Asbury Park continues to evolve with event strategies and guided entertainment tours. Spanning the last couple of decades, the town criers have been getting closer to presenting logical events that cater to music and art fans looking for a genuine way to experience all there is to offer. Asbury Underground is the cleanest effort to date, bridging the gap between social media savvy and word of mouth marketing, and it’s a smart combination. Blending everything from the creative world with a smooth interaction of local business and geospatial targeting, Pat Schiavino and Rick Barry look to be the city’s best hope for providing bona-fide entertainment options for consumers looking to get a real feel of what Asbury Park is really all about.
Pat, how did you become involved in the world of art?
I was an industrial arts major at college [Montclair State], and I had a good college friend whose mom was an interior designer in NYC. When I got out of school, she hired me to build her interiors for her from her conceptual drawings. Most of her clients were renovating commercial lofts in SoHo, converting them to living space. So consequently, I started to spend a lot of time there. There were art galleries and artists everywhere in that neighborhood at that time, so I started to get interested in art, not only as an observer, but doing art as well. It was a very exciting time to be downtown in New York back then, not only for the art, but the music and the club scene was thriving as well… it was a pretty wild time.
How did the idea of mixing the two worlds of music and art come about?
I felt like I had just freed myself of the confines of college, and now I was out on my own, making money, and hanging out in the epicenter of the world’s art and music scene. So, being out in the galleries and the clubs, I just started to make friends with musicians and artists. It was all the same group of people. Down in the Village and SoHo back then was like a neighborhood.
You got to know people who lived down there because they were all involved in the arts, and you would just see them hanging in the bars, the clubs, at gallery openings. We would go to see bands play at night, and the whole neighborhood would be there. It was a historic period to be living down there, but to us, it was just about having fun and going out. So, having said all this, one thing led to another, and before you knew it, I was involved in both worlds… booking entertainment, and doing my art.
What makes Asbury Underground different from all the other festivals that have been orchestrated here in Monmouth County?
I wouldn’t call Asbury Underground a “festival”; it is more like a celebration of the arts. The main difference is that this is a “home-grown” event being put together through the cooperation of the whole community of like-minded people who live, work, perform or do art here in Asbury Park. It is more like an art and music “crawl” where the audience gets to walk all around the downtown viewing original art in many of our venues and galleries while listening to local original music. I think that in today’s world, the term “festival” would be more appropriate to holding a concert in a fenced in area, with a big stage, a PA, and where you sell tickets, food, merchandise… The Underground is just all of us here doing what we do, because we love it and believe in it. I would rather define Asbury Underground as a celebration rather than a festival. It is a celebration of what and who we are here.
Which new artists, painters, etc. are high on the Underground watch list this year?
As far as the visual arts, Roddy Wildman, Suzanne Anan, Holly Suzanne Rader, Brittany Leigh James and Porkchop immediately come to mind.
Has the Underground been involved in helping our community as far as charitable volunteerism?
We have been involved in the past couple of Light Of Day Festivals, where we have gone out and raised money for that charity. But you have to understand, that event in itself is a charity of sorts, designed to raise awareness to just what Asbury Park has become. We do not charge admission for this event, and all of the musicians donate their time to the common cause of bringing awareness to Asbury and what we have to offer now. It has only been a little over 10 years where most of the buildings downtown were boarded up… so we have come a long way very quickly, even in a struggling economy.
Rick, what acts would top the must-see list for the weekend?
That’s a tough one. Some of my favorite artists from the area are on this crawl; that’s one of the benefits of booking it. There are a few favorites of mine who I haven’t seen play in a while, Val Emmich and Anthony Walker come to mind. Paul Rosevear always kills it. The Sunday Blues are always a crowd favorite and their set at the last AU was one of the highlights. I am also excited for Cacha Bacha, never met them or seen them live, but a buddy turned me on to their last record, and it quickly became one of my favorite of the year.
How does the Asbury Underground app work?
Well, the original idea for the app was for it to feature local business specials that are exclusive to the app, and for app users to get certain perks around town. It’s all in the interest of building awareness of the art community in Asbury. That’s the trade-off, that’s the hope, yeah, maybe having the app will get you into see the Pixies for free and that’s awesome, but the Pixies don’t need your support, Tony Tedesco, Dentist, and Amanda Duncan do. Happy Mondays at The Wonder Bar does. The Stone Pony, The Saint, Asbury Lanes, they need you to come out when the Pixies aren’t playing too.
Supporting the Asbury music community doesn’t mean showing up somewhere once a year because you heard a rumor that Springsteen might be there. It means paying attention to the up-and-comers, to the people who need and deserve your support. That’s kind of the gentlemen’s agreement—in my mind—you enter into when you get the app, we’ll get you free stuff, you want to see Primal Scream for free? OK, but, I’m also going to plug you directly into events that might be off your radar.
As a musician, and now a promoter, what do you bring to the event table?
A lot of festivals make you feel like they are doing you a favor by giving you a slot; that’s not how we see it. As both a musician and a curator for Asbury Underground, another lesson I have learned is not to think too highly of oneself as a performer when putting the event together. Musician or curator, you need to separate the two.
I know of other festivals that have a musician or two who help with the booking, those artists always seem to have the prime time slots that just don’t feel right to me when we have a waiting list of artists trying to participate. Sometimes I don’t play the crawl at all because it’s important to make room for other artists.
That’s something I’ve learned by looking at other festivals and saying, “Those guys look like dicks, I wouldn’t do that.” Also, we have no headliners. Sure some acts require bigger rooms to accommodate their draw, but even with them we try to mix it up from event to event. I want all the artists who participate to feel equally appreciated.
What would you say to other promoters that might be watching this year and looking to set up their model of utilizing local resources?
To start, do what I did and surround yourself with awesome people, smart people, who will support your ideas and tell you when you have a shitty one. Then, try to do something original, to the extent that “something original” is even a thing that exists still. Many businesses in this town struggle to get by for most of the year, some even throughout the busy summer months. If you can find an interesting way to get people in the doors for them, do it… and here’s a hint… people like “free.”
Asbury Underground takes over the town on June 13. For more information, head over to asburyunderground.com.