Asbury Park Welcomes Home The Gaslight Anthem Local Rock Heros Celebrate The 10th Anniversary of The '59 Sound At The Stone Pony
ASBURY PARK, NJ- The Gaslight Anthem (GLA) returned to their Asbury Park, NJ roots on August 17,18 and 19 playing three back to back to back sold out shows at the iconic Stone Pony. Born out of the New Jersey punk scene over a decade ago GLA have carved out a place in NJ music history with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Skid Row and the Bouncing Souls. New Jersey music as a genre fields its influences from early Motown, Blues, classic rock, jazz and punk, and while still a Jersey band GLA wanted to be different, have its own identity and style. The band’s first album Sink or Swim was released in 2007 and was generally well received, but bigger things were on the horizon for GLA. The band’s second full length album The’ 59 Sound was released on August 19, 2008, voted the #1 album of 2008 by eMusic, the album was a resounding success. Produced by Ted Hutt, the album drew its influences from 1950’s soul music, which isn’t surprising being a Jersey band. The album which was highly regarded by critics would push GLA into the spotlight that included Jersey’s own Bruce Springsteen joining GLA on stage at Glastonbury in 2009. GLA would go on to release three additional studio albums before parting ways in 2015.
Fast forward to 2018, GLA revealed that the band would be reuniting for the Governors Ball Music Festival in celebration of the 10th anniversary of The ’59 Sound, ultimately including a string of additional concert dates that would bring them home to Asbury Park NJ. With the original line up of Brian Fallon on guitar and lead vocals, Benny Horowitz on drums, Alex Rosamilia on guitar and vocals and Alex Levine on bass and vocals, this would be a night of nostalgia, emotions and celebration.
Like an artist working with a blank canvas GLA walked out onto a sparse stage alone to the thunderous roar of the crowd, the only adornment on stage a simple GLA banner behind drummer Benny Horowitz. Without a spoken word the band took their places and launched into the title track off their 2012 album “Handwritten”, the crowd singing the chorus, And we waited for sirens that never come, and we only write by the moon, every word handwritten. GLA would play three more songs from their deep discography on this dimly lit stage while the cool ocean winds blew, paving the way for what everyone was waiting for The’59 Sound.
The stage was bathed in demure lighting while the opening guitar riff of “Great Expectations” rang out, the simple stage and lighting clearly by design, focusing ones’ attention to just the music, Fallons raspy voice and bandmates distinctive guitar riffs pulling the crowd to a place personal and intimate.
GLA music is in a category I refer to as “music with a purpose”, rifle with obscure references and metaphors it’s meaning will be unique to fans eager to relate to its sometimes complex / personal message. The title track of The ’59 Sound was written by Brian Fallon and is a deep, dark and emotional song about a friend’s death in a car accident. While this is a superbly written and executed song I sometimes find it difficult to listen to, as did some of the crowd who were moved to tears by the song’s lyrics, Did you hear the old gospel choir when they came to carry you over, did you hear your favorite song one last time.
One of the most memorable moments of the night was the song “Even Cowgirls Get The Blues”, a song with a wandering tempo and bluesy guitar hooks that takes you to a smoke and whisky filled Southern music club, complete with gospel-esque backup singers. With poignant lyrics and a chorus that reads, I still love Tom Petty songs and driving old men crazy. Fallon including an understated tribute to the late great musician incorporating a few notes from Petty’s song “Wildflowers”.
GLA’s set continued, blazing a wandering path through The’59 Sound’s sonic textures and tempos, Fallon’s Jersey inspired lyrics and bandmates fusion of rock, punk and soul adding punctuation. It was at a point I began to realize how relative this music / album still is, actually timeless, the crowd completely engaged through the entire show.
The Gaslight Anthem would go on to play a total of twenty-five songs including The’59 Sound album in its entirety. Watching the crowd, I saw people crying, hugging, singing and dancing, all the emotional food groups clearly represented.
IMHO this tour and performance cemented The Gaslight Anthem’s place in New Jersey musical History, showing a band that has matured over time, they seem to have grown into their own music if that makes sense. But let’s not get to happy as the band has no plans for new music or another tour. There is a time when you just need to be happy with what you have, and it looks like that time is now.
Chuck Ragan and the Camaraderie provided support for this show, and actually toured with GLA in 2010. Ragan’s roots in the punk scene date back to 1993 in Gainesville Florida with Hot Water Music but is currently straddling genre’s as a folk punk artist. Ragan’s latest album (live) with the Camaraderie The Winter Haul was released in 2016 via Ten Four Records.
Chuck and the Camaraderie took the stage to “Something May Catch Fire” giving a shot of adrenaline to the crowd at the Pony, the fiddle play of Jon Gaunt setting the pace with Ragan strumming away on the acoustic guitar and the whole band being in great form. The set continued with “Vegabond” and “Flame in the Flood” showcasing smooth slide guitar work and Ragan’s honest and emotional vocal delivery. Ragan who sometimes tours solo really shines when playing with his full band, adding a bluegrass, soulful sound that lends well to his husky vocals and meaningful lyrics.
With the crowd at the Pony finding its rhythm Chuck Ragan and the Camaraderie began winding down their set finishing with “California Burrito” off the Feast or Famine album, a fast-paced folk song with bluegrass harmonies and dominant fiddle on the backside.
Chuck and the Camaraderie played a twelve-song set and clearly laid the foundation for a night of great music
Local folk punker Jared Hart had the honors of getting this show started tonight and stylistically was a perfect fit. Hart, who enjoys a very large following is an intense singer songwriter who has a no-nonsense stage presence and a thunderous voice took the stage with a full string quartet, adding an interesting element to his set.
Jared Hart played a diverse set of original music and covers including “Back to Black” by Amy Winehouse and “Lucky 7’s” by The Scandals, Jared’s full band. The amount of people that came out (real) early to see Jared’s set speaks volumes about this guy as a performer, with a reputation as an honest and brave songwriter Jared keeps company with some of the best in the business, including Dave Hause and Brian Fallon. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Jared in the past, and as always, he really connects with his fans.
In conclusion this was possibly the show of the summer in Asbury Park NJ, with The Gaslight Anthem confirming their legacy as one of the true great New Jersey bands of our time. My thanks to Chuck Ragan and Jared Hart for the great contribution, and to the staff at the Stone Pony especially the always professional security team who always keep us safe!