Asbury Park – Where Music Lives – Rocktography And The Asbury Park Music Storyteller Series
Asbury Park has always been a city of bizarre surprises. The good, the bad and the ugly have all happened here. Like the uncontrollable ebb of the ocean’s tide, Asbury Park momentum has expanded and receded over the past several decades. But recently, it looks as if the expansion has begun to dominate, gaining ground with each surge of activity, and restoring this “city by the sea” to its former colorful glory.
I remember this town in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. It was abandoned, hopeless and dangerous. With the exception of the original bands that called this area home, it was a town that few believed in. Throughout the years of false construction starts and eminent domain-dominated nightmares, there have been few beacons quite as bright as the local musicians. I can remember when bands literally kept some of the better-known rooms in business during those dark and uncertain times. But those days have quickly been forgotten, and the shore town is expanding at a dizzying pace, catering to a new generation of hip, young movers and shakers.
But in a town known for its music, the Cookman Avenue section of Asbury Park has always been a conundrum. Since the final days of the Potter family and their Upstage Club, Cookman Avenue has been more concerned with catering to retail attractions than they have been with nurturing the city’s music scene.
That’s why it’s good to see that the folks over at the Asbury Park Musical Heritage Foundation have ramped up their communication with the town’s music minded. The foundation’s mission is to contribute to the city revitalization by securing Asbury Park as a musical destination. And they’ve set up shop right in the middle of the block.
When foundation heads Susan Pellegrini and Tom Gilmour invited me to check out their new digs, I jumped at the chance to take a look. Located in the old ShowRoom movie house, the “Asbury Park, Where Music Lives” gallery is a space that features the photography of John Cavanaugh. His collection, called “Rocktography,” features live shots of the world’s biggest superstars and hometown heroes.
John explained to me that not only will the space be used to exhibit his extensive live photography, but it will also be used for educational seminars, film, and most importantly, to play host to Asbury Park’s current crop of musicians that continue to focus the outside world on this seaside rock and roll destination.
The live music concerts are called “Asbury Park Music Storyteller Series,” and will be the first significant event to kick off at the new space. Mixing live performances with discussions from the stage on how Asbury Park influenced artists’ careers and lives, meet and greets will be the norm, as will question and answer sessions between attendees and musical guests. The series gets underway with “the prodigal daughter of Asbury Park,” Laura Crisci, on March 23 at 8 p.m.
Information gathered from the foundation’s website tells us that in 2011, the Smithsonian Institution selected Asbury Park as the first host city of its traveling musical heritage exhibit, “New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music.” From March 11 to April 17, more than 14,000 visitors enjoyed the exhibit, including 48 class trips from area elementary and secondary schools. This event marked the launch of a year-long celebration of Asbury Park musical heritage.
As part of the celebration, noted historian and author Helen-Chantal Pike produced and edited Asbury Park: Where Music Lives, an anthology of essays by local musicians expert in gospel, ragtime, jazz, folk, rock and Latin/Caribbean genres. I actually reviewed that book and was happy to see the attention paid to a wide selection of different music and contributing forces in the town.
This new music series is a positive step from an organization that has had a few communication bumps in the road when it comes to local musicians and the way they feel they have been represented. The Musical Heritage states that part of its manifesto is to “preserve, exhibit and promote the City of Asbury Park’s rich musical heritage—past, present and future—and to contribute to the City’s revitalization by securing Asbury Park as a musical destination.”
And that preservation should not only include influential bands from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, but should also include the current crop of punk, folk, rock and Americana artists that are the true voice of the new Asbury Park. The diversity and style of music in Asbury Park is astronomical, and the outside world needs to know that there’s more to this area than just the shore sounds of Bruce and Jon and the vast cover band counterpart that emulates their sound. I have considerable respect for many of those artists, but you cannot carry the continued success of a city off of glory days alone.
As the series grows and expands, I hope to see fresh new artists get a shot at joining the shore legends that made this all possible in the first place.
Other live performances slated for the gallery are Jon Caspi on March 30 and Christine Martucci on April 6. Asbury Park Where Music Lives gallery is located at 708 Cookman Avenue.
For more information on the Asbury Park Music Storyteller Series, John Cavanaugh’s Rocktography and the Asbury Park Musical Heritage Foundation, head over to asburyparkmusiclives.com
Nick Offerman To Perform At The MAC At Monmouth – March 28
If you’ve ever watched NBC’s Parks And Recreation, then you’ll know all about Nick Offerman. His character is Ron Swanson, and I have to admit, he is one of my all-time heroes. I mean, seriously, who wouldn’t love someone whose view on bowling is, “Straight down the middle. No hook, no spin, no fuss. Anything more and this becomes figure skating.” His views on friendly relationships with others are pretty clear when he says, “The less I know about other people’s affairs, the happier I am. I’m not interested in caring about people. I once worked with a guy for three years and never learned his name. Best friend I ever had. We still never talk sometimes.”
Offerman is out on his one-man tour aptly named American Ham, delivering quirky insight and ponderous advice on everything from handkerchief etiquette to intoxicants. A trained stage actor, Offerman had no idea that he would wind up on a hit television show, and remains grounded and grateful for the accolades he has received. Like his character Ron Swanson, Offerman is an avid woodworker, and spends as much free time as possible in his shop, making tables and other walnut-based furnishings.
The MAC At Monmouth has been presenting some truly exciting shows, and this is another one not to miss. Join Nick Offerman at the MAC for what is sure to be a fantastic night of comic musings from one of the best humorists in the business. And remember the wise words of Ron Swanson, who says, “Fishing relaxes me. It’s like yoga, except I still get to kill something.” Tickets are available at the MAC At Monmouth over at monmouth.edu/arts or at tickmaster.com.