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REVIEW: The Commons at the Wonder Bar

By Gary Wien

(ASBURY PARK, NJ) - It's tough for a band to build an audience outside of their area, but it's something that has to be done. The Commons have a great following in their hometown of Trenton, but have struggled to draw along the Jersey Shore. They returned to Asbury Park on August 4th with a show at the Wonder Bar before a Beach Boys Tribute Band. It was a Jersey Shore "Spinal Tap" kind of night for the band.

As the band started setting up on stage, disco music blared throughout the club. I'm not sure if anyone has ever brought this up to the club's management (or if I'm the only person who doesn't appreciate the disco grooves) but please stop with the disco before a rock and roll show! It just doesn't mix. Maybe on a dance night or if a disco reunion show is taking place at Convention Hall (hey, it happened once it could happen again) but not for rock and roll. The only people who seemed to dig it were a couple of drunken bennies that sang along for a song and then took off because this is 2006 instead of '76. Hell, if you lose their business because of the music you know that's saying something.

Why not feature music that is appropriate for the night's show instead. In this case, either rock music that a Commons fan might like or an evening of surf music to get the place revved up for the Beach Boys. How about some Jan & Dean? Maybe instrumentals like "Wipe Out" - you get the idea.

Anyway, I came to check out The Commons who were previewing songs from their upcoming record due out in the fall although you'd never know they were playing from the signs at the Wonder Bar. The Beach Boys Tribute got the only billing on the outside marques and even got 2 lines on the inside marque! It read: "Beach Boys Tribute" on one line and "featuring BBCB" on the next line. Oh well? as least they have German beer on tap!

The Commons opened with "China", a great song from "Come On, Get Gone" that starts off slow but really builds up. Even though I think they need to start off with more of a pure rocker, the song did grab the attention of many people around the bar. Up near the stage, the sound was terrific and a group of Commons fans were paying close attention to each word.

The band ran through several songs that should be on their next record including "Big, Big World", "What I've Learned", "Fast Food Parking Lot", "The Greenhorn", "John Somebody", "My Sexy Thing", and "Kate & Joe".

Highlights for me included "My Sexy Thing" - a wonderfully slow, bluesy number that features lead singer Keith Monacchio's vocals in fine form; and "Kate & Joe", the song that just might be the band's break out hit.


Following the Commons was the BBCB. There aren't too many bands that tackle Beach Boys songs and for good reason - if the vocals aren't on the songs will sound horrible. Well, these guys had great harmonies and not bad leads. I think the leads could be a little stronger, but when the entire band was harmonizing it was very, very good. The band rolled through many of the Beach Boy's greatest hits but also threw in some cult classics and rarities. It was an interesting set. I'm not one for many cover bands, but this was a pretty cool idea for a summer night and they did the songs justice.

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 gary@newjerseystage.com.

originally published: 08/05/2006

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