(ASBURY PARK -- FEBRUARY 10, 2008) -- Tuesday nights at the Saint has got to be my favorite day of the week. You never really know what will be scheduled, but it's always a night for music fans. It might be a great touring band that doesn't quite have the following for a weekend spot; or an up-and-coming local act that has been flying under the radar; it might be an acoustic show, experimental, or even heavy metal; but it's always something cool. Tuesday nights may get even better if Hey Cole starts booking on a regular basis as the talent base has a chance to go way, way up. And last night was a perfect example of that. Placed in a combination listening room / regular club setting, the show featured Allie Moss, George Wirth, Matt Jones, and Alex Brumel and Janel Elizabeth.
Allie Moss was up first. Best known for her work with Ingrid Michaelson, she is releasing her own EP in the next month or so. With a truly beautiful voice, she ran through several of the tunes that will construct her debut and showed she not only has true indie cred, but great taste in music with wonderful covers of "Poughkeepsie" by Over the Rhine, and "Priests and Paramedics" by Pedro the Lion. Her choice of covers was brilliant.
"Is that camera on me?" She once asked. "Am I green? That's all I could think of during that song."
Exhibiting a world of confidence from the last several years of touring, she revealed her fear about being shown as green from the Saint's video system, worried about whether any of the people filming her would have material wind up on YouTube, joked about bumping her head into microphone stands and doors while on tour with Ingrid, and lovingly chided a musician friend that could not make the show (but eventually did turn up much later in the night). One person who did make the show, however, is a regular at the Twisted Tree Cafe and our Twisted Covers show and turned out to be Allie's grandmother!
My favorite song was, what I believe will be the title track of Allie's new EP, a song called "Passerby", that takes a look at the line between strangers, lovers, and just being something more.
"You're not a friend of mine
I'm just a passerby..."
She sings about how the little things could make such a difference. If they were in the same class together, if they shared a pint, or even if they liked the same teams.
"What if the things that tie us
are stronger then we knew?"
George Wirth was up next and followed with another one of his consistently strong sets. Playing the straight man, he said, "Allie has a great voice. People say we sound alike, but I don't hear it."
My favorite moment was when he told the story of arriving in Asbury Park for the first time as an 11-year-old kid and being dropped off in front of the Palace with the ferris wheel jetting out through the roof. As someone that literally grew up spending weekends at the Palace, the mere mention of that place still brings me chills. "You have these moments that stick with you that can only be when your 11…" he said before launching into "Memorial Drive."
"The ones who got out
And the ones who survive
Down on memorial drive"
It's a song that rivals "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)" for the title of best song ever about Asbury Park. Both songs are similar in that the lead characters know they really should leave Asbury, but something about the town just keeps them from leaving. In addition to being an utterly beautiful song, it has the distinction of being Asbury's truest drinking song. Someday, I can imagine a full house all sitting at the bar and swaying their pints as they sing along with George on the chorus (one we can all relate to.)
"And we all fall down
And we all fall down
And the world keeps spinning round and round
And we all fall down"
There's something always so optimistic and pessimistic about Asbury Park; it's a town of dreams and a town of heartbreak; one of winners and losers, but mainly about survivors. George nails it all with the lyrics of this song, which should be in the collection of every fan of Jersey Shore music.
Another favorite from the night was a strong version of "Power Lines." George has a wonderful ability to create truly real characters in his songs, while also keeping the meaning universal. It's a trick only the best songwriters seem to achieve and it just makes the songs that much stronger.
"Everyone's looking for that one connection
To keep from being alone
Let the power lines that run between us
Carry me home"
Matt Jones from Michigan was the next performer; Armed with an acoustic guitar and a girl on violin for the first song, he began with a very unique vocal style. In a weird way (and maybe because Allie Moss stuck her in my mind) he sort of reminded me of a male Ingrid Michaelson!
He mainly played solo on guitar, but brought the fiddler back for a couple of tunes. Some of his work seemed truly unique with interesting chord changes and tuning that seemed to be different than usual.
At one point, he said, "Everybody seems to know each other and that's cool, but I sort of feel like the odd man out, so could you all do something for me? Could you just clap and scream at the start of the next song?" After thinking about it a moment, he added,"Or you could boo if you want to..."
The crowd obliged, and it was the kind of crazy/beautiful moment you only get in Asbury Park. The crowd then gave him a wonderful applause after the song as well. For someone playing 35 shows in 36 days (and was on day 3), this probably got his tour off to a nice start.
I've gotta say I give a lot of credit for being so adventurous with his tunes. It worked far more than it didn't. Hopefully, he'll make his way back to The Saint somewhere down the line.
Closing out the night was Alex Brumel and Janel Elizabeth. Brumel's recent released record is simply amazing. In fact, it will almost certainly hold a spot in my top ten records of 2009. When paired with Janel, the songs take on an even greater meaning. And live… the pairing is fantastic. Their set reminded me of seeing The Swell Season in Salt Lake City last year.
Together with the help of an upright bass player, they played incredibly beautifully versions of "Leaving Nashville", "A Little Bit More", "The Lion", "The Company You Keep", "Dance Alone", "I Don't Know You At All", "Little Girl" and more. An encore was "Sunday afternoon"
I wouldn't be surprised at all if they are the next to break from the area. If they can get their music into the hands of the right djs, it's hard to imagine stations like WXPN not giving the tunes a spin. The songs are that good. And live, they not only match the records power, but actually raise the intensity.
It was the kind of night that just stays with you. As I told Scott behind the bar, this is what Tuesday nights are all about. Tuesdays have still been kind of a secret, but it's time for them to come out from under the radar. If you love music, this is the best night of the week. Trust me.
Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.