A JOE GLOWS IN ASBURY (AND THE HARVARD BEATS GO ON)

The life and luminous legacy of the late JOE HARVARD — one-of-a-kid maker of music, savior of “trash,” and bringer of positive radiation — is celebrated with a new trash-art installation (and a special black-light opening reception) at Asbury Park’s art629 Gallery. (Joe photo by Kristen Driscoll)

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), October 31, 2019

 In Asbury Park — a place where a few too many landmark structures have met the wrecking ball — lovers of the local landscape can attest that the loss of a favorite haunt or hang can feel like losing a longtime friend. On the flipside of that thought are the people whose passing feels like the removal of a beloved building or public space; a loss that gets one pondering how that missing puzzle-piece could have continued to contribute to local life, or served to inspire those who will come to stake out their own experiences and visions for this city.

Joseph Incagnoli Jr. — better known as Joe Harvard — was just such a figure on the scene; one whose madcap energy (and seemingly undimmable enthusiasm in the midst of often monumental adversity) served to embody the very scrap and spirit of a certain little city by the sea. A genuine legend in his native East Boston (where he co-founded Fort Apache recording studios, and had a hand in the creation of some significant records by The Pixies, Radiohead, Hole, and many others), Joe would find his way to a raggedy-but-re-emerging Asbury Park around the turn of the new millennium — and, before his death from cancer in the early spring of this year, would tickle the fancies and touch the lives of people from all all corners of town.

A songwriter, guitarist, sound collagist, event promoter, painter, published author, community volunteer, cool dad, and actual ivy-league Harvard Man, Joe was furthermore a master raconteur and storyteller-slam champion — although the stories he told were anything but tall tales, as witness the outlandish but entirely true story of how this guy very nearly became a member of the ruling family of Pakistan. Regardless of how you might have made his acquaintance — as the gadget-laden “One Banned Man” busker on the boardwalk; as ringmaster of a series of “Long Weekend” open mics at venues around town; as a softball teammate; as a worker with local kids or homeless adults; as a rescuer of animals; as a member of combos with names like Dub Proof, the Cockwalkers, or the Velvet Underground tribute “Velveeta;” as an advocate for diversity, inclusivity and acceptance in this weirdly welcoming city — Joe was somehow many Joes, seemingly existing everywhere at once.

That said, Joe Harvard left his biggest impression with the widest cross-section of humanity, via the signature endeavor known as The gARTen — “the world’s first all-trash, open-air, walk-through, black-light, glow-in-the-dark art gallery,” and a project via which Joe (ably abetted by partner Mallory Massara and other gleefully hoodwinked volunteers) collected, curated, and created a vividly colorful something from “invisible” plastic nothing; transforming a drably vacant patch of downtown business-district real estate (between Parlor Gallery and Cookman Creamery) into a sur-real estate that served as zany Zen contemplation garden by day, and luminous destination attraction by night.

Puttering like a farmer in his fertile fields of reclaimed household detritus and rebirthed containers of laundry detergent, Joe played host to a passing parade that featured curious passersby, musical performers, and his longtime friend, underground rock/ folk icon Jonathan Richman. And it was a philosophical Joe who would be charged with the task of breaking down the gARTen (and a short lived sister location on the west side of town) at the end of 2018, shortly before receiving a Stage 4 cancer diagnosis. For the irrepressible creative spirit, those last months were ultimately another chapter in a decades-long campaign to seize life and passion and compassion and curiosity and good cheer, from the same devils that tend to trip up so many of us less alive souls.

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ASBURY UNDERGROUND RISES AGAIN, IN A CRAWL TO DUTY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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ARCHIVE: Big Man on Campus

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Singer, songwriter, scenemaker, studio owner, writer of books, maker of vids, master of ceremony — there’s little that Joe Harvard hasn’t given the old college try in his 51 years, and this Friday at the Lanes, he’ll be getting that bowling-alley birthday party we all desire.

By TOM CHESEK (First published on Red Bank oRBit January 5, 2010)

“Tell me, Sheriff — how did you ever get the name of Honest John?”

Almost nobody quotes W.C. Fields anymore, but the legendarily drinky comic master of stage and screen had a routine (lovingly preserved here) in which he attempts to tell, with endless delays, interruptions, digressions and disasters, just how he came to be called Honest John. The answer is completely anticlimactic, but it’s a hilarious five minutes or so getting to that point.

So how did Joe Incagnola get the name of Joe Harvard? It’s quite a journey, if you’ve got, say, a half hour.

And just how did this local legend of the Boston music scene come to be a mover and a shaker on the Jersey Shore soundscape? Got twenty minutes?

Want to know why this ever-engaging singer-songwriter, author, video artist and impresario probably won’t be returning as host of next year’s Asbury Music Awards? It’s quite a story, one with overtones of everything from Putney Swope to Miller’s Crossing — but at nearly forty minutes in the telling, we’re just not equipped to bring it to you right now. Plus the battery in our phone was about to go dead.

We kid Joe Harvard. Fact is, we’re happy to have him around, as a true character, a real card — or baby even the whole deck — on a scene that’s not always noted for larger-than-life personalities, or even a sense of humor sometime.

You might know this Boston native and Jersey Shore transplant for his Long Weekend series of freeform freakouts; a Monday evening offering that’s hosted presently in the Parthenon Lounge at Synaxis at the Shore and a tradition that originated at the legendary Beantown club Plough & Stars.

Or, if you’ve lived in this neck of the weeds for most of the past decade, you might know him from countless gigs — electric and acoustic, band or solo or just sitting in — where his encyclopedic sense of songcraft and multi-instro mastery found a niche and connected with an audience, often against the sort of overwhelming odds that a working-Joe musician faces down nightly.

Or you might know Joe from several years of hosting the “Azzies” — a gig wherein he and his mate Mallory Massara have tended to fang the feeding fingers with homegrown videos that have skewered every power-that-be from event producerScott Stamper to the LiveNation fun factory. To say that the jestees aren’t always on the same page as the jesters would be an understatement.

This same Joe Harvard is also known internationally as one of the founders and former partners in Fort Apache Studios, the New England recording facility that was to 1980s and 90s alternative rock as Sam Philips‘ old Memphis Recording Service was to country, blues and bastard offspring thereof.

Last but not least, some five years ago the man authored a little book called The Velvet Underground and Nico — one of Continuum’s “33 1/3” series in which musicians and fans examine a classic rock album that changed their life; in this case the beyond-influential debut LP from Lou ReedJohn Cale and their fellow fringe members of Andy Warhol’s extended circle. This alone would be reason enough for us to interview the College Guy; instead we never even touched upon the topic during a conversation of more than two hours.

All this and more delivers us to the doorstep of the Asbury Lanes this Friday, and our prime table-talk topic: the second annual Joe Harvard Birthday Party — in which Mr. Harvard throws himself a party at everyone’s favorite atom-age alterna-arts odditorium; inviting a virtual rolodex of cool scary friends and forever laying claim to the title of Big Man on Campus.

Yes, but precisely how did he come to be known as Joe Harvard? For the answer, you’ll need to read on.

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