hearing his records on the radio, traveling the world as a modern member of an iconic blues-rock institution, and having several of his recordings proclaimed “Coolest Song in the World” by no less an authority than Steven Van Zandt.

It’s a journey that begins and comes back around full circle with the Doughboys, the combo that the singer co-founded in his hometown of Plainfield, NJ, with his teenaged peers Mike Caruso (bass), Richie Heyman (drums), and Willy Kirchofer (guitar). The band that makes a welcome return to Asbury Park this Saturday night with an encore appearance at Langosta Lounge is a seasoned and super-confident unit whose riff-driven rockers are propelled by Scavone’s classic garage-punk snarl — but they’re also in essence the same bunch of earnest kids who first convened under the name the Ascots.

“We’d learn whole albums by the Stones, the Kinks, the Animals,” says Scavone of those early days, when the latest wave of British Invasion bands would inspire scores of American teens to pick up guitars and drumsticks. Live shows would range from the old Hullabaloo Club in Asbury Park (and its many teen-club counterparts throughout New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania), as well as the roof of the Funhouse on the Seaside Heights boardwalk — and at some point in 1966, the Ascots would become the Doughboys.

Continue reading

STREET LEVEL UNDERGROUND, DURING 12th ART & MUSIC CRAWL

Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, October 11 2018

With the townies, the tourists, and the Twitterverse still buzzing about Sea.Hear.Now — the manageably major music/ art/ surf event that attracted gorgeous weather, well-behaved crowds, and high-profile jam-mates to a very late-season Asbury Park waterfront a couple of weekends back — one could be forgiven for feeling “all festival’d out” for the time being. But if you’re among those still searching for the heart of the scene — here at a time when boardwalk concessions start to close (and parking spots start opening up) — believe what those guys in that band said, when they proclaimed that “it’s just gone underground.”

This Saturday afternoon, October 13, marks the 12th edition of the twice-yearly Asbury Underground Art and Music Crawl, and if you’re only just learning about it now, that’s because this celebration of the energy and spirit of the city’s creative community is often encountered in the most delightfully unexpected of places — places like the retail shops, eateries, salons, bakeries, gyms, repurposed lots, and even office spaces of Asbury Park’s Cookman Avenue corridor and business blocks beyond.

Founded by Patrick Schiavino — artist, gallery owner, curator, promoter, entrepreneur, vanguard Asbury Park developer, and unabashed lifelong fan of sight and sound and spoken word — the event seems a fair alternative, and a far cry, from the grand scale, sprawling ambitions and headline-making headliners of the big festivals. It’s strictly-storefront downtown instead of high-profile waterfront; hyper-local instead of bi-coastally national; as compact in both space and time as it is expansive in its vision of community and culture. And, rather than inviting celeb surfers to ride the Atlantic waves, the Crawl offers sidewalk-surfers a smorgasbord that encompasses more venues — and many more purveyors of music, poetry, prose, visual art and standup comedy — than in years previous.

Continue reading

CHEER THE WALKING DEAD: ZOMBIES WALK AGAIN, IN 10th ANNIVERSARY FREAK-OUT

Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, October 4 2018 (photos courtesy Michael J. Booth)

Like those famous swallows returning in springtime to the belltowers of Capistrano, the seaside landmarks of Asbury Park play host to a similar spectacle in the fall — similar, that is, if you substitute undead hordes of zombies; lumbering and lurching by the thousands onto the herringboned hardwoods of the famous boardwalk, and summoned to this place at the edge of a chilly autumnal sea, by an all-consuming hunger for “BRAINS!”

Returning rain-or-shine to the city’s beachfront and boulevards this Saturday, October 6, the Asbury Park Zombie Walk occupies a special space on the social calendar. Born as a grass-roots “underground” phenomenon — one that’s since been approved by the city government and embraced by the Chamber of Commerce — the event represents a somewhat melancholy marker between the end of the extended Local Summer season, and the Hallo/Holiday interlude beyond. Artier/edgier (and stage-bloodier) than your typical small-town Halloween Parade — yet still entirely family-friendly — the Walk remains at heart “a really fun, cheap way to kick off the Halloween season,” in the words of Jason Meehan.

