Magdalena O’Connell and Vincent Minervino, producers of the Asbury Park Surf Music Festival
Enjoy a chat with Asbury Park’s First Couple of Surf, Hi-Tide Presents’ Vincent Minervino and Magdalena O’Connell, founding producers of Asbury Park Surf Music Festival, which returns Aug. 24 to 27 throughout the City by the Sea.
Back, bigger and better than ever, Hi-Tide Presents’ fourth annual Asbury Park Surf Music Festival takes over the City by the Sea and its north beach this weekend with several events in, around and nearby historic Convention Hall. The main shindig on Saturday at The Anchor’s Bend will feature two stages of bands headlined by Grammy-nominated Los Straitjackets. Highlights also will include symposiums by Sailor Jerry and DiPinto Guitars, a surfboard giveaway, a twist contest, a Grand Arcade filled with vendors, and performances by The Fathoms, Aqualads, Black Flamingos, Slowey & The Boats, The Surfrajettes, Great White Caps, The Televisionaries, and The Reefriders.
The festival initially was presented at the sorely missed Asbury Lanes in 2014 and 2015 but expanded to The Anchor’s Bend, its beach and the Grand Arcade of Convention Hall last year with a couple of events elsewhere. This year, the 10-event affair will kick off with a cocktail hour on Thursday at The Asbury hotel, followed by a concert by surf-rock legend Dick Dale at The Wonder Bar. The totally tubular schedule also will include an Aloha Friday cocktail hour at The Asbury, a beach sweep with the Surfrider Foundation, and a pre-party with Bongo Surf at The Anchor’s Bend.
Sunday’s 12-hour parade of fun will include a Tiki brunch with New Jersey’s prime Hawaiian party band Slowey & the Boats at The Anchor’s Bend, and a Hangover Pool Party with TarantinosNYC, Plato Zorba and DJ Foggy Notion and a screening of “Point Break” with a live soundtrack by The Great White Caps, both at The Asbury.
Then on only one day of rest, Hi-Tide will be back at it with their weekly Atomic Tuesday Tiki party at The Beach Bar on the other side of Convention Hall. Whew!
Somehow founding producers Vincent Minervino and Magdalena O’Connell, who also run Hi-Tide as a record label and manage Minvervino’s great surf-rock trio, Black Flamingos, found time to chat with me around the pool at The Asbury, while sipping on Painkillers, one of the many cocktails the festival will present. Enjoy and hope to see you at the fest!Question: You two fascinate me for two reasons. One, we have so much in common. We wear Hawaiian shirts more than anybody else I know.
Vincent: That’s true. We keep it alive in Asbury Park.
Magdalena: My Dad’s pretty up there too.
Is he? So that leads to my next question. You are an incredibly supportive wife, but it seems like you’re more than just supportive. You actually like what you are doing. Why is that?
Magdalena: I do. The music is just enjoyable. There’s something about the vibe that surf give that makes me want to dance and puts me in a good mood. I really love it. I feel it transports you to another place, which in the winter time is lovely. And then it fits when it’s so warm.
Vincent and I met when he was in his first surf band, The Brigantines, and I would come to his shows. I would go with friends. That was when I was more immersed in the current surf culture. And then once we started dating, it was this natural evolution where he would introduce me to some of the newer stuff and some of the older bands.
It’s not work to hang around. We do everything together. All of this was a joint effort from the get go.
Vincent: That’s what’s interesting about it. Because I play in Black Flamingos, people always assume that I’m the main driver behind everything with the festival, but it is truly a partnership. We came up with this idea by throwing out honeymoon ideas about going to Surfer Joe (Fest) in 2014.
Magdalena: Yeah, that’s what we were going to do for our honeymoon. We were going to go to a surf music festival.
Vincent: And we were like, ‘Well, can’t afford that this year, so why don’t we just do our own.’ We texted Jenn (Hampton), ‘Jenn, what do you think?’
Magdalena: And she just let us run with that idea.
