Story and photos by Deb Draisin
As an East Coast music fan – especially one of punk
and metal – you always know that, despite the fact
that great bands hail from your neck of the woods, the West
Coast is always going to school you when it comes to killer
lineups for gigs, especially during festival season.
The Punk Rock Bowling Festival in Las Vegas (now on its
17th year) has long been the envy of those of us along the
Atlantic who have simply been unable to coordinate either
the funds or the time off in order to attend. However, all
of that changed last year, when the organizers finally brought
a leg of the tour to the Jersey Shore.
This past June, Asbury Park hosted the event at the Stone
Pony Summer Stage for the second time – sadly, too
late to take advantage of the iconic Asbury Lanes right
next door (which has shuttered its doors for an indefinite
period of renovation under new ownership.) Jersey Beat was
lucky enough to score an invite, however, and this year’s
lineup was an absolute banger:
From the deck of the gorgeous Watermark Cocktail Bar, my
travel companion and I enjoyed light delicacies such as
soy skewers and cracker crust pizza as we took in the dulcet
tones of The Vansaders, Ravagers and The Templars.
I had first caught Crazy And The Brains at the teeny, tiny
Asbury Yacht Club (which is more like a dive bar slash fast
food restaurant). It doesn’t even have a real stage
- more like a slightly elevated platform - and frontman
Chris Urban threw himself bodily into the tiny crowd so
many times that we wound up holding his mic stand up for
him. So, when my friend pleaded with me to sit through just
one more bottle of wine in the blistering heat, I acquiesced,
knowing that the Summer Stage might actually restrict them
– at least physically. They sounded fucking incredible
though. Folks who were dining up there with us actually
stopped what they were doing to rock out with them, which
was pretty impressive for a bunch of grizzled punks at 3:30
in the afternoon. They are absolutely worth checking out,
they’re fun as hell.
I made sure that we were braceleted and ready to go by PUP’s
set, however, as I have just recently gotten into that band
and was super excited to see them play. They CRUSHED IT.
For an early set headlined by an Asbury favorite (The Specials),
PUP’s crowd was extremely lively. Folks were yelling
and cheering in between every song. PUP has picked up an
impressive amount of buzz this year, and it may be worth
your time to watch these Canadian boys make good.
On a beer break, we ran into a crew that I know containing
one of The Explosion’s most enthusiastic supporters,
who were nice enough to let me photograph them from the
pit before they went absolutely apeshit with the band.
The Explosion are one of the more beloved bands in Dirty
Jersey because their shows are always super high energy.
Every song feels like a firecracker going off continuously
for two to five minutes, and every break is a breath-catcher.
They never disappoint, and their sing-alongs (particularly
“Here I Am” and “No Revolution”)
seem to shake the earth to the core. The band is technically
broken up, but Asbury Park, in particular, has a way of
convincing bands who have thrown in the towel to reunite
at their doorstep. This is the second time that I’ve
seen The Explosion do this, and it’s always worth
seeing. Founding member Matt Hock maintains a social media
presence to help promote his other fine works of music and
art, so throw him some love, vintage punk fans!
Next up were a long-time favorite live band of mine, Dillinger
Four. I first caught these guys back opening up for NOFX
in 2008. They were the highlight of the day, by far. D4
have both songwriting and stage presence on lock. I’ve
seen them attract even the most disinterested of folks to
surge forward toward the barricade, where every member spends
time getting up close and personal with the crowd. The band
hasn’t released an album in almost ten years, although
they were reportedly hard at work on some new jams last
year – perhaps they’re still percolating (one
can only hope!) No matter, they’re a huge draw every
time, and this punk right here practically gave herself
whiplash fucking shit up during their set. “Civil
Before The Specials closed out the evening, the surprise
of my life burst onto the scene in a sea of silver spangled
glory: Charles Bradley And His Extraordinaires. With a hippie
vibe and a James Brown-esque aesthetic, these dudes blew
me the fuck away. I LOVE shit like this: horns, coordinated
dance moves, frenetic shouts, fucking flowers for the crowd,
rant about equality. Sadly, my travel companion was at the
end of her rope with the heat and needed a breather, so
I was unable to get a shot of the band playing their set,
but boy, did they play the shit out of it nonetheless. The
dudes are seasoned, the album is recent, and the band have
only been together for six years, but they blow a lot of
their newer, hungrier counterparts away. I have got to find
these guys again the next time they’re in town (which
I’m pretty sure is Brooklyn’s OctFest). Do yourself
a favor and follow suit, you won’t be sorry.
