THE PARADE’S GONE BY…BUT IT’S A NEW GREEN DEAL FOR ST. PAT’S

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

So the local St. Patrick’s Day parades  — both the long-established  ballyhoo in Belmar, and the more recently minted shamrock shake in Asbury Park — have bleated their last bagpipe note; honked their last  hook ‘n ladder horn; swept up their last tossed bag of Skittles, Nerf torpedo, or busted balloon animal as they’ve moved on down the avenue.

Here in that strange interlude when our daylight-savings adjusted eyes spring-ahead to visions of the impending summer  — but when we’re still dealing with the occasional fall-back of  late winter weather — it’s easy to find ourselves in a holding pattern of sorts. With the season of outdoor concerts and beachfront festivals just out of sight, and with early spring attractions like the AP Music and Film Fest yet to commence, we look for a hook to hang our revelry upon in the meantime — something like, say, the actual Day of Saint Patrick, an extended observance that casts a warm green glow over the finer establisments of our fair Shore all this weekend (and then some).

Whether your preference is a publick house that’s been part of the local landscape for a generation — or a  stripmall tavern that’s been embraced like a fond family heirloom — you’ll find that the festive weekend seldom announces itself with a whisper. Keynoting it all with a robust blast of the bagpipes is Kelly’s Tavern at 43 Route 35 in Neptune City, where the pipes sound beginning at the noon hour on Friday, March 15. With two sessions of live bagpiping on Friday and Saturday (12-2 pm; 5-8 pm) — and a St. Pat’s Sunday that begins in reveille-wth-revelry fashion at 7 am — the neighborhood landmark keeps the momentum going on March 17 with DJ tunes from 4 pm, and a broadcast by radio station 107.1 The Boss that goes live at 11 am.

Over at Kelly’s sister establishment Clancy’s Tavern in Neptune — just a few staggered steps from Asbury city limits, and right across Main Street from the threshold of Ocean Grove — DJ Dave spins “Irish Drinking Music” from 4 pm as a Saturday “St. Patrick’s Eve Pre-Game,” while the live bagpipers play for two sessions (12-2 pm; 4-6 pm) on Sunday, with DJ Tony seeing the night through to 10 pm.

While the victuals vibe has run more  toward vacation cuisine (or an eclectic American experience that’s reflected in the musical menu), Marilyn Schlossbach’s Asbury boardwalk flagship Langosta Lounge continues a newly minty tradition here on the big green weekend, with a Friday/ Saturday double-dose of dexterity from two exemplars of the Shore scene’s blues-rock royalty: harpist Sandy Mack (performing on March 15 as “Sandy O’Mack and His McJamily”) and guitarmeister Billy Hector (supercharging Saturday night as “Billy O’Hector’s Electric Explosion”). Regardless of their bona fides as true sons of the Emerald Isle, these two veteran survivors and signifiers of the Jersey Shore Bar Wars remain consistent crowd pleasers and top-draw attractions at venues up and down the oceanside clubscape. Catch Mr. Mack in his regular Sunday role as patriarch to the extended Jamily on March 17, inside the lobby Soundbooth Lounge at The Asbury Hotel— and check out our archived interviews with Sandy and Billy on our blog site, upperWETside.wordpress.com.

Speaking of Shore blues-rock royalty, couples don’t come much more regalthan the powerhouse partnership of Matt and Eryn O’Ree, the union of two headline-worthy talents that’s served to double the audience’s pleasure and fun on stages that have ranged from theater-scale settings to the most intimate corners of the club scene. On Saturday night, Rooney’s Restaurant on the Long Branch waterfront is the setting as Eryn is joined by some tantalizingly teasered Friends for some sets of her glamorously smoky, torchy vocal signatures. Then on Tuesday, March 19 — in an event that serves to unofficially extend the weekend-long spirit of Irish music heritage into the foothills of the working week — Bon Jovi tour veteran Matt “O’Ree-appears” with his full Band at Asbury Park’s Wonder Bar, as special guests for a Band of Friends salute to the late great Irish-born multi-instrumentalist blues master Rory Gallagher. Catch Matt, Eryn and company when they return to the Wonder Bar stage on May 1st — and connect to our archived interview with Matt O’Ree on upperWETside.wordpress.com.