Vincent: People always ask me how do you work full time and play in a band and have a record label and do a festival and a pomade company and still have a relationship. But we do all that together, so while some people are out at the movies or doing other activities for recreation, we DJ for fun or we do an Aloha Friday or we make a batch of pomade. That’s what we do as a couple together. It’s not like I have all these projects and then I have to find time for Magda. It’s we have these projects together, so it works out well. But we still find time to hang out with our friends.
Magdalena: The association of Black Flamingos with the festival and Aloha Fridays -- because they’re consistently the band that on those events -- often gets associated with the planning, but Black Flamingos did not exist before the festival. Black Flamingos was a band for, like, three weeks before the first festival, and they played their first-ever show at the surf festival the first year at the Lanes.
Vincent: We played, like, five songs.
Magdalena: There was definitely a local vibe to it, and for the first two years, it stayed pretty local at the Lanes.
Vincent: We want to rotate all those bands in from Jersey … but at the same time, we didn’t want to be putting on the same event every year, so we started to branch out a little bit. As word kind of spread that there is this really cool town – you see Asbury Park on every single list in the world of cool towns to visit – plus the coolest kind of music that ‘Pulp Fiction’ revitalized an interest in, people got into it.
A scene from Asbury Park Surf Music Festival 2016. COURTESY OF HI-TIDE
Q: Is that how you got into it, through ‘Pulp Fiction?’
Vincent: That was a layer of it. My parents were always into old-time rock ‘n’ roll, like Elvis, Chuck Berry, The Beach Boys, The Ventures, all that kind of stuff. So you listen to all that and then you venture out, and you think that you’ve found cooler stuff.
Magdalena: And then you circle back to it.
Vincent: A lot of it was moving down here in 2007 from Rochester, N.Y., for a job opportunity because I never had a beach I could just drive to. I grew up by the Finger Lakes, which are amazing, but I was never like, ‘What are you doing today? Nothing? OK, cool, let’s go to the beach.’ I could never do that.
There have been waves. The ’90s were really big for surf music. There was Man or Astro-man?, Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet. ‘Pulp Fiction’ was around, ‘Kids in the Hall.’ Dick Dale had a pretty big resurgence because of ‘Pulp Fiction,’ so the ’90s were really big, but that missed me just a little because I was in my early teens when all that was happening. Then the tide went down. It was low tide in the 2000s, so I was into alternative rock, like Smashing Pumpkins, Stone Temple Pilots, Green Day, Weezer, and then moving down here, I thought, ‘I want to start a new project. I want to do something I can play for a long time.’ The pressure of drawing a crowd is kind of tough sometimes, so surf music is nice. You can just be in a corner and play to people who are unsuspecting.
Surf music also has been influential on indie rock. One of the bands that has been a big influence on me is The Vaccines. They’re a British band. The first Vaccines record is drenched in reverb, which is probably the biggest influence for me in starting The Brigantines in 2011. And you can hear that in bands like Dentist, who describe themselves as indie-surf kind of stuff. It’s in a lot of places. You just have to look for it.
Magdalena: The music is amazing, but I have a dance background, and dancing to this music is really fun, so I love the beach party of vibe … the twisting. You feel like you’re transported to a 1960s beach party movie. That’s what I really love. The music just pulls it together that makes it this experience that’s fun.
Vincent: There’s also an overlap with Tiki culture with surf music and lounge music. Surf music is like the apex of rock ‘n’ roll. Things overlap with surf that never would overlap otherwise. Like how would you get from lounge music to country music? Surf puts it in the middle. How would you get from rockabilly to exotica? You can’t, but you put surf in the middle, and they connect. But when you think about exotica or lounge, the Madmen era, the Space Age, the retro futurism stuff that people went through and the escapism that was happening post-World War II, the Tiki culture really fits in well with that. We feel like this event, as much as it is a music event, the longer we do it and the more familiar we get with the real, authentic roots of Tiki, I feel like it’s going to be as much a cocktail event as it is a music event. This year, we’re definitely stepping that up. The Anchor’s Bend bar team has been super supportive of us.
