Memorial Day Weekend. The start of summer. In Asbury Park, the fabled grounds of Springsteen, local boys, The Gaslight Anthem, returned for a two night stint; opening the season at the Stone Pony’s Summer Stage. Two shows- one with the Hold Steady and one with the Felice Brothers opening.
Here is the Good, the Bad and the Ugly from night one.
The mood. The mood was up beat. People were feeling good. The Jersey Shore was mounting a comeback after Hurricane Sandy and even a little weather wasn’t going to stop anyone.
The second half of Gaslight’s set. For some reason, and it might have been attributed to the weather, the show started off kind of sluggish. It poured for most of the Hold Steady’s set. But halfway through Gaslight’s set it seemed to pick up and it ended strong.
New Jersey Transit. 7 bucks for a round trip ticket from Point Pleasant to Asbury. Hard to beat and saves you from having to drive home- through six or seven little quiet beachfront communities and their respected police forces lying in wait.
The young fella at the train station. At the train stop in Asbury, an old, blind man was there, calling out for a light for his smoke. Literally calling out- to anyone. It was sad. A group of young people came after us and one of them stopped to talk to the old man. Moments later he was taking the old man by the arm and leading him to other platform, for the train headed north, which was apparently where the man was headed. He then dug into his pockets, produced a match book and lit the old man’s smoke. Good deeds are always such a refreshing sight to see.
The outside bar at Porta. Porta is an Asbury restaurant a block behind the Stone Pony. The joint was hoping and the bar inside was swarmed with people. But as luck would have it, the bar outside was not. All they had were some beers, but that was enough. Every bar should have a back up bar- especially in the summer.
The weather. If you confused this Memorial Day Weekend with Veteran’s Day, you weren’t alone. Was that hail at one point because those rain drops hurt. It was windy. It was cold. It was most certainly not flip flop weather.
The time in between the show and the encore. I don’t know if the crowd was subdued because of the weather or something else (it did smell like people smoking weed a lot,) but when the show ended, there really wasn’t a roar of a crowd. The calls for an encore were few and far between, but we all waited, expecting there to be one. No one really cheered- it was only sporadic. It seemed like a stand off between a cold crowd expecting an encore and a band expecting to be asked for an encore. The lights flashed, urging the crowd to cheer and we did, briefly. This lasted a couple minutes and I kept checking to see if the house lights were starting to come on. But eventually the band did. Crowd 1, Band 0. Advantage: Crowd.
The line at the bar. Twenty minutes for service and a bartender who couldn’t find the Dewar’s bottle.
The band’s enthusiasm. I had never seen Gaslight Anthem before, but based on the energy and passion of their music, I expected them to be a lively bunch. This wasn’t the case. At times they looked to be just going through the motions, which was both surprising and disappointing. I expected more, especially from some hometown dudes playing a hometown show. Lead singer Brian Fallon addressed the crowd a couple times, but never with any kind of chutzpah. Maybe that’s just their style and maybe it’s not. Maybe it was just an off night. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. It is the holidays.
The sound. Muffled and flat. Not really what you want from a rock show, but it’s what we got. And no overhead mics on the drums led to barely any cymbals and I LOVE CYMBALS. Overall assessment: kind of bush league.
Visibility. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a tall man. But I’ve also been to plenty of shows and have never had the trouble seeing the stage I had on Saturday. Even at Festival Pier in Philly- a similar set up to the Pony’s Summer Stage, you are able to see the stage from even the most chaotic stops in the crowd. Granted we kept getting stuck behind several of the tallest dudes in attendance and that didn’t help. But even when those Sasquatches weren’t around, the band was hard to see. Kind of a bummer, especially when you factor in the sound problems.
I’ll give the band a pass because of the weather and the shitty sound. It was still fun and there were moments of some good ol’ rock ‘n roll jubilation. Fallon writes a good sing-a-long chorus and that is never a bad thing.
I give the show a B -.