CORONA CONCERTS ARE A VIRAL SENSATION (IN A GOOD WAY)

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ), April 2, 2020 

“Seattle just banned all live music performances for 30 days!” read a widely disseminated meme that made the social media rounds a few weeks back. “This cancels over 1246 gigs, affecting 320 working musicians…with a total income loss of almost $426.75!”

It’s funny because it’s true, more or less — but with the COVID-19 public health emergency having subsequently slammed into the Garden State like a killer frost, it’s a bit less funny for all those who toil in the fields of what up until very recently stood as this area’s major cash crop: the bar/ restaurant/ theater/ nightclub circuit.

When the region’s music scene shuttered almost overnight, music makers from all stylistic corners of the local soundscape took to the wi-fi “airwaves” to serve up home-cooked concert creations for their fans — a sonic smorgasbord that ranged from “saloon singer” supreme Pat Guadagno, to classic crooner Chris Pinnella, to kidrock romper Yosi Levin, to dancefloor DJ Mick Hale. But it was a longtime patroness of the arts by the name of Ellen Berman who took it as a cue to do something unprecedented, for the scores of creative individuals who have historically counted on eking out a spartan but steady existence making music. Beginning on March 18 and scheduled to continue every night at 9 pm for the duration of the public venue shutdown, a cast of singers from our neck of New Jersey (and the big world beyond) connects with their fanbase via Facebook, in an ambitious endeavor entitled Ellen Berman’s Viral Video Productions presents Corona Classic Concerts.

Appearing in that inaugural mini-concert — and taking a major role in the planning and production of the series — was a familiar presence on the Shore soundscape: Arlan Feiles, the singer/ songwriter/ producer/ multi-instrumentalist and activist whose intensely personal-yet-universal compositions have graced a catalog of acclaimed indie albums, stages of every conceivable size, high-profile film soundtracks, and collaborative projects with the likes of vocal veteran JT Bowen.

“Ellen is one of New Jersey’s great music fans,” observes Feiles in a call from his Matawan home. “I first met her at a holiday show at the Stone Pony, where she bought 40 of my CDs to give out as Christmas gifts!”

“She hired me to help put together this live stream project, with the idea that the musicians get paid for their work…I thought I’d line up a few guys; get a few shows going for a few weeks…but within three days we got a huge response, a healthy schedule, where we’re employing over 40 artists. So far it’s just been overwhelmingly incredible!”

Featured artists have thus far included such Jersey Shore perennials as Emily Grove, Tara Dente and Cranston Dean, as well as nationwide acts like the LA-based Canyoneers, Nashville (by way of her native Neptune City) sensation Nicole Atkins, and Joan Osborne (best known for the hit “One of Us”).

As Feiles emphasizes, “This is a curated schedule of artists who have been paid to perform…they all get 200 to 300 dollars, which is a drop in the bucket for someone like Nicole Atkins, but which goes a long way for someone whose livelihood depends on music-related activity. They can pay it forward, do what they want…but the important thing is that Ellen and I want to see these musicians get paid for their art.”

“They get to produce their segments as they see fit…but we ask them to please let us see where you are,” adds the music programmer in reference to the videos that have presented a quirky and engaging look at these “captive” creatives in their home environment. “And the at-home format has allowed us to get April Smith, who was such a big part of the scene before she retired from performing about ten years ago (the singer is scheduled to perform on Monday, April 13).”

Feiles, who performed his own virtual set on Wednesday night, returns for additional 9 pm schedulings on April 8 and 15 — while other upcoming Corona Classics spotlight such fellow Shore faves as Rick Barry (Sunday, April 5), Quincy Mumford (Monday, April 6), Dentist (Friday, April 10), and Rachel Ana Dobken (Friday, April 17), as well as NJ-to-NOLA transplant Allie Moss (Thursday, April 16).

The response to the nightly series has been such that Berman and Feiles organized a separate slate of virtual “Happy Hour” concerts, scheduled for 5 pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The series that kicked off on March 27 continues into another weirdly quiet weekend with Ocean Township’s own Frank Lombardi featured on Friday, April 3. Gayle Skidmore and John Anaya, respectively of the Netherlands and Scotland, round out the Saturday/ Sunday scene — while Asbury fans will not want to miss a solo appearance by Swagmatics frontwoman Deseree Spinks on Sunday, April 11 (there’s also talk of an 11 pm late-nite series).      Continue reading

DECEMBER IN MUSIC-MAD ASBURY PARK IS A SONIC SAMPLER!

