THE HORROR! AN INDIE FILMMAKER TAKES IT HOME, TO ASBURY PARK

NOTE: By order of the State of New Jersey, all bars, nightclubs, theatres and performing arts centers are closed until further notice. Restaurants remain open for take-out and delivery only until 8 pm, while local cinemas and playhouses have cancelled all shows. Contact individual venues for information on regarding prior ticket sales and reschedulings of announced events…and keep the safety of our community in mind!

Director Craig Singer is pictured at left, with his “6:45″ cast members Thomas G. Waites, Augie Duke, and…….?

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), March 19, 2020

In the midst of everything that’s come to pass within these last several days — the spawling spectre of a global pandemic; the calls for “social distancing” and unprecedented disruption to everyday/night life; the mandated curfews and closings of all places of public gathering — a body can almost take a curious kind of comfort from such dependably terrorific touchstones as spooky spirits, grisly murders, and descents into vortexes of hellish horror and madness.

Of course, staying home only feels safe and snug when the house in which one lives — in this correspondent’s case, the Stephen Crane House in Asbury Park — doesn’t happen to be an in-demand location for film crews from ghost-chaser TV shows, paranormal investigators, and producers of supernatural fright epics.

So it was that one recent winter’s day found the 140 year old historic site playing host to a large crew of young actors, technicians, and production assistants, led by Craig Singer, a veteran producer/ director/ screenwriter who’s worked with such diverse talents as Robin Givens, Neil Patrick Harris, Debbie Harry, Lainie Kazan, Matthew Lillard, Michael Rappaport, and Mickey Rourke.

The Jersey Shore native was back on familiar turf — Asbury Park, where several of his projects have been set and/or filmed — to lens a few scenes for his latest feature-length work in progress; a chiller entitled “6:45.” It’s a “time-loop” tale in which a man (young horror-movie veteran Michael Reed) is forced to re-live the same day over and over — a day that saw tragedy befall his female companion (Augie Duke of Netflix’s Messiah) on an outing to the seemingly benign New England seashore resort of Bog Grove. Think Groundhog Day if you must — only in place of the groundhog seeing his shadow, substitute a mysterious shrouded interloper known only as the Shadow Man.

“It’s a great feeling, to be back doing a low-budget indie film here on the Shore,” says the industry pro whose recent résumé includes a stint as an exec with the Disney organization (“a wonderful journey; incredible company”), a gig that he secured when the giant entertainment concern acquired a small Tribeca-based company co-founded by Singer. “I get to work with a young, hungry group of filmmakers — and I get to sleep in my own bed at night!”

Currently “knee deep in post-production,” the project that wrapped shooting this past Valentine’s Day also utilized locations that included downtown Asbury’s Bangs Avenue and exteriors in Ocean Grove, as well as additional “Bog Grove” settings in such Ocean County locales as Seaside Heights, Toms River, and Lavallette. The film that’s on track to hit the festival circuit in summer 2020 (a foreign distribution deal is also in the works) further boasts an intriguing supporting cast that includes veteran character actor Thomas G. Waites (“Windows” in the John Carpenter cult horror fave The Thing), hip hop artists Remy Ma and The 45 King — and, doing double duty as actor and co-producer, former pro boxing champ Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini.

“6:45” stars Augie Duke and Michael Reed (at front left) are pictured with Craig Singer and crew, on location in Toms River.

 “Ray’s an old hand at this — he’s done seven or eight films already, and he’s working here with his son Leo, where they play a couple of police detectives,” says Singer, who credits the fact that “I’m my own casting director” for 6:45’s eclectic ensemble. “I’ve actually been working with him for years, on a Mickey Rourke picture (Monkey’s Nest) that we’re hoping to start shooting in April.”

Rourke, of course, has his own strong Asbury connection courtesy of Homeboy, the grim 1988 boxing story (filmed almost entirely in the down-and-dirty Asbury Park of the late 80s) that predated the writer-star’s own foray into pro boxing. The actor would return to the AP waterfront in 2008 for his Oscar-nominated turn in The Wrestler — while Craig Singer would mine his fascination with the city in three other passionate projects.      Continue reading

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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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.”

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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.

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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.

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