Magdalena: We push them. The garnishes need to be spot on. The drinks need to be consistent. We have set a bar for them and hope that they’ve been willing to meet. We need orchids and every garnish, and they’ve been super accommodating every time we’ve made a request.
Vincent: And a lot of people we’ve met in our travels over the past few years have been very helpful. We just connected with Jukebox Jodi, who’s going to be DJing right after Los Straitjackets. She bartends at Otto’s Shrunken Head in New York. She’s been advising us on mixology elements of the real Tiki stuff. One of our cocktails is a 1930s Mai Tai. Another is a 1940s Zombie. Another is a Pain Killer from the ’70s.
Question: Have you made up any cocktails?
Magdalena: The first one we made was Tillie Sunburn.
Vincent: It’s the only drink that’s been on the menu all four years. It’s Sailor Jerry spiced rum, Flor de Cana four-year gold rum, orange juice, pineapple juice, a floater of grenadine and some secret ingredients.
Magdalena: It looks like a sunset. It’s garnished with cherry, pineapple, orange, and an orchid.
Vincent: So we have the Tillie Sunburn, and then the Stormy Skull, which is a variation on the Dark ’N’ Stormy, but with a coconut undertone to it, and it’s lime-based with ginger beer. We didn’t make that up. It’s more of a variation of the Dark ’N’ Stormy with a coconut twist.
The Painkiller that we’re serving is going to be pretty awesome too: Sailor Jerry, orange juice, pineapple juice, coconut cream, and it’s got a little bit of nutmeg on top. It’s killer.
Question: You grew a lot last year, your first time out of the Lanes and into The Anchor’s Bend and Convention Hall with vendors. This year, you’ve grown even more with several events at several venues from Thursday to Sunday with main event on Saturday. Out of everything that you are presenting during the four days, what is that one that makes you say, ‘Wow, I can’t believe we did that?’
Magdalena: I’d say Saturday just because this year we took on so much more than we have in the past, and I’m very excited for every part of it, but having Los Straitjackets on as the headliner on Saturday is like the icing on the cake for me. We’ve daydreamed about having Los Straitjackets as our festival headliner. We were like, ‘Maybe year five.’ It was unexpected that they accepted our offer this year, and so the fact that that’s happening, I think for me, I’m still a little bit surprised.
So Saturday I’m excited, but I’m also really excited for the pool party. I think that’s just going to be a fun wind down. I know how wild the festival is. It goes so fast.
Vincent: It’s like a wedding.
Magdalena: It’s gone before you know it. It’s amazing, but I remember last year when Vincent and I finally changed into our matching outfits for the rest of the evening to hang with the DJ. I think we were downstairs for a half an hour, and we were both like, ‘I’m so tired.’ So I think Sunday the extension is just going to be this nice bonus that we’ve never had before that carries everything out a bit longer, but it’s a much more relaxed, low-key vibe.
Vincent: Last year, moving to the Anchor’s Bend was a little nerve-wracking for us. The Lanes is pretty straight forward. You walk in there’s a stage, you throw some decorations up, throw some guitars on the side, and it was a festival. But at Anchor’s Bend, there’s the beach and the logistics behind the two stages. So last year was this huge growing experience where we had to learn the space as we were putting the event on.
And I think (Convention Hall owner) Madison Marquette realizes that this is a successful event. Not that they weren’t supportive before, but whatever crazy idea we want to do, like, ‘Hey, let’s do a Sailor Jerry cocktail symposium to kick off the day.’ They’re like, ‘All right, cool. Where do you want to do it? We have a shuffleboard space. Let’s put it up there.’ They’re just really open to whatever we want to do.
So this year, I’m looking forward to Saturday because it’s going to be bigger and better in every way, but at the same time for us, we’ll be able to enjoy the event a little more … Last year proved we could pull it off, and this year is like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it!’
Bob Makin is the reporter for www.MyCentralJersey.com/entertainment and a former managing editor and still a contributor to The Aquarian Weekly, which launched this column in 1988. Contact him at email@example.com. Like Makin Waves at www.facebook.com/makinwavescolumn.