Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, August 16 2018

SOUNDS: The Blasters at the Wonder Bar

In an interview we did several years ago with yelping, yodeling musicologist (and Ph.D-level math genius) Phil Alvin, the lead singer of The Blasters framed his hometown of Downey, CA as a true crossroads for what his band famously branded American Music: the roadhouse C&W, R&B, hard blues, Western swing, rockabilly, and saloon jazz that form the foundation for all to come. The four-piece band re-takes the famous stage of the Wonder Bar TONIGHT, August 16, for another raucous session of the kind of stuff that transmits anywhere, and transmutes leaden days into golden-age good times. And, while Alvin has expressed his disdain for the “clown” show of cowboy-hatted country (“If you told Bob Wills back in his early days that he played ‘cowboy’ music, he’d’a kicked your ass”), he’ll surely be pleased to share the bill with swingin’ singing cowboy Jet Weston and His Atomic Ranch Hands, in a bill (further featuring Lara Hope) that opens its doors at 7 pm, with tickets ($25) available at

SOUNDS: Guided By Voices at Asbury Lanes

When they returned to Asbury Park for the first time in a while, with an August 2014 gig at the Stone Pony, Guided By Voices delivered a now-legendary show (preserved for posterity on live Yahoo simulcast) that saw the dissolution of the band’s reunited “classic” lineup amid superhuman consumption of alcohol, epic rants, and onstage collapse on the part of frontman Robert Pollard, the sixty-something former schoolteacher whose astonishingly prolific GBV/ solo/ side-gig output numbers in the literal hundreds of albums, EPs, singles, and surprises. Of course, none of that failed to stem the ongoing tide of record releases — and when Guided By Voices materialized for a September 2017 date at House of Independents, a re-energized Pollard re-teamed with guitarist Doug Gillard for a satisfying revamp of the band’s mid/late 90s configuration that climaxed with an arena-ready cover of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley.” With a man-made mountain of material to draw from, the elder statesman master of the lo-fi two minute masterpiece goes positively Fourth Ave for a Friday night fracas at Asbury Lanes on August 17— and we wouldn’t be at all surprised if he doesn’t put forth another five albums between the bus and the back door. Available tickets for the 8:30 pm show ($25) at Continue reading

Beach Boys: Back Together, Do It Again

Charter band member Mike Love and 40-year “new guy” Bruce Johnston lead the Beach Boys back to the Basie, when the band bus rolls into Red Bank on Tuesday, August 23.

It was rock historian/ musician/ label owner Billy Miller — musing over an old photo of the classic Beach Boys lineup sitting in a 1964 Pontiac — who summed up the personalities in this band so succinctly:

“Quiet Carl pilots the GTO and smart guy Brian’s behind him to call the shots while the key spot is manned by girl-getter Dennis…wisecrackin’ Mike gets the backup posit where he can razz the doggy chicks and squares. Al, of course, is relegated to the hump.”

It’s been a long time, longer than the days prior to the passing of Dennis and Carl Wilson, since the original members of The Beach Boys shared a cramped cruise in a car, a ride in a tour bus, or the same side of the conference table at a lawyer’s office. The American institution that’s fast approaching its golden anniversary in show business (a reunion album of sorts is being talked up, with no hard evidence as yet) split into two factions around the time of the landmark Pet Sounds sessions in 1966 — the studio-bound residency of Brian Wilson and the hard-touring, crowdpleasing roadshow skippered by Mike Love — and despite intermittent attempts at reconciling for albums and tours, the dichotomy abides to this day in the more or less separate-but-equal live shows fronted by the first cousins turned frenemies.

When the 2011 touring edition of The Beach Boys rolls into the Count Basie Theatre for a late-summer’s indoor concert on Tuesday, August 23, the core of Mike Love and Bruce Johnston (the successful singer/ songwriter/ producer and Ted Kennedy lookalike whose 45 year history with the band hasn’t stopped him from being “The New Guy”) returns to the scene of some well-received sets of recent years — as well as memorable nights featuring Brian and his band The Wondermints. The two senior Boys will preside once more over a pretty awesome cavalcade of canonical hits, conveyed by a crack team of craftsmen that includes veteran John Cowsill (from the bands that gave us both “867-5309 JENNY” and “The Rain, The Park and Other Things”) — although the on-again, off-again stuntcasting of TV star John Stamos as drummer/ vocalist appears not to be in the cards for the Count’s crib.

Google Mike Love’s name and you’ll get any number of links to pages that lay out, often with exhaustive research and little in the way of Love, why the basketball-tall Beach Boy is responsible for the destruction of a national treasure. That said, the story of the Beach Boys is a way-stranger-than-fiction saga that takes in madness, child abuse, mind control, Charles Manson, multi-generational laboratory-level drug use, untimely death and tons of litigation  — the story of America, in other words; all set to a soundtrack of the most achingly gorgeous “teenage symphonies” ever devised in a crossfire of inspiration and aspiration.

We spoke to newly minted septuagenarian Mike Love — polarizing figure, energizing frontman, boosterizing flagwaver for environmental causes, transcendental meditation and not so gentle politics — from the Boys’ tour stop outside Philadelphia; turn the record over for more.

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