Seems Like Old Times
By Gary Wien
(ASBURY PARK, NJ - April 6, 2009) -- When the show was announced on April 1st, many people probably thought it was just an April's Fools joke, but it was no joke. Days Awake not only got back together for one night, but showed why they were the Jersey Shore's top live act for several years. Even without practice, the band moved so effortlessly through their set it was as if they had never left.
The night started with the Eryn Shewell Band in fine form. It was great to see the band get the opportunity to play in front of a couple of new faces. Even though the Jersey Shore is full of music fans, too often people seem to stick within their comfort zone and miss out on a lot of great acts. Eryn and her band are in a serious groove right now and they appeared to add a few converts during a smoking set on a rare Monday night at the Saint.
Maybe Pete, led by Frankie and Kelly McGrath fresh off a tour with The Hudson Falcons, kicked off the set with a gritty cover of "Left of the Dial" by The Replacements. Frankie's voice was gruffier than normal, which added to the raw, punk flavor of the pair's guitars. After the song, they brought out the rest of the band for a blistering take on "Ours For The Takin'", one of the band's earliest tunes.
Up next was "Through the Static" - a song that makes me wish we had more radio stations in the area that played local acts. This would have been a great radio single. Then came "Last Man Standing", a song that I've always thought was a killer live tune - the song comes right at you with thunderous guitars, booming drums, and piss 'n vinegar vocals. Unfortunately, I think the recorded version of the tune misses the mark by screwing with the vocals. A missed opportunity, in my opinion.
And then came the new tune... The band has been in the studio recently working on a new EP and if the tunes are all as good as this one, it'll be a great record. The song was called "Guitars Got Louder" and it has the feeling of those great summer tunes - the type you hear on the radio and always remember where and when you were when you first heard it during the summer.
The guitars got louder
The boys got prouder
as the girls moved in front of the stage
The shots came quicker
as the house lights flickered
And the night took back the day
Yeah, the night took back the day
I love the way Frankie's songwriting has matured over the years. He reminds me more and more of Paul Westerberg - not Paul with the 'Mats, but Paul's solo material when he learned how to write incredibly catchy choruses that rocked, but didn't have to try being so punk - they just were. His choruses started showing that same ability with the song "Somehow" and seem to get tighter with each new record.
In fact, as Maybe Pete moved from the first song towards tunes from their last record, the set seemed to mirror the band's songs as a whole. In the beginning, their tunes seemed to "try" to be punk with anthemic lyrics and loud guitars. Lately, the songs just reveal a punk attitude on their own. They've gotten more honest and more catchy at the same time - a winning combination.
The band's set was cut short due to Frankie and Kelly getting stuck in traffic and arriving late, but it was still a great set. They closed with an incredibly fiery version of "Another Cigarette" that made me think of just how great the band would have been if they were around back in the day with The Fast Lane. They would have owned that joint. The Fast Lane was a club that melded the very different worlds of the Green Parrot and The Stone Pony. On that old Fast Lane stage, Maybe Pete's tunes would have rocked as hard as The Clash or the Pistols and they would have been one of the few bands to score both the alternative crowd and the Springsteen crowd. The band kills at the Saint, but the Saint wasn't around during the era of such legendary old school Jersey Shore favorites like John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band and John Eddie like the Fast Lane was. Maybe Pete has always been the evolution of that sound along with the Jersey Shore rock of James Deely & the Valiants and NYC punk like the Ramones and New York Dolls.
Maybe it was simply because I was tripping back in time with Days Awake back in the house, but that's what I was thinking.
Speaking of Days Awake, the evening's main attraction came on with perhaps their most popular cover and a very appropriate starting tune, "With a Little Help From My Friends." During the song, I began flashing back to those magic nights at the Wonder Bar when these guys would play every Thursday. Later in the evening, I even ran into Pat Schiavano, which made the vision even more spot on.
Man, they still make the most of that tune. I think Joe Cocker and The Beatles would be proud.
The second tune, "Thanks But No Thanks," featured James Dalton on harp. Yes folks, that was Jpat on the infamous Days Awake EP. In fact, the EP, which was recorded early in the band's career, also featured guitar work by Brian Amsterdam. As I was searching for a photo from back in the day to run with this article, I found a few shots with Amsterdam in the band. It's somewhat ironic that a former band manager once tried starting a publicity campaign against me to make it look as though I was out to badmouth Days Awake. Meanwhile, the band members all know that I've been a fan since early on and the photographs are a nice reminder of that.
They segued right into "Day After Day", the song Days Awake will always be remembered by. This is not just a good tune, but I'd go as far as to say it's one of the best tunes ever by a Jersey Shore based band. It was very cool hearing this tune live again although Chuck's constant refrain of "the rocket queen's after me" sort of freaked me out. In fact, "The rocket queen" kept popping up all throughout the night. It reminded me of Jeff Goldblum's character in "Independence Day" when he says "who is this fat woman? You're obsessed with the fat woman". Let's just say Chuck was obsessed with the rocket queen tonight and brought it into the lyrics of at least four songs.
Other tunes included "Living A Lie", a killer version of "Magic Carpet Ride", and "My Life", which featured a wonderfully slow opening before launching into a full blown rocker.
"Let's Get Together" featuring an extremely extended version, solidifing their rep as a member of the jam band scene, closed out the night. "We are days asleep," said Chuck as the band prepared to leave the stage.
Days Awake was so tight from years of playing together that I think they will always be able to pick up at a moments notice. Even though the band members probably thought it was a sloppy gig, it really didn't seem that way. Comprised of some of the area's most talented musicians, it seemed like the band was having an immensely fun time up on stage. And, in the end, that's all that really matters. They no longer have to prove anything to anyone; they're not trying to be the next big thing; they're just out there to have fun...
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
originally published: 04/08/2009
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