The headlining Specials were a dance party for punks, essentially
– and no Jersey punk out there fails to cite them
as a huge influence. www.thespecials.com Together forty
years and counting, this staunchly anti-racist ska outfit
can nail balls to the wall like no one’s business,
and the timing couldn’t be riper. With a bruising
sixteen-song setlist, staccato handclapping and an ever-in-motion,
ninety-person stage show, this band was worth every drop
of the wait. I feel honored that I got to see them do their
thing in person, and apologize profusely for the lack of
footage (it was impossible to even get near the stage once
Day Two saw us cooling ourselves (and our hangovers) over
some boardwalk Mexican fare at Cubacan, but we popped out
for a walk and some ice cream, accompanied by the soothing
sounds of the ocean and The New Darkbuster, Bigwig, Posers
and Hot Blood. My travel companion elected to grab a bit
more beach as I headed in for one of the sets that I was
most excited for: The Pietasters. I politely hung back to
leave space for the Leftover Crack fans to get their best
shots off n ext, but had an amazing time, albeit sans photos.
The Pietasters were a blast! Their unique blend of ska and
soul, not to mention their unusually stable lineup since
1990, lends them a light, yet musically complex aesthetic
onstage. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen
this many beery bro dudes shaking their money makers.
Leftover Crack are exciting, and very talented, for sure,
and I positively adored Choking Victim, but their crowds
are not really my scene, so I chose their set to wine it
up, take a whiz, and locate my wayward traveling companion.
I could hear them though, and they were definitely killing
it. Jerseyians adore these guys, and have them out every
chance that they get. They have the most awesome political
opinions out there, and one of the darkest sounds. Their
fans are some of the most loyal folks out in punk.
I made sure I hit the stage again for New Jersey’s
own Lifetime, whom I have been waiting a very long time
to see live again. Their show in 2009, opening for The Bouncing
Souls along with None More Black, was life-changing. I have
never had a better time watching an opener play (second
only Black Train Jack’s unprecedented reunion opening
for the same band, that same year.) Lifetime’s onstage
energy was exactly as I remembered it. I was already hoarse
by the end of it. “Hello Bastards” is one of
the finest punk albums out there to date, and it’s
a fucking honor and a privilege to see its authors do their
thing in person. It didn’t seem possible for the energy
to get any more electric on that pavement.
The Buzzcocks were next, and man, has it been an effort
and a half to catch these guys live! The first couple of
times they came to town, I was otherwise engaged. The next,
I came down with some shitty bug the night before (I was
devastated.) So, when I heard that they were hopping onto
this tour, I was beyond stoked. They were a really fucking
good time. Seasoned, loaded with scream-along hits, funny,
engaging – fuck, they were just the best. To catch
these British icons in such an intimate setting, obviously
having the time of their lives, and film it, was just mind-blowing.
I am so grateful to the festival’s organizers, and
to Jersey Beat, for making this possible. Dream come true.
Closing out the event was one of my favorite bands of all
time, NOFX. Their shows seriously never get old, and, despite
all of the jokes made at their own expense, only improve
with time. They have some of the easiest, most hilarious
stage banter of any band out there, and their obvious affection
for one another radiates out to the crowd. Every song that
they play is a stomper, and every one-liner receives a raucous
response from the crowd, like a punk Rocky Horror viewing.
“Bottles to the Ground” took what was left of
my voice. As long as this band keeps coming to town, I will
always grab a ticket.
I would have loved to attend, and be able to report back,
on the after-parties and such, but unfortunately work schedules
made that completely impossible. Here’s to next year,
though – I’ll start my planning early.
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covering punk, alternative, ska, techno and garage
music, focusing on New Jersey and the Tri-State
area. For the past 25 years, the Jersey Beat music
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