Performers appearing in holiday-themed concerts this month include top row, L-R: New Narratives (Asbury Lanes, Dec. 6), Rachel Ana Dobken (Stone Pony, Dec. 6), Brian Kirk (Stone Pony, Dec. 7), Rev. Horton Heat (Asbury Lanes, Dec. 7), Jody Joseph (Stone Pony, Dec. 8), Layonne Holmes (Paramount Theatre, Dec. 8; McLoone’s Supper Club, Dec. 20); bottom row L-R: Jo Wymer (The Saint, Dec. 15), Chris Pinnella (McLoone’s, Dec. 15 & 21), La Bamba (Stone Pony, Dec. 20), John Eddie (Wonder Bar, Dec. 21), P-Dub (Langosta Lounge, Dec. 22), Happy Fits (House of Independents, Dec. 20 & 21)

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), December 5, 2019

 While it’s maybe a tad too early to anoint Asbury Park as a regional Capital of Christmas, try telling that to any of the multitudes who lined up outside Convention Hall this past Saturday, when some of the scene’s favorite makers of locally sourced, certified organic music (highlighted by Remember Jones, following up a big Back to Black Friday gig at the Pony) flipped the switch on another souped-up Santa sleighload of seasonal sounds, here in this historic city of summers.

Of course, nobody hits the latter-day circuit here in this music-mad town expecting such a thing as a Silent Night — and the holiday interlude is no exception, as the season’s traditional hymns, choral cantatas and orchestral chestnuts are given a Santa-run for their money by a set of signature sounds that boast a decidedly more jingle-bell raucous bent. It’s an eclectic advent-calendar countdown that begins in earnest this weekend — and, as becomes abundantly clear, doesn’t necessarily let up when the tree hits the beach dunes or curb.

THE BIG ONE

Back for a second annual go-round as The Hottest Ticket in Town, the all-Shore/ all-star jinglejam known as A Very Asbury Holiday Show commandeers the Paramount Theatre proscenium on Sunday, December 8 for a 2019 sequel to last year’s sold-out inaugrual edition. Produced by those most proactive preservers and promoters of the city’s principal export — that is, The Asbury Park Music Foundation — the early evening extravaganza convenes another jukebox Justice League of performers whose Asbury roots run deep. It’s a multi-generational mashup that boats some of the living-legend linchpins of the SOAP scene (JT Bowen, Billy Hector, Layonne Holmes, Lance Larson, Lisa Lowell), next-wave singer/ songsmiths (Emily Grove, Anthony Krizan, Williams Honor), and some of the true master entertainers of the Shore clubscape (Pat Guadagno, Jillian Rhys McCoy, Pat Roddy, Deseree Spinks, Eddie Testa).

All this, plus a special set by the “Grooveangelicyulegasmicfunknsoulicious” force that is Everett Bradley’s Holidelic; the debut of the new song “Gonna Be Christmas” by The Weeklings, members of 60s heavyweights Vanilla Fudge and The Rascals; a big house band (led by music director Tony Perruso) boasting veterans of such acts as the Jukes, Joe Jackson and Patti Smith; plus returning co-hosts Lee Mrowicki and WABC-TV newscaster Michelle Charlesworth (joined by 107.1 The Boss deejay Michele Amabile Angermiller) handling the play-by-play. It’s dedicated to the memory of Asbury scene stalwart Kerry Layton, with proceeds going to benefit the community programs of the APMF, Mercy Center, Jewish Family and Children’s Services, and Boys & Girls Clubs of Monmouth County (there’s also an invitation to donate new unwrapped items to the Asbury Park Toy Drive). Info on available tickets can be had at asburyparkmusiclives.org.

SPECIAL SOMETHINGS

The December yesterdays when the likes of Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Andy Williams, and The King Family aired their annual Christmas TV specials have a modern-day corollary in Asbury town, with the ever-expanding selection of special live sets hosted by performers from within and without the local scene. First out of the box (and returning to the Stoney stage on Friday, December 6) is Quincy Mumford, who joins his band The Reason Why for a 2019 Holiday Show that further features Mike Pinto and another of QM’s contemporaries among the exciting new generation of Asbury-based solo artists, Rachel Ana Dobken. Another one-to-watch act on the present Shorescape, the duo New Narratives, is among the performers helping to raise donations for the AP Toy Drive effort during a Friday evening multi-band bill at Asbury Lanes — while over at Little Buddy Hideaway (that tropic-island-nest annex to downtown AP’s Brickwall), another best-kept-secret set aims to keep the beachy vibe alive, with a tinsel-garland twang. Hosted by the folks who bring you the annual surf/ tiki/ cocktail fest Hi-Tide Weekend — Magdalena O’Connell and Vincent Minervino— Friday’s Hi-Tide Holiday session offers chestnuts from DJ Hi-Tide’s private stash of swingin’ sides, plus live and languorous sounds by Philly’s foremost purveyors of party music with a Hawaiian punch, Slowey & the Boats.

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LIVE, LOCAL & LOYAL, RIGHT HERE IN MUSIC CITY

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

 LOYALTY! It’s a concept that only truly functions as a two-way street — mind you don’t get thrown ‘neath one of those passing buses — and one that arguably attains its highest calling in that special relationship between singer/ band and audience. And, as Jeff Warshauer puts it, “in a time where 40,000 tracks get uploaded to Spotify every day and music is being relegated to the background, it is very important that we facilitate a deeper connection between artist and fan, and elevate the local music scene.”

