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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MACK DADDY: THE ‘JAMILY’ PATRIARCH’S AT THE HEAD OF THE TABLE IN JANUARY

Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, January 3 2019

For a couple of generations’ worth of Shore music fans, he’s a scene stalwart and a living landmark whose presence remains every bit as reassuring as a favorite club or neighborhood watering hole. To his fellow music makers, he’s the go-to man for all manner of sessions and sitting-in situations; a blues harp ace who can stake out harmonious common ground with acoustic old-schoolers, supercharged axslingers, roots rockers and alt-Americana songsmiths alike — or as local radio linchpin Rich Robinson said, “he could sit in with anybody like he’s played with them forever.”.

But perhaps above all else, Sanford “Sandy” Mack is the keeper of a weekly ritual that rivals any family’s most cherished Sunday-sauce tradition. At 4 pm, during every so-called “day of rest” on the calendar, an extended “jamily” of musical regulars, guest players, fans, friends, and drop-in passersby convenes inside the lobby lounge of the Asbury Hotel for a little gathering known as Sunday Jam— a lovably loose but enviably organized afternoon-into-evening that offers up a sonic smorgasbord of danceable Dead, concise classics, and some often wild workouts on things you’d least expect. All of it presided over by Mr. Mack, the patriarch of this Jamily and the founder of the feast that’s been an Asbury Park fixture for the better part of a decade.

“I’ve been doing Sundays around town for about eight years now,” says Mack, speaking amid the game tables, ultra-designey bar and conversation pit of The Asbury’s Soundbooth Lounge. “I started at Asbury Blues, and continued there when it became The Press Room…it was the first place where I ever did Grateful Dead music…and then (Stone Pony honcho) Kyle Brendle asked me if I would do a Wonder Jam event each week at the Wonder Bar.”

Those Sunday sessions at Lance and Debbie’s Circuit landmark became the stuff of latter-day legend in themselves; happenings that generated their own momentum, drew a fairly fervent fanbase, and soon had a whole lot of top-shelf talents expressing a desire to sit in. But when it came time once again to relocate the moveable feast, Mack was momentarily at a loss as to where to go next.

“I was curious about The Asbury…it didn’t look like my kind of place;; kind of upper crusty, you know…but I reached out to them,” he recalls. “They originally gave me three dates, to see what happens…that was a year and a half ago, and as you can see we’re still going strong!”

Sandy Mack will once more sit at the head of the figurative table this Soundbooth Sunday, January 6 — but before that, the harpist and a crew of his fellow Jam-mates will be performing a very special gig that’s required an unusual degree of rehearsal: a set paying tribute to The Allman Brothers, scheduled as part of A Celebration of Jam Bands.

Going up this Friday, January 4 at Asbury Lanes (where Mack and company were one of the first acts to play the reborn bowl-a-rama in a “soft opening” event last spring), the program further features the Grateful channelings of The Cosmic Jerry Band, as well as a Phish tribute featuring members of Secret Sound.

It also represents a return to the Duane/Gregg catalog for Mack, who teamed with Marc Ribler for a classic Allmans tribute a couple of years back. Joining in for the occasion will be Jam standby Mike Flynn, key man Arne Wendt, guitarist Big John Perry,  plus bassists Mike Caruso and Mike McKernan, drummers Kevin Johnson and Dan Donovan, and special guest Matt O’Ree. Stu Coogan of 90.5 The Night Brookdale Public Radio hosts the tenpins taproom throwdown, with doors at 7 pm and admission a positively spit-take-inducing five bucks.

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