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MAKIN MUSIC HISTORY, FOR 30 WUNDERBAR YEARS

Williams Honor (Reagan Richards, Gordon Brown) is among the acts of Asbury Park’s musical past/ present/ future convening at the Wonder Bar on Saturday, March 31, as Jersey-legend soundscribe Bob Makin (below, with daughter Bekah) celebrates the 30th anniversary of his go-to column MAKIN WAVES.

(Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park, March 29, 2018)

“I was introduced to The Sounds of Asbury Park in the summer of ‘78, when Lord Gunner played my friend Kelly’s parents’ annual Labor Day Beach Bash,” wrote Bob Makin some years back, in a retrospective series of articles. “My old man tried to turn me onto Springsteen a couple of years before, but I thought Bruce was ‘a big, hairy werewolf with a sore throat’.”

“Little did I know I would become a music journalist, inspired by Springsteen, the Asbury Park music scene and my entertainment editor dad.”

Thirty years after that pivotal summer when he published his first music dispatch — and in a writing career that approaches the threshold of its fifth decade — the veteran reporter is Makin Waves once again, with an all-day bandfest that celebrates the “pearl anniversary” of his column by that name; in the process paying tribute to generations of music makers here in the seaside city that so electrified his Selectric way back when.

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3/21: It’s Where Movies Live Too, Y’know

Rapper’s Delight — the new group featuring original Sugar Hill Gang oldschool professors Wonder Mike and Master Gee — performs its first full concert at Asbury Park’s Paramount Theatre on Saturday night as part of the tenth annual Garden State Film Festival; an event (with special guest rappers) tied in to a screening of the documentary I WANT MY NAME BACK.

We’ve hinted at it before, but in between all the welcome hoopla to the effect that Asbury Park is Where Music Lives, we’d make the case that the city that once served as home base for legendary theatre mogul Walter Reade; the historic home of movie palaces like the late lamented Mayfair, the still-standing Paramount and the back-soon Savoy is furthermore a place Where Movies Live.

Not bad for a town that doesn’t have a multiplex within city limits — although the coming months promise the appearance of not one but two multi-screen arthouses (including the newly expanded downtown landmark The ShowRoom). Still, even as old-neighborhood nickelodeons like The Baronet have  bitten the briny dust in recent years, the town that gave us Bud Abbott, Danny DeVito and, uh, Rick Salomon has found a way — whether it’s a free beach movie on an inflatable screen, or a cinematic singalong session at the Supper Club. A music/film series at a downtown coffeehouse, or a backdrop of vintage stags at the Lanes. Any of the screenings that accompany major events like ZombieFest and All Tomorrow’s Parties, or the intimate movie-club house parties that happen right here at the historic  Stephen Crane House.

Pre-dating ALL of the above is an event that’s existed on the leading edge of the city’s slow reclamation of the region’s cultural spotlight — the Garden State Film Festival, the 10th annual edition of which takes place in and around Asbury town this weekend, March 23-25. A filmfreak fiesta of short subjects and features; comedies, dramas, documentaries and otherwise unclassifiable endeavor; the GSFF employs the town as its canvas, offering dozens of events at venues that range from iconic landmarks like the Paramount and the Berkeley Hotel, to some new fave restaurants and even the surprisingly comfy screening space of the City Council chambers. It’s all the brainchild of founder Diane Raver, herself the first female president of a commercial production company and an industry veteran whose many contacts include TV star daughter Kim Raver (Grey’s Anatomy, 24). As legend has it, it was a supermarket encounter between Diane and the late actor Robert Pastorelli, (best recalled as Eldin the painter on Murphy Brown) that led to the establishment of the GSFF in 2003 — and the legacy of Pastorelli, who died of an apparent heroin overdose in 2004, lives on in the festival’s annual Robert Pastorelli Rising Star Award, presented to NJ residents who “have made inroads to the industry through hard work and determination.”

