The holidays are all about traditions. It simply wouldn’t be December without The Christmas Spirit album by Johnny Cash, ingesting an extra few pounds of sugar-covered flour every day, and annual profanities at strings of Chinese-made Christmas lights that somehow broke while sitting in the attic all year.
For the last ten years, the Bouncing Souls “Home for the Holidays” has been an integral part of tradition, as they’ve headlined consecutive night Stone Pony shows between Christmas and New Year’s with different opening bands from their network of musical friends. Folks would fly in from all over the country. Asbury Park’s off-season economy would see a little spike. There were art shows, after-parties, and movie premieres. Mike McLaughlin took three million photos. Sometimes, Santa would be slamming around the pit. It was the perfectly warm holiday gathering for the dysfunctional family known as punk rock.
But after a solid decade, the Souls decided to pull the plug on the annual throwdown for 2016.
Say it ain’t so? I mean, if ABC is still running A Charlie Brown Christmas from 1965, surely the Souls could still light up the Pony in goofy sweaters each December.
“We loved it. Ten years ago, we decided we wanted to do a hometown party. Asbury was a very different place back then. It was still a ghost town. It was a big deal for all the businesses in town. Asbury Lanes was a big part of it. And I always looked forward to seeing friends, family and all of our fans that week after Christmas,” admits the Soul axe man, Pete Steinkopf. He, bassist Bryan Kienlen, and frontman Greg Attonito, founded the band in 1989. George Rebelo has proved a solid drummer for the past two years of H4TH and the most recent record, Simplicity, which came out last summer.
“But everything changes, and not necessarily for the worse. We wanted to do a different kind of party in the summer, so people could go to the beach and experience Asbury in all its glory.”
He makes a good point. And the mention of Asbury Lanes likely just brought tears to some eyes, the way the holidays make us remember losing a loved one. But things do change and the Bouncing Souls “Stoked for the Summer,” has ushered in a new tradition.
Like their entire 28-year history, the Bouncing Souls still call their own shots.
“Bryan is tattooing. I’m producing records. Greg has his own music and George is still part of Hot Water Music. We just make plans that fit our lives instead of long tours,” Steinkopf adds.
It also means a few holiday-themed shows this month, which includes a festive rock ‘n’ roll residency at Irving Plaza Dec. 15, 16, and 17 dubbed “Simplicity in the City.”
For the December 15 show, the boys will offer up Masked Intruder and the loveable Scandals from Bayonne. Dec. 16 will feature Philly’s Off With Their Heads and New Jersey’s xylophone punks, Crazy & The Brains. They finish up on Dec. 17 with Pittsburgh’s political punks Anti-Flag and Brooklyn’s Up For Nothing.
The reason folks still get out to see the Souls is because they put in the work to keep things fun. H4TH always had some kind of theme that determined the setlists.
“We’re plotting and scheming,” Steinkopf chuckles. “But we have awesome bands opening—a lot of them local, to keep up the tradition.”
After they embark on Flogging Molly’s Salty Dog Cruise out of Miami, the Souls have a West Coast tour coming in March and a trip to Europe and other adventures for 2017, including an elaborate Stoked for the Summer event in Asbury.
“I’m going to miss Home for the Holidays,” Steinkopf says with a sigh, “but hopefully we’ll keep that feeling at the NYC shows.”
Go find your green Docs and deck those halls.
Catch the Bouncing Souls at Irving Plaza in New York City on Dec. 15, 16, and 17. For more information, go to bouncingsouls.com.