“And you know the summer always brought in all those wild and reckless breezes/And in the backseat we just tried to find some room for our knees.”
August 19, 2018 Stone Pony Summer Stage Asbury Park, NJ
A stiff northeast wind coming off the Atlantic Ocean sent drummer Benny Horowitz’s hair blowing across the risers as he pounded the drums. It looked badass.
When New Jersey’s Gaslight Anthem took the stage for the third night in a row at the Stone Pony Summer Stage on Sunday, August 19, it was a celebration of everything the Gaslight Anthem has done in the past ten years since they released The ’59 Sound with their local following who had made it happen.
Golden Ages don’t have to be long ago.
Even though the lyrical nostalgia of muscle cars or Hub City girls with their ribbons and their curls might suggest post-war American youth culture, the evening was just as much about a decade ago. In 2008, they were four kids in chucks who had kicked around Central Jersey. Their record, Sink or Swim, had earned them enough credit among the punk scene to sell out Maxwell’s in Hoboken. But they had a certain air of professionalism and ambition beyond the tour van.
Asbury Park’s storied music scene was thriving. It was about piling five people in the car and heading to the Lanes. It was about fresh tattoos, summer nights and cut off jackets, listening to songs set in New Jersey that you could relate to.
But The ’59 Sound, which came out on SideOneDummy Records set the boys in a new direction. The offering of hometown rock mixed with heartfelt ballads and a punk ethos made the Billboard charts and put them onto the global festival circuit. It immediately garnered the attention of the rock media outside the punk bubble. It would lead to three more records in the next six years, making them one of the most relevant bands to hail from the Garden State.
And 10 years later, the Gaslight Anthem played the entire record front to back three nights in a row. The Asbury Park Yacht Club hosted a pop-up shop of merch and memorabilia all weekend. Guitarist Alex Rosamilla and bassist Alex Lavine DJ’d after parties at House of Independence.
On stage, Rosamilla ripped through songs with his trademark style. LeVine delivered those integral “who’s” and “oh-oh-oh-oh-ohs” over his bass. Ian Perkins, who had become a fixture to live shows, provided that last sonic element, while the oft-enigmatic Brian Fallon was gracious as he weaved characters and classic cars through tales of growing up and loves lost.
The Gaslight Anthem released Get Hurt in 2014, and following the album cycle announced an indefinite hiatus. All of the members have involved themselves in other music, most notably Fallon’s solo project which has resulted in two acclaimed albums with different backing bands.
Following their return at Governors Ball in June, they played a string of shows in the U.S. and Europe this summer, culminating with the electric finale in Asbury.
“Getting back in the room with the guys was like riding a bike,” said Levine after leaving the stage on Sunday night. He is currently a sought after barber at Swagger and Blade on Lake Ave. in Asbury.
“We got into practice, went through The’59 Sound front to back. It was awesome. The amount of touring was perfect, especially having kids now.”
But coming back to the Pony for these three shows proved to be a monumental homecoming.
“I was driving to the show today, thinking ‘How can we find a way to do this all the time?’ It’s beyond a dream come true to play three consecutive nights to 5,000 people in my hometown, right down the street from my house, right down the road from the barber shop where I’m working, where I take my kids to the boardwalk. To look out and see the Asbury Park beach is just amazing.”
On Sunday night, they came out to a host of favorites from other albums and then got into the business of The ’59 Sound without much chit-chat. Opening acts, Chuck Ragan of Hot Water Music came out for “45” and Jared Hart of the Scandals growled along to “We’re Getting a Divorce, You Keep the Diner”.
The moment of reflection came when Fallon took a minute to remind that crowd that, although they came from a great place full of great people, it hadn’t been expected that they would ever achieve what they had. And if they could do it, we all have it in ourselves to do become what we want. Had he kept on the dialogue, it might have sounded cheesy. But the brevity of those four or five sentences were just right.
They played “Blue Jeans and White T-shirts”, with the references to Asbury already dated ten years later, and “Diner”.
There is nothing on the immediate horizon for the band, which the crowd seemed well aware of. They launched into the title track that everyone had come for and left it all on the stage.
“By accident, we’ve created an experience for our fans, which is amazing to me because that’s what the bands that I loved have done,” said Levine, “People care about our music and I’m eternally grateful.”