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SHOW RECAP: Save The Wonder Bar Rally

By Gary Wien


(MARCH 10, 2007 - ASBURY PARK, NJ) -- It was a concert designed to show that Asbury Park has a true music community; an all-day event to show that people truly do care about keeping music and entertainment alive in the new Asbury Park; and a musical lineup put together to hopefully save the Wonder Bar. In the end, it may have failed on all three accounts but it was a tremendous day of the music that left those at the club in awe of the talent throughout the state.

Some of the highlights of the day included Lance Larson guesting with Maybe Pete on the classic Animals tune "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place", Joe Rapolla along with Frankie & Kelly McGrath joining Joe D'Urso for a cover of John Stewart's hit "Gold", Arlan Feiles playing with Frank Thewes, Keith Monacchio of the Commons playing with Joe Harvard, the first full-band performance by Postmark Twain, Michael Scotto of Agency on drums with Souls Releasea, and a new Danny White band featuring horns, accordion, mandolin, guitar, keyboard and drums.

Unfortunately, the show's attendance was much lower than expected. Even though attendance at the door was pretty good, many of the people who bought tickets in advance failed to show and, as many musicians mentioned, a large part of the Asbury Park music community did not drop by either. It's a shame because the concert was designed to show that the local community could come together and either politics or lack of interest made it look like people don't care.

"If 20 bands could only get a hundred people out to a show, maybe this should become a condo," was a comment heard throughout the night.

"This was the last show to ever be presented by Upstage Magazine," said Gary Wien, managing editor of Upstage. "We wanted to repay the Wonder Bar and its staff for all of their help to us through the years. We put together an incredible lineup - one that we will still be proud of several years later - and we were hoping to give the club a day filled with people all day long. In the end, we were disappointed with the attendance but were extremely pleased with the music. Those who came saw many bands they had never seen before and they thoroughly enjoyed the music. Many people came up to us to ask about the bands who were playing Asbury Park for the very first time. That's something we were very proud of. We were able to bring in acts from the Trenton area, Princeton area, North Jersey, as well as the Jersey Shore. I only wish more people had taken a chance on seeing these artists. Somehow, we must have dropped the ball and we take the blame for the lack of people there.

"The Wonder Bar hardly bares any resemblance to the place that existed three years ago," he added. "It's hard to imagine Asbury Park doing anything better with that land than the Wonder Bar. Sadly, the land appears to be headed as the site of even more condos something which I think will drive the final nail into the coffin for Convention Hall and the Paramount Theatre. I cannot see how housing and those venues can co-exist so close together. Instead of housing there, it would be nice to see that area designated as an entertainment district with clubs and restaurants to help attract people to shows at Convention Hall and the Paramount."

The show's attendance was definitely affected by rumors of the club being saved and a report in the Asbury Park Press which made it seem like the Wonder Bar would be open at least throughout the year. In truth, the club is still talking with Asbury Partners but the odds of the club staying open where it is remains a long shot.

Over 20 different artists played from noon to just before 2am. The day started with Nik Everett, a singer-songwriter from the Philadelphia area who co-wrote many of the songs in the documentary "Greetings From Asbury Park". He kicked off the show with a pair of songs about Asbury Park and emminent domain to set the tone for the day.

After Everett came strong sets by Freddy Fry, Causeway, George Wirth, Postmark Twain, Lone Shark, Joe Harvard and Keith Monacchio, Agency, Sounds of Greg D, Wiser Time, Souls Release, Frank Thewes, Arlan Feiles, Anthony Fiumano, Joe D'Urso, Cool Days End, Michael Patrick & Suburban Hillbillies, Jon Caspi Band, Maybe Pete, Tony Tedesco & Suburban Hillbillies, and the Danny White Band.

"Hopefully this show was just an abberation," added Gary Wien. "I'd like to believe that Asbury Park truly does have a local music scene that cares about each other and the clubs involved. If people look at the big picture they'd see that we all need to work together - musicians, writers, club employees, and music fans. The day people stop caring for good is the day we'll lose it all. And once the music is gone it will be very, very difficult to get it back."

Photos from the day can be found online at:
http://www.upstagemagazine.com/photos/photos.php?directory=SaveTheWonderBarRally


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.


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