There’s also a Lifetime Achievement Award to be presented to a very special guest — and this year’s recipient is a performer, activist and Screen Actors Guild president who’s lived a lifetime and then some on the big and small screen — Ed Asner, the TV powerhouse (Mary Tyler Moore, Lou Grant, Roots and tons of memorable movies) whose natural versatility and big-hearted-tough-guy persona continue to gain him new fans through recent projects like Up, Elf and Too Big to Fail. Also coming to town for the festival will be a couple of genuine founding fathers of OldSchoolHipHop  — Wonder Mike and Master Gee, the MCs who summoned it all into being with Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight,” and whose rise, fall and rise again will be celebrated on screen and in live concert. There’s even a bit of tangential involvement by the UpperWETside (for which we are happy to accept a VIP badge and conduct an audence Q&A with an official questionnaire) — and while we urge you to design your own GSFF experience by consulting the festival website and schedule, we’d be remiss if we didn’t offer up our own select picks from the coming days and nights, all of which unspool on the next reel…

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1/31: It’s a Regular Life, for Carol(yne) Mas

Carol Patricia Mas of Pearce, Arizona — better known as singer, songwriter and rockonteur CAROLYNE MAS of New York, Nashville, Asbury Park and many other coordinates on the GPS — has some songs for sale, a smile for her faithful fans, and a slew of stories for the asking.

A few weeks ago we let slip in this space the fact that Carolyne Mas had floated the idea to her Facebook friendbase that she was “looking to sell my portion of my publishing for all of my songs…all of them.”

“I am ready to walk away from music for good and get on with my life at this point,” said the singer best remembered for the rollicking, sax-driven minor hit “Stillsane” and the eponymous 1979 album it hailed from. “Perhaps my music can provide me with one last parting gift.”

It was a bolt from the blue as regards the veteran singer-songwriter (and onetime Jersey Shore resident) — one that elicited a strong “don’t do it” response from a lot of her musical brethren and sistren, and a report that left her “appalled” that we would share her public-forum post in such a fashion.

While we hadn’t spoken personally to the diminutive rock diva since her original, largely strugglesome tenure in and around Asbury Park in the 1980s, we reckoned it warranted a conversation — a chance to reboot and catch up; a forum in which the singer (who prefers to be called Carol Mas these days) could update everyone back here on the upperWETside as to her current whereabouts and activities, as well as her reasons for putting the fruits of her creative labors up on the block.

This is a woman who’s been dealt more than her share of adversity in a public life of more than 30 years. It’s a run of lousy luck that’s ranged from the standard music biz chew-ups and spit-outs (misbehaving management, radio playlist politics, piss-poor promotion) to protracted financial/ legal woes, health issues, busted relationships, family illnesses, crazy stalkers and a 2009 controversy that landed her in the headlines in Florida’s Hernando County, where she and her husband then operated an animal rescue operation known as Our Animal Haus (the couple’s disputes with county Animal Control resulted in the seizure of most of the animals in their care; Mas lays out her side of the story in detail here on her blog).

Then there was the 1986 incident in which she was attacked and stabbed nearly to death inside her home (by an assailant who remains unidentified and uncaught to this day) — an event that served as a bad bookend to a Shore area tenure during which ongoing legal hassles with management kept her from performing as a professional musician, forcing her to make the nut by doing everything from waiting tables and stocking shelves, to dancing in some of the many lovely go-go bars that dotted the Monmouth County coastline in those days.

Now relocated to rural Arizona with her husband and son, 56 year old Carol Mas is nothing if not a consummate survivor — this is no hermit in exile or broken shell of her old self, but an outgoing, active parent and community member who’s worked hard to achieve what is anymore the only real promise of American life: the chance to reinvent oneself, in as many ways and as many times as you damn well please. She’s someone who has no problem reminiscing, discussing and laughing about her life as a next-big-thing pop star — while making it evident that she’s able to do all this because she’s succeeded in taking the pressure off herself.

In there somewhere, of course, there still resides the ambitious, stage-savvy performer who emerged out of the same NYC troubador scene that gave us Steve Forbert, Willie Nile, Garland Jeffreys and Cyndi Lauper’s Blue Angel; a songsmith who could pen a radio-ready original like “Quote Goodbye Quote” or deal an authoritative cover of Forbert’s “You Can Not Win if You Do Not Play.”

There was “mucho mas” to Mas of course than those early Mercury LPs (finally released to a double CD set just last year). There were several well-received live recordings, fueled by a strong following in Germany (apparently, one does not Hassel the Hoff OR the Mas). There were self-released, Europe-only studio albums in the late 1980s and early 1990s (one of which, Action Pact, teams her with the greatest garage/barband in the observable universe, the Missouri combo known primarily as The Skeletons). And there was her participation in the JAM (Jersey Artists for Mankind) project, joining the likes of Bruce, Clarence, Max, Southside and Glen Burtnik on the Band Aid-style single “We Got the Love” (catch her solo spot at 4:12 in the clip).

