Weather has always been the deciding factor in any outdoor activity. As I sat on the couch Friday morning, watching reruns of Kolchak: The Night Stalker, I couldn’t ignore the chill that went through me as I thought of all the people hustling plastic covers over ruined dreams of picnics, parties, fireworks and shows that had presumably fallen to the cold, wet finger of Mother Nature. By 2 p.m. it was really coming down, and the bubbling rivers of water that ran by my house told me that the day was pretty much a bust. But that’s when the ol’ Mother seemed to have proved enough of a torturous point, because it was shortly after that when the sun was allowed to peak out and begin the drying process on the world at large.
That was also a signal for hand-wringing backyard chefs and chain-smoking soundmen to untarp their consoles and grilles to continue preparations for the day.
My plans for the Fourth were a bit different than the usual, seeing me remaining in the Ocean County area instead of heading north for a show or three. Here I was to attend the only New Jersey appearance of the band Hoobastank, heavy pop purveyors with a golden claim to the song, “The Reason.” So, with slow and shuffling movement, I rose from my television/rain stupor and headed out to one of the most bizarre venues that I’ve seen for a national act.
The venue itself really needs to be visited to understand its resourcefulness and natural area utilization. Located off of Route 9, Fubar sits secluded in a forested valley. It features a spacious outside bar that looks like something right out of the Poconos’ Mount Airy Lodge. With its shingled, slanted rooftop, exposed wooden rafters and smartly outfitted patron area, the venue also takes full advantage of the open landscape, providing fire pits, picnic tables, and a large, movie theater-sized screen for showing both sporting events and films.
As they say on their Facebook page, “Imagine your neighbors’ backyard with a fully stocked bar.” With the exception of many large trees, that’s a pretty accurate description. Combine that with other activities such as console games on the big screen, human Jenga contests and other exciting events (apparently I just missed Sexy Teacher and School Girl Party) and there’s probably a dozen reasons why you’d want to hang out here.
Before I get into the show, I wanted to mention the promoter. Motor Media is a company that reminds me of the old story of David and Goliath. They regularly go up against the corporate big wigs in New Jersey and deliver impressive events on a shoe-string budget. Past shows have included Damien Dempsey in Asbury Park as well as Fuel over in Belmar. There have been many other ventures in and out of the state in the firm’s quest to do something different than everything else. This show was a bit tense, as putting a band of this caliber down in South Jersey is a risky venture at best, especially in a seasonal zone known for raindrop-sized disappointments.
However, with a combination of luck and persistence, the event promoters, in conjunction with the show sponsor Glen Kelly (Glen Kelly Real Estate), worked it all out and made one of the most enjoyable nights in recent NJ music both a success and a pleasure to be part of.
Thanks to the rain, the weather was nice and crisp, ideal for giving attendees a chance to enjoy the surroundings of this unique venue, as well as a chance to listen to opening bands before the principal event. Several local groups had been chosen to kick things off, which was a welcome break given that big bands usually bring label mates to push in front of followers. The bands that played were Daoud, Harvest Falls, Beyond Visible, Donovan’s Devils and End Of An Era. All exceled today and everyone was spot on.
Particular mention goes out to End Of An Era, who have demonstrated time after time that they are more than ready for the next big step in the business. As their bio states, “End Of An Era is an alternative/electro/rock band that serves as a sonic right hook to Snooki’s face. Mixing equal parts of Nine Inch Nails, Muse, and the Sex Pistols…the band have been taking not only New Jersey, but the entire Northeast by storm since 2006.”
That set included sonic blasts from their newest self-titled release as well as songs from their first record, The War Against. With a live show that rivaled the headliner, Jeff Wallace, Chris Matsinger and Justin Mazyk flew around the stage like whirling dervishes as skin pounder Spags clubbed thunder across the sonic palette of each and every compositional warhead.
I also wanted to give kudos to the band Daoud, who played their very first show tonight and joined the traditional Jersey club of gigging players. Not a bad first gig at all and a good sign for these raw rock and rollers.
But at the end of the day, the crowd was there for Hoobastank. Hoobastank are best known for their 2003 smash hit, “The Reason,” but they own so much more than just that commercial piece of gold. Going through a decade of music, the band sounded as fresh as they did in 2001 when they blasted onto the scene with their major label hit “Crawling In The Dark.” Chasing the stage from end to end, Doug Robb’s voice was tuned and toned and he hit every single note on schedule. The guitar work of Dan Estrin was right on track as well, and I was glad to see at least two Gibson Les Pauls in his arsenal of six-string sound. Newest member Jesse Charland backed up Robb with seamless harmony ability, supplying heavy substructure lock down along with drummer Chris Hesse. Hoobastank took the Bayville, NJ crowd on a roller coaster ride of timelines, styles and deep cut preferences in their nonstop set.
It’s astonishing to look at this band and understand that while they are mostly known for a couple of songs that were drummed into the heads of commercially attuned audiences, the group has over seven significant records to date, including live discs, acoustic offerings, greatest hits, co-writes and much more. Their transitional development took them from blitzkrieged salvos of heavy rock anthem to more complicated and sharp compositional mind-expanding directions over the last decade. Kudos goes out to the band for taking that extra step above and beyond in both performance and audience interaction.
As I watched the sea of cell phone cameras pulsing overhead in this forested glade, I couldn’t help but see the victory that a show like this demonstrated. Even with stormy climate, the astral body adjusted and this unusual evening clicked into place like clockwork.
I’d like to give a tip of the hat to event promoter Glen Kelly, who approached the whole sponsorship in a positive, classy way, Fubar staff, and security, police and medical, which, even though their services were not actively required, made this a safe and fun night for all.