Photos by C. Rotolo
On Wednesday evening, the placards advising passersby to waltz in another direction offered a much more cordial reminder of events that took place on our storm-ravaged Jersey Shore less than a month ago than the cold and corroded chain link fence they hung upon.
The barrier separated our battered and beloved Asbury Park boardwalk from the foot traffic its played host too for generations, and, under different circumstances, would have more than welcomed on a night like this, as a sold out Stone Pony patronage 1000 bodies thick descended upon the Garden State’s most storied house of music, where Toms River’s own River City Extension presented its 3rd Annual Simple Gifts Holiday Show with such favorites as The Front Bottoms and Brick Mortar, and the Brooklyn-based Folk-Pop collective Merrily & The Poison Orchard in support.
These bands are important to this area; to this arts and music culture that’s growing and emerging from the New Jersey underground; to the Food Bank of Monmouth & Ocean Counties to which the proceeds from this event were donated; to anyone whose ever been emotionally moved or mentally stimulated by their songs; to the fans that have been made to feel apart of something bigger than themselves, and who were able to witness it first hand; to those effected by Hurricane Sandy that were able to come out to a Rock show and receive a much needed distraction from reality for a few hours; and to this penman who’s been lucky enough to document from up close to these artists’ evolution from hometown heroes into national touring dynamos and globe trotting juggernauts.
The music causes you to think, the time of year beckons reflection, and with Wednesday evening fresh in the mind on this Thanksgiving night, here is what I’m thankful for:
- For the latest release by River City Extension (Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Your Anger) from which the band plucked a bevy of cuts including the subdued “Glastonbury,” and “If You Need Me Back In Brooklyn,” as well as the acoustically driven sing alongs of “Slander” and “Standing Outside A Southern Riot,” and uproarious renditions of “There & Back Again,” “Battle Of Oregon,” and “Everything West Of Home,” which commenced with an impromptu cover of Coldplay’s “The Scientist.”
- For The Stone Pony’s staff and security for being so accommodating to the press.
- And for that matter, that anyone ever decided to look at the work on SIMGE for it to be considered worthy of the label “music news outlet.”
- For Joe Michelini channeling his inner Punk-Rock spirit animal of yesteryear, rattling about the stage and ferociously slashing his six string until the strap snapped off.
- And for the group’s most recent acquisition, guitarist John Muccino, for presenting his emotional axe wielding wizardry off of which a sweat drenched and disheveled Michelini fed.
- For The Front Bottoms latest self-titled full-length effort from which the Northern, NJ Acoustic Pop-Punks offered the likes of such lyrically propelled “Flashlight,” the disjointed “Rhode Island,” and the riotous, vomit inducing “Maps,” denoted by chunky liquid spewed all over the photography pit.
- For local Rock N’ Roll photographer Jeff Crespi for being the champion of local music that he is, while acting as a positive role model for young music enthusiasts of the scene.
- For Greg “The Poet” Schwartz who helps keep the spoken word art form alive while bringing smiles to the faces of everyone he encounters in our musical hub by the sea and beyond.
- For Buck Crowell and Billy O’Brien at Anchor & Hope music for their willingness to work with Speak Into My Good Eye.
- For The Front Bottoms’ Brian Sella announcing a the recording of a new record in the very near future…in turn causing rough tides to wash up a series of crowd surfing hooligans to the foot of the stage in a wave of jubilation.
- For Brick+Mortar’s bass-laden composition and the venue quaking energy induced by “Old Boy,” “Heatstroke,” “185 Drop,” and “Bangs.”
- For my hard working Speak Into My Good Staff members: Mike Mehalick, Kristen Driscoll, Christiana Hart, and Matt Ascone.
- For Red Bank, NJ’s Project Rebuild Recover and all the great work they’ve done in the weeks following Hurricane Sandy.
- For Jim “Cool Dad Music” Appio for celebrating independent artists on the local and national level.
- For Brandon Asraf and John Tacon performing one of the best sets I’ve ever seen.
- For all the performers returning to the stage at the end of the show to share verses and refrains on a cover Akron/Family’s “Don’t Be Afraid, You’re Already Dead.”
- And last, but not in anyway the least, my family, my friends, their health and my own, and of course the music, as it helps keep me sane in a life that is anything but.
On behalf of the entire Speak Into My Good Eye Staff,
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
EIC, Speak Into My Good Eye