(BELMAR, NJ) -- Despite being somewhat of a spur of the moment idea, Belmar's First Annual Music & Arts Festival was a smashing success. In fact, a certain town a few miles away that appears to be eliminating free music should pay attention. Belmar just might grab the mantle if the town decides to use its beach and boardwalk to lure the immense musical and arts talent in the area for free shows. Someone is bound to find a way to do it, why not Belmar?
The Pat Roddy Band had the honor of kicking off the festival as the sun was setting. With the band's music aimed at a huge crowd gathered on the beach, dozens of onlookers watched from behind the band as well. The site was pretty damn amazing in my opinion. There's nothing like being able to stare out at the beach and the horizon coming above the ocean while listening to a concert. Whether the crowd knew a festival was taking place or just happened to stumble upon it didn't matter, the gorgeous view and the sounds of the artists were enough to reel them in. While Pat is a bit of a local legend, tonight's set was something special as it gave the rare opportunity to hear a full set of his original songs.
Danny White and his band followed as darkness began to fall and more people gathered around. The night was constantly illuminated by camera phone flashes, which added to the concert appearance. Danny himself took a moment to shoot a picture of the crowd with his iPhone for Belmar's archives. In between playing tunes from his latest release, Danny thanked people like the Mayor and Belmar Tourism for helping to make the night possible. After Danny's set, students from his Beach Music Studios took the stage.
The town couldn't have asked for a better night for the festival. It would have been nice if they were able to lure a few artists to showcase their work, but as it was I was the lone soldier there hawking my books. Apparently the artist exhibits did attract several people as I was constantly asked where the artists were. Nevertheless, a bunch of people came to check out my books and even some people who had already purchased them came over to say hi. One person who stopped at my table was Cal Schwartz, a writer with NJdiscover.com who happens to be a fellow Rutgers sports fanatic. It was good to finally meet him in person after talking with him online for a while.
There's little doubt that the festival will return next year and with some advance promotion it just might turn into another can't miss event at the Shore.
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 email@example.com.