Carol/ Carolyne isn’t at all shy about hooking old and new fans up with her recorded works (in a variety of formats, including flash stick) on her official website — and as we found out when we rang her up at her Grand Canyon State getaway, she’s got a story or two to tell. Read on…

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1/19: We Take Crumbs That We’re Thrown

So yesterday (January 18) the SOPA de la Dia down at the Farcebook luncheonette centered around the latest threat to our internet way of life, the often uneasy separation of Liberty and Piracy, and the take-THAT whammy of A Day Without BoingBoing.

All this with an underlying note of buzz in anticipation of “We Take Care of Our Own,” the new track from Bruce Springsteen — and a first whack from Wrecking Ball, the long player now taking pre-orders in advance of an early March blitzkrieg.

Comes January 19, however, and the Friendscape is strangely subdued regarding the newly free-range tune, an arena-scale rallystarter with just enough button-pushing repetition of the title to suggest that the author means it to be taken at face value — and just enough spaces between the buttons to suggest that Boss is being just a gentle bit ironic here.

Our pal John Ward put it best, we think: “More product from the anthem factory. I have deep respect for the towering artistry of Springsteen’s youth, but for years he’s been thematically, melodically and rhythmically unimaginative and cliched, playing to the crowd and curating his legacy. What are we supposed to do with this other than punch the air? ‘Yeah! We take care of OUR OWN! Unlike those OTHER guys!’ I’m bored already.”

Dustin Racioppi, a young old-school journalist whose spot-on work generally runs rings around the rest of us mired in the mangroves of the local media, had this to say: “It’s been comedic to watch the proportionate growth of stagnant, hackneyed songwriting and cloying reverence from media and soccer moms from Colts Neck to Belmar. It’s hard to be a fan anymore.” And Sledger-spawned sleuth Wally Stroby correctly points out a distinct note of “Always Something There to Remind Me” (maybe the Naked Eyes version)

Of course, just because these guys sum things up so succinctly doesn’t mean that we could resist chiming in with another 20,000 or so words of our own…

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ReVision’s All About the SURVIVAL

Anthony Preuster, Samantha Croce, Julia Whary, Spiro Markos, Joe Ronga and Chuck Cataia show us all how it’s done in A CHRISTMAS SURVIVAL GUIDE, the ReVision Theatre production going up December 16-18 at the House of Jazz in Asbury town.

Yes, Virginia, there IS a ReVision Theatre Company — and they ARE putting on a show by the name of A Christmas Survival Guide.

Things, admittedly, were looking a Grinchly shade of grim for the Asbury-based stage troupe over the past several weeks — an interlude that saw the resignation of all three principal partners, the downsizing of its scheduled Xmastravaganza from the Paramount Theater, and the uncertainty surrounding the venue to which the production was relocated. It was enough to Krampus the style of the most devoted Xmas-Phile.

Call it a Christmas miracle if you will; chalk it up to good old “show must go on” gumption, but beginning Friday, December 16 and continuing for five performances through December 18, A Christmas Survival Guide makes its welcome debut on the subterranean stage of The House of Jazz on Lake Avenue — in a production that boasts the participation of several not-so-secret Santas.

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A Patrick Hat-Trick, Plus One

The Guy in Black is BACK: Authentically Jersey country singer/songwriter Michael Patrick invades The Saint in downtown Asbury on October 22, for the first of FOUR wildly different events celebrating his new release ANOTHER SONG YOU NEVER HEARD.

First time we ever heard tell of the man called Michael Patrick, the Morganville-bred country singer-songwriter was NOT putting forth a set of his characteristically warm ‘n witty, trad ‘n true originals with his band The Suburban Hillbillies. He was NOT fronting his acclaimed Johnny Cash tribute project Michael Patrick’s Ring of Fire Band, a heartfelt endeavor that’s taken him up and down the eastern half of these United States, and brought him a stamp of approval (along with the odd opening gig) from the likes of Carlene Carter and Rosanne Cash. Hell, he wasn’t even anywhere near chaw-spittin distance of a guitar or microphone.

The particular hat that Mr. Patrick was wearing that night — and by hat, we mean imaginary; not the no-cattle kind sported by the Nashville flavor/savior of the month — was as tireless impresario behind the Suburban Roots Concert Series, a very loose and very occasional vehicle by which Patrick has taken it upon himself to import some of the most exciting young talents in alt-country and Americana, to some of the most unlikely Jersey Shore venues ever to host a HeeHaw hootenanny.

