Jersey Beat Music Fanzine

The Bouncing Souls - Home For The Holidays '11

The Good, The Bad, And The Snowbound

Story by Deborah J. Draisin
Snowbound photos by Jen Adams
Bouncing Souls photos by Dan Bracaglia

California may be a source of envy for punk fans everywhere, with unbelievable show lineups and full band reunions to die for, but New Jersey is no slouch in that department, either. In addition to being the proud springboard of the influential horror punk outfit The Misfits, da Jerz can also claim ownership of Vision, Adrenalin O.D., Midtown, and Lifetime. Then, of course, there are The Bouncing Souls.

Now in their fourth year of running the best home event in the state (next to an impromptu visit from The Boss,) the Souls’ annual “Home for the Holidays” benefit shows span four nights and include activities such as movie screenings, Q&A’s, ghost walks, and pinball nights. In keeping with the spirit of reuniting awesome bands for one night only, guest openers have included Token Entry, Black Train Jack, Full Speed Ahead - and this year, should have included Leftover Crack and Adrenalin O.D. (we’ll get to that in a moment.)

The festivities are generally held at the legendary Stone Pony. Asbury Park, with all its mystique, is a wonderland virtually frozen in time. Its run-down buildings, clear view of the ocean, and old-time shops are reminiscent of ladies with parasols and gentlemen bearing pocket watches, but nowhere in town is this effect felt more potently than at the classic Berkeley Hotel, where concertgoers hang their hats every year between Christmas and New Year’s in order to celebrate their True Believer-ness.

This is where the story gets interesting, folks. Every other year seems to feature an unexpected bend in the road (HFTH 2008 saw the Pony’s roof cave in, relocating the performances to the nearby but echo-y Convention Center;) but 2010 was about to top that by a mile. A blizzard was expected to blow into town early in the morning the day of the first show. Many spectators and band members moved to position themselves in town early to avoid having to travel in the white-out. Smart move? To some extent...

Those of us coming from out of town, across the country, or even from overseas at least made it to Asbury Park, but once the flakes had finally slowed down to a trickle (leaving over two feet of the white stuff,) the town of Asbury decided to shut down, shooting down any possibility of anyone even being able to tunnel their way in or out of the hotel, much less get into town. Virtually nothing approached the Berkeley for the next 24 hours other than one very determined pizza delivery man and some equally determined snowdrifts. The Souls canceled the first night, then the second; then when the plows didn’t show up and Asbury remained immobilized by the “Snowpocalypse” (as it's now come to be called,) all four shows had to be postponed. Meanwhile, we were snowed in at the Berkeley.

The hotel staff (trapped there with us) found itself scrambling for nourishment (some hidden pastries over here, a bit of pineapple over there) but by Day Two, even the determined pizza delivery man had given up the ghost.

However, the evening of the snowfall, the strandees called a lobby meeting in order to better acquaint ourselves, seeing as how we were, you know, trapped there together for exactly the same purpose. To say that we’d bonded by Day Two would be a gross understatement. We became a gang by Day Two. We had organized activities, slogans, monikers and a random acoustic set; and by Day Three, when the Souls family was finally able to scrape a path from the hotel to Asbury Lanes in order to shower the castaways with food, drink and music (the equally antsy Souls played almost a two hour set without anyone noticing the time going by,) we had Stockholm Syndrome. By Day Four, we were family.

We were so altered by the experience that we had Souls bassist Bryan Kienlen himself (who now works at Immortal Ink a couple of days a week when not on the road) tattoo most of us with a crew logo we'd designed in between the canceled events and the redo, which happened the weekend of February 9-12.

By now, we had learned our lesson and never showed up any place without tons of food, water, and prank ideas to keep us company. As it turned out, the weather was perfect (unnerving us with the concept of being able to actually leave the hotel) and although a bunch of us came down with a crew bug and a couple of us got ourselves kicked out of the venue, the shows went off without incident.

Although we were bummed that the redo wasn’t going to include the originally amazing opening lineup consisting of Leftover Crack, Adrenalin O.D., H2O and Yuppicide, we were lucky enough to wind up with Anti-Flag, the Menzingers, Strike Anywhere and the Loved Ones.

For this go-round (dubbed “The Snowout Blowout”) The Souls announced they would be doing (mostly) full albums in release date order, so Night One consisted of The Good, The Bad and The Argyle and Maniacal Laughter. They'd hired WWE announcer Jim Norton to announce each album, replete with a card girl walking around the stage holding up cue card-sized versions of the album covers.

You’d think that Night One would be the most insane, as the cuts ran as deep as Jimmy Hoffa underneath the Brooklyn Bridge and featured openers Anti-Flag. However, the craziest show might have been Night Two, kicked off in high form by The Menzingers and Strike Anywhere, and then peaking with the Self-Titled album’s “Shark Attack” (acted out perfectly by crewmembers) - a rarely seen treat . Hopeless Romantic had the crowd going fucking apeshit. “Wish Me Well (You Can Go To Hell)” featured the services of Lauren West from the band American Pinup, and “Olè” in its entirety (“Stupidest song we’ve ever written,” grumbled Bryan as he strummed the opening chords) were very nice touches.

Night Three, though, was the best one for me, despite my crushing disappointment at having to miss The Polar Bear Club’s set due to an early onset of concert flu. Commencing with How I Spent My Summer Vacation and closing with my all-time favorite, Anchors Aweigh, the show was nothing short of life-altering, despite the omission of “New Day” and “Todd’s Song.” “I’m From There,” written about the sad departure of former drummer Shal Khichi, was a tearjerker.

On the final night, the band played its two most recent albums (intro’d flawlessly by crowd pleasers The Loved Ones.) The Gold Record (bonus: Greg forgetting virtually all of the words to “Midnight Mile” as the crowd sang it flawlessly back at him) and Ghosts on the Boardwalk received a more than respectable crowd response, and the encore blew the joint the fuck up as the band invited their longtime friend and drum tech Dubs (who’s moving to Hawaii) to play some of his favorite cuts onstage with them (he chose “Lamar Vannoy,” “True Believers,” and “Freaks, Nerds and Romantics.”)

There wasn’t much in the way of commentary as the band wanted to plow through as many songs as they could, but the interaction that is typical of this band and its diehard fans was still very much there in the form of hands and mics being held out to stage divers and reverberating shout-alongs.

As we split an order of Asbury Lanes’ famous tater tots with one another, took pictures together in the photo booth and froze our asses off outside over cigarettes for the last time, being sure to thank each member of the band and their indispensible manager, K8 is Great, for everything, we marveled over the fact that one band (and one snowfall) could bond so many people together.

The Bouncing Souls and their extended family like to consider themselves family to their diehards, and now we were family to one another as well. One of the reasons that I love this environment is that it’s so vastly different from every other. A newcomer attending their first show will receive a high five from the person next to them attending their hundredth, and people pick each other up off the ground without being asked.

As the last of us drove away the next morning, I thought about all that had transpired in just a month's time, and I found myself pitying anyone out there who hasn’t yet realized just how powerfully cathartic art can be, and saying a silent thank you to whatever is out there directing me repeatedly towards it.

 is an independently published music fanzine 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 fanzine has been the authority on the latest upcoming bands and a resource for all those interested in rock and roll.

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