ASBURY PARK – Skate And Surf Music Festival: The one that prided itself on a return to its birth place, the Asbury Park Boardwalk, but avoided the inclusion of local businesses, musical acts, and media outlets like they were hosts for contagious disease…at least they didn’t shove any gaming platforms down our throats at every turn this year.
But it would be unfair to completely trounce Skate And Surf.
Sure, the local aspect was missing…The Gaslight Anthem doesn’t count, nor does a Rook Coffee vendor (though that ice coffee was exceptional and I hope they open one in Asbury real soon), or a one off from the Parlor Mob, which sounded great from the sandy planks of the Asbury Boardwalk…where the majority of patrons were forced to listen from…because the gates opened at 2 p.m. and these local favorites hit The World Stage shortly there after.
However, the fact remains that Sunday’s lineup was well worth the price of admission, and it would be disingenuous to not give Skate And Surf credit where it’s due.
The Opening Salvo
Sunday’s bill was so stacked that at 2:45 p.m. Philadelphia’s scattershot maestros of emotional tidings, Modern Baseball, opened the primary GameLoud stage to one of the larger non-headlining assemblages of day; Bayonne, NJ’s burgeoning punk titans The Scandals incited the day’s inaugural circle pit while patrons were still filing through the door in mass; and The Wonder Years frontman Aaron West, and his brass accompaniment known as The Roaring Twenties, saw the grandeur of his dark and unsettling missives go virtually unnoticed on the East Stage in Skate And Surf’s back alley.
West and company eventually gave way to an alluring East Stage row of heavy hitters, highlighted by the twangy pinings of Piscataway’s emotional rock duo turned trio Dads; a blacktop quaking processions by Brooklyn based party-punks The So So Glos (who delivered cuts from the band’s excellent 2014 breakout LP Blowout and a pair of rage tunes from a forthcoming collection), and what was ultimately the best set of the day by Philadelphia trash-rockers Beach Slang.
Beach Slang: The Best Band In The World
“Beach Slang is the best band in the world right now and no one knows it,” said one fan on the rail…and more importantly Beach Slang doesn’t know it…and what’s more important than that, the band gives no fucks about such praise.
Fame, media buzz, reverence, none of it appears to matter to this group, nor does the size of the stage they play or the congestion at the foot of it. The outfit is still going to deliver cuts from its beloved EPs Cheap Thrills On A Dead End Street and Who Would Ever Want To Be So Broken? with reckless abandon, blowing out PAs (which actually happened on Sunday), while frontman James Snyder loses his shit in an avalanche of axe riffing and cracks bass plucker Ed McNulty in the jaw with the head stock (also happened).
Where a multitude of rising contemporaries often measure achievement on social media statistics and Spotify listens, for Beach Slang, success will only be a byproduct of the fun they have. Such a belief system becomes evident when your vocalist races away from the mic stand in the middle of “All Fuzzed Out” and “Dirty Cigarettes” to take a baseball swing with the neck of his Gretsch and smack a beach ball into the pit…and that sort of philosophy is what makes them worthy of the praise, and quite possibly the best band in the world.
Kev Dev & The Goddamn Contradiction Of Cloud Nothings & Manchester Orchestra
To the left of the East Stage was, you guessed it, the West Stage, which featured a mid-fest set by Kevin Devine & The Goddamn Band, and a particularly rowdy rendition of “Brother’s Blood”, which closed the show to much avail.
Cloud Nothings took to the The World Stage ahead of Manchester Orchestra, and where Andy Hull and his Atlanta-based outfit have adapted to the grandiose platforms that come with the aforementioned media buzz and growing fan bases following such hit records as I’m Like A Virgin Losing A Child, Mean Everything To Nothing, and the outfit’s latest effort Cope, Dylan Baldi and his Cleveland-based basement punk project proved to be somewhat of a visual bore in the larger arena. The abrasive guitar attacks ripped from Cloud Nothings’ Attack On Memory (2012) and Here And Nowhere Else (2014) should have induced a riot. However, based on the reaction of the French Fry consuming masses seated near the performance in a stoic state of cheese and heat-induced comatose, it’s safe to say the fire was never lit.
Front Bottoms & Gaslight Anthem Take Us Home
The former used its time to hint at the indie-rock ragers to come with a closing cut titled “West Virginia”, which rocked harder than anything found in the group’s back catalogue, and to invite Kevin Devine to the planks for an raucous rendition of “Twin Sized Mattress”, before taking a shot at the Skate And Surf satellite competition and pay to play platform known as The Break Contest.
“It’s great to be playing on this stage right now,” Brian Sella said. “Because we played The Break Contest three times in the past and they never picked us for anything…But look at us now.”
The Gaslight Anthem set a confusingly reserved tone through the first half of its 26-song headlining set, including a version of “Great Expectations” that was slowed to an unsettling crawl, before Brian Fallon invited such local luminaries to join the band on stage as Asbury singer-songwriter Sammy Kay for “Stay Lucky”, The Bouncing Souls’ own Pete Steinkopf for a cover of The Misfits’ “Astro Zombies”, and The Sandals frontman Jared Hart for the night’s closing number “We’re Getting A Divorce, You Keep The Diner.”
It would be a foolish endeavor to try and completely pan Skate And Surf. Is it disheartening for local elements, and any female-fronted bands (Screaming Females, Hop Along, Waxahatchee, Best Coast, etc) to be ignored? Absolutely. But Sunday’s lineup and the eight-hour block of rock it provided will rival that of any festival on the 2015 summer circuit.
Until next time Skate And Surf.
The So So Glos
The Gaslight Anthem (feat. Sammy Kay, Pete Steinkopf, Jared Hart)
The Front Bottoms
Kevin Devine & The Goddamn Band