When way-cool next-gen rebel Justin Townes Earle played The Claddagh Irish bar in Highlands, Michael Patrick was the guy behind the scenes. When awesome new traditionalist Pokey LaFarge — one of the greatest entertainers we’ve ever seen — took the stage of a bowling alley lounge in Bradley Beach, you could bet Patrick had a hand in that. And when no less a progeny than John Carter Cash came to Tim McLoone’s swanky Supper Club on the Asbury boards, Mike Patrick was already on the scene — tending to details; checking out sound and sightlines from every conceivable angle; removing the blue M&Ms from the dressing room and just generally remaining a body in motion not unlike your grandma hosting the family at the holidays (“Ma! Siddown and eat, you’re makin’ everyone nervous!”).

This Saturday night, October the DoubleDeuce, it’s all about the Patrick — and the Hat Trick, by which we mean the release of his THIRD independently issued album of songs, a set by the name of Another Song You Never Heard. The most assured session yet from MP, the album finds this refreshingly old-school professor lending the full faith and credit of his classic voice (think of the plainspeak elegance of Hank Snow, Sonny James, Porter Wagoner and Tom T Hall) to a fun bunch of compositions that address such universal topics as growing old, moving on, staying put, and the eternal plight of the barband entertainer.

The venue for the CD release event is arguably an unlikely one — downtown Asbury’s rockin’ roadhouse railroad car The Saint — until you consider that the venerable alternative rock club has also offered up snug harbor for Americana, acousticana and bammalamma acts of every conceivable star and stripe. It’s the inaugural stop on a multi-date, “MP4” CD release schedule that will also see Patrick take his new songs to a Bayshore coffeehouse, a bluegrass-infused church, and that welcoming temple of pinewoods traditionalism, Waretown’s fabled Albert Music Hall.

UpperWETside rang up this Jersey-fresh font of homespun wisdom and one-man musical movement in the midst of a typically frantic week. So make your selection, insert some southern juke coin and watch the record play.


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Blood in Bloom, at Asbury’s Carousel

Chelsea Zeno, Aliya Bowles and Stephany Mora make like intergalactic Angels during rehearsals for LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, the ReVision Theatre Company production going up Thursday, October 7.

ReVision Theatre Company is on a roll.

After an inauspicious start to a supremely soggy Summer 2011 season of entertainments at Asbury Park’s Carousel House (their candylicious Xanadu was one of the few shows that could boast an indoor rain-out on Opening Night), the professional troupe garnered the greatest reviews of its brief history via a totally fuckin’ electrifying Spring Awakening — with that well known Tony winner followed by a genuine surprise: an almost completely unknown Breakup Notebook that cheerfully won over a lot of audiences who didn’t think they were in the market for a so-called “Lesbian Musical.”

Here in October — that way-past-summer month when the Zombies walk and the costume parties ka-ching in the city that’s become the regional capital of Halloween — the ReVisionaries take one final spin on the Carousel, with a new production of the 1982 sci-fi songfest Little Shop of Horrors.

Really? Little Shop? The same show that your nephew co-starred in at his high school? Like, why not just skip straight to Nunsense, with a couple of readings of Love Letters thrown in for good measure?

Now hold on there DeWitt — the ReVision folks didn’t mean to insult your theater-snob sensibilities. It’s just that the whole extended Halloweekend season in Asbury cries out for something that fits within its creature-feature context — and with The Rocky Horror Show having already been successfully staged in 2010, there aren’t a whole lot of well-crafted monster musicals out there to choose from.

On the other hand, Little Shop is a popular show because Little Shop is a good show — one that’s based on a legendary 1960 Roger Corman drive-in groovie (in which a skinny kid from Bradley Beach named Jack Nicholson got a plum early role); that was satisfyingly remade as a screen musical in 1986; that boasted music by Alan Menken with book and lyrics by Howard Ashman. Yeah, the Howard Ashman who gave heart and dimension to Disney’s Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast). One does not speak ill of the sainted Ashman.

On the third hand (did we mention it’s Halloween?), director Mary Kate Burke has out-and-out revealed that this a Little Shop like you’ve never seen before — one that’s chock full of surprises, even in light of a plot that revolves around a bloodthirsty man-eating plant from outer space. More on that in a moment.

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