Here along the Monmouth County Shore, that epicenter of the NJ music community (where sounds are a cash crop and principal export), the emergence and influx of new musical acts in recent years (added to an already substantial scene’s worth of veteran acts) fairly cries out for a reliable guide — and with that in mind, Warshauer developed Asbury Park-based Live Music Loyalty as a mobile app that focuses on “helping musicians connect with their fans and grow their audience” — a mission accomplished via comprehensive live music listings, detailed artist profiles, and an option that encourages fans “to check in to events so artists know who come see them play” (there’s also a recommended playlist each week, spotlighting tacts who are locally based, or who’ve paid a recent visit).

Having made its mark, with remarkable momentum, upon the scene’s screens, Live Music Loyalty takes its next quantum leap into the brick and mortar meatworld, with a pair of (concurrent but connected) multi-band “takeover” events this Saturday night, November 16. Beginning at 9:30 pm, the hallway between a pair of sister saloons on the Asbury boardwalk (Marilyn Schlossbach’s Langosta Lounge, and Asbury Park Yacht Club) is the two-way street that allows access to two stages worth of “Scene by the Sea” sounds, with Langosta serving up ace showband Secret Sound, plus the Mike Montrey Band and Matt Cook — while APYC sets sail with The Shoobies, Natalie Farrell, and The Foes of Fern. There’s no cover charge, and proceeds from purchases of products from drink special sponsors Last Wave Brewery and Shipwreck Rum go directly to the youth music education programs of the Asbury Park Music Foundation.

As Warshauer explains it, “Asbury Park is such an unbelievable community, and we need to make sure our artists don’t get drowned out by the noise” — but if ever a scene kicked up a glorious noise of its own, it’s this one; a year-round bash that spans the genres and the generations, and that anymore refuses to abide by the tired old concept of the “off season.”

Embedded within the evolution of the present-day scene is the phenomenon of the musician turned impresario/ promoter/ ringmaster of their own branded events — and the coming nights offer two exciting examples at live music venues in Long Branch. Tonight, November 14, the Freehold-based folks behind the fast-growing surf/ tiki label Hi-Tide Recordings (that’s Magdalena O’Connell and her husband, Black Flamingos drummer Vincent Minervino) return to Whitechapel Projects, as they welcome Rochester, NY’s retro pop trio The Hi-Risers (with some set-up spins by the ever-enigmatic DJ Hi-Tide). Then on Friday, the forever Home of Original Music on the Jersey Shore — that’s Greg Macolino’s Brighton Bar in wild West End — gives the floor to pioneer punk/crunch/skronk drummer Reg “Satana” Hogan, as the veteran pacesetter and recently minted promoter showcases a bill toplined by the buzzed-about band Shut Up, and featuring Reg’s own recent project, the trio 19DRT.

Another homegrown performer whose skills in both nightclub/concert and theatrical settings have served him well as a showman — the ever-industrious Anthony “Remember Jones” D’Amato — takes the Stone Pony stage on Saturday night, as frontman for the latest feather in his career cap; a little combo known as Everyone Orchestra. Under the baton of Matt Butler, it’s “a blissful, masterfully conducted, fully spontaneous explosion of live music created by a rotating cast of world renowned musicians” — in this case including such awesome instrumentalists as pedal-steel paragon Robert Randolph and sought-after session guitarist Vernon (Living Colour) Reid. Check our music listings on page 31 for particulars — and check in around town that night for no-cover sets by local lights Quincy Mumford (Robinson Ale House) and Alex English (Soundbooth Lounge at The Asbury Hotel).

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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: Mumf’s the Word at Hair Party

QuincyMumfordNewQ the spotlight: With big voice and slinky songcraft, Quincy Mumford aims to seduce you sonically — and at 16 years of age, time is most emphatically on his side.

By TOM CHESEK (First published on Red Bank oRBit October 2, 2008)

“What were you doing when you were sixteen?” the press release mocks. “Maybe groaning over the monotony of high school, the angst of teenage years, learning to drive, or going to as many concerts as possible.”

“Most likely you were not a budding singer-songwriter like Quincy Mumford, performing most nights, and winning over audiences of all ages.”

Quincy Mumford, as they say, is living both of these lives in perfect harmony — whereas we only managed to nail the groaning and angsting parts of the equation at that dropout age. But don’t hate Quincy Mumford because of his youth, his surprisingly mature vocal skills or obvious sense of songcraft. Don’t hate that he’s already got a full-length CD to his name; that he manages more gigs than a lot of people who don’t have assignments to read and report on Ethan Frome over the weekend; that he surfs and skates and snowboards and puts it up on his MicePace for all to see.

No, hate Quincy Mumford for his parents. His wonderful, fully supportive parents who happen to be the Mumfords behind the amazing Mumford’s Culinary Center with its top-notch catering and lunching creations. Rather than force him into a life of helping to roll the fennel-risotto rice balls, they’ve evidently been rooting for their son and his artistic aspirations — and have consequently produced a young man who says of his calling, “I like to call it feel-good music.” Groan; angst…

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