For well over 30 years, the Brighton Bar has been the premiere home for original music. From locals to worldwide national acts, the Brighton Bar has welcomed everyone into their little club on the oceanfront of Long Branch, New Jersey.
I grew up on Brighton Avenue. The bands were outrageous, and so were the fights with the Monmouth College muscleheads at the Laugh Inn next door. Wayne had the guitar shop across the street where you could buy crazy vintage gear or have repairs done before a gig. Sirianni’s up the street was the best old man bar on the planet. You could get snookered on Old Grand-Dad for around eight dollars.
Like so many, I cut my musical teeth on the duct tape strewn platform of the Brighton Bar stage. The music scene was unbeatable when it came to variety and individuality. It was a time where reining kings and queens put their money where their mouth was and won over an audience without the aid of much more than a secondhand guitar and a good social circle.
The Brighton Bar is one of the true last resorts left for original music, having outlived infamous rooms such as Johnny Dirt’s (RIP) Dirt Club, The Melody Bar, Patrix, Newark’s Pipeline, Asbury Park’s Fast Lane and now, Maxwell’s in Hoboken.
When you think about the Brighton Bar history, you can make exact parallels to another similar, albeit larger room. That room is CBGB’s. Members from the late Hilly Kristal’s stable have been known to flock here on a regular basis both before and after the club’s demise. Members of Blondie, the New York Dolls, Bebe Buell, Dead Boys and more have all blown the roof off this little Long Branch room at one time or another, making it the “little brother” of the internationally known club.
But to me, that is the air of authenticity that other clubs will never truly have around here. With the exception of The Stone Pony, which is legendary in its own right for its long-term status and historical timeline, what other room can actually claim to be an originator in the area?
As a kid, the Brighton was our hope little for the future. It was exciting to be part of something that respected what you brought to the table. The walls were covered in the bands’ strange and exotic flyers, and 8×8 oil paintings by the legendary Lou Rudolph adorned nicotine stained walls. Lou would set up his easel and paint violently as the band slashed and burned on stage. It was quite a performance by the painter and the players and the result was music in motion. Some of Lou’s work went on to command high dollar figures in the art world. Jacko ran the door, becoming an institution of sorts and giving many young bands their first shot. And there was Big John, a giant of a man who ran his bar with the efficiency and flair of Genghis Khan. Like Hilly Kristal, he gruffly made sure that all of us drank no matter if we had money or not, and he let the place run uninterrupted for years.
With music, style and association, the Brighton allowed many to build confidence to go to many other interesting destinations and make some joyous noise along the way. The friendships and camaraderie that continues to this day are encouraged through the ongoing emphasis placed on tradition through current owner and long-time music scene member Greg Macolino. That’s why I’m happy to announce the launch of Brighton Bar Records.
Macolino has launched the full-service label designed to include national old-school punk rock acts and continuing rock and roll standouts, many of which have performed at the Brighton Bar on a regular basis.
Captain Sensible Of The Damned, the Angry Samoans and the Anti-Nowhere League are among a list of well-known acts that have already signed on with the label. The recent Brighton Bar Records kick-off party at the club featured the two bands that will be the label’s first releases: The X-Men and Jon Caspi & The First Gun.
Owner Greg Macolino tells me, “I had planned on starting a label for years, but I just couldn’t find the right guys to put the pieces together without losing credibility. I’ve finally found the right partners to do it with. I’m joining forces with Jon Caspi and Doug Lane of Jarze Records, and a fourth silent partner, to create Brighton Bar Records my way.”
Macolino, Caspi and Lane (sounds like a new prog rock band) will begin releasing material from two new CDs. The first is an EP by Macolino’s band The X-Men, Kid Blast, which is the first release by the group in nearly 25 years. The second is a full-length by Jon Caspi & The First Gun called Sucker. In addition, a 7” 45 vinyl split featuring songs from both bands will also be available.
When you think about the long running history of so many A-List bands that have crashed and burned throughout the years, The X-Men have achieved a sizeable semblance of notoriety and longevity along the shore. The X-Men are a celebrated guitar riff-driven punk band that was born at the Brighton Bar roughly 30 years ago and still show no signs of stopping. According to the press release, the group includes former members of several Jersey Shore bands, such as Chronic Sick, The Secret Syde and The Beast. The X-Men are Greg Gory, Rafe Levinore, Dave DeSantis and The Hinge. They released two “almost legendary” demos produced by Daniel Ray, producer for The Ramones. Known for their manic performances, they have toured with and opened for many national acts. They were even joined on stage once by the effervescent Bruce Springsteen.
Jon Caspi & The First Gun are an indie punk trio that share roots more aligned with Asbury Park notables like Springsteen. There are also similarities to acts such as The Gaslight Anthem and The Bouncing Souls. Their most recent release, The Little Ones, was actually produced by Pete Steinkopf (guitarist for the Bouncing Souls) and it quickly showed up on top album lists. Sucker will be Caspi’s sixth solo release, and his third with The First Gun. Jon’s music has charted on CMJ Top 100, and has appeared in films, tv and on stage (in musical theater productions).
Macolino tells me that these are the first two “test runs in a long-term goal launch.” As the project unfolds, I’ll let you know how things are going for them. I tend to look at small labels as risky unless the distribution and budgets are there, but in this case, I also feel strongly that the principals have lived this business enough to have a good handle on the game and sidestep the usual pitfalls.
For more information on the Brighton Bar Records family, head over to brightonbarrecords.com.