A photographer by profession when he and his then-wife Christina made their home in Asbury Park back in 2008, Meehan was a monster maven and horror fan who professed to being “insanely jealous” when he learned of a massively successful Zombie Walk that took place in Atlanta — an event that drew thousands of fans from all over the map, to a living and (yes) breathing homage to those hungry-for-brains creatures who’ve been affectionately dubbed the “working stiffs” of the monster kingdom. Energized by the realization that literally anybody could become a perfectly passable zombie, the Meehans announced their first-ever Zombie Walk in 2008, armed with little more than a stack of flyers and the “viral marketing” tool that is MySpace.

The decision to use Asbury Park as the host venue was a no-brainer, so to speak — the city that had been given up for real dead not so many years prior had “the architecture and the ambience,” as well as a surplus of (soon to be demolished) structures that spoke to the once-bustling resort’s bleakest times at the tail end of the previous century. While the event organizers didn’t count on much more than a handful of family and friends, that first Walk exceeded expectations with some 400 to 500 participants — and when the follow-up 2009 event drew an estimated 1,500 members of the walking dead, the man who would be Zombie King had the not-at-all crazy notion to go for the Guinness. Continue reading

SEA.HEAR.NOW MUSIC/ART/SURF FEST PUSHES THE SUMMER ENVELOPE

Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, September 27 2018

If you somehow thought that the season of the top-down, open-air entertainment event ended when the calendar flipped to Fall…if you assumed that the era of sprawling music festivals was a thing of the past here in a bustling, busy, ever-evolving Asbury Park…and if you’re adamant that parents and teens would NEVER share a minivan ride to the same destination concert attraction, then “See here now, buddy” — a certain Music, Art and Surf Festival is primed to prove you wrong on all counts.

Going up this Saturday and Sunday on three outdoor stages (two by the sea; one beneath the watchful gaze of the Founder’s statue in Bradley Park), as well as the northern stretch of Asbury Park’s boardwalk and the September swells of the Atlantic Ocean, the inaugural Sea.Hear.Now Festival aims to summon a level of excitement that evokes the WNEW beach concerts of decades past, or the Warped Tours and the Bamboozles of more recent memory — in a way that’s a lot more in sync with the community, a lick less crazy/crowded, and in the words of co-producer Danny Clinch, “a little more family.”

“Family” in this case is an acknowledgment of the generation that grew up on those legendary festivals, and a nod to the fact that many of these young old-timers are still dedicated concertgoers, even as the next generation stakes out some sonic turf of its own. With an eclectic bill headlined by pro surfer turned soft rocker Jack Johnson, and emo-ey California alt-rockers Incubus, it’s a rain-or-shine affair that spotlights a sampling of some of the Asbury area’s standout performers (including Neptune City-to-Nashville native Nicole Atkins), alongside veterans like Blondie (still a great live act, thanks to the core of Debbie Harry, Chris Stein and super drummer Clem Burke) and Social Distortion — and, as Clinch touts it, such hyper-currently hot bands as Highly Suspect and The Menzingers.

For Clinch — the photographer, artist and blues harpist whose images of Bruce Springsteen, Tupac and other music legends have shown a deeply rooted affinity for the American creative spirit — the ambitious event represents an increased commitment to Asbury Park that exploded in recent seasons with the opening of his Transparent Gallery; the exhibit space (and merch/music shop, and intimate venue for small-room concerts, book signings, lectures, or what-have-you) that beckons from the Kingsley Street side of the Asbury Hotel.

It’s also a major expansion of the Sea.Hear.Now brand for Danny and his local producing partner Tim Donnelly, whose previous presentations in Asbury Park included a smaller-scale surf-centric event in 2011, as well as a 2012 followup that took place a week before an even bigger event named Sandy (the pair also produced a post-Sandy “On the Beach” benefit at the Paramount, headlined by My Morning Jacket). For this weekend’s festivities, Clinch and Donnelly joined forces with C3 Presents, the Texas-based nationwide promoter whose major endeavors have included the Austin City Limits Festival and Lollapalooza.

“We’ve made a lot of friends in the industry, and we got to the point where we thought that we could produce something really special for Asbury Park,” says Clinch. “The city really embraced it, too…we’re coming in with a specifically curated rock and roll event that’s a good manageable size, and we’ve worked very well together with Mayor Moor and his crew.”

Continue reading