The crowd was huddled next to each other staring at the giant curtain covering the stage waiting for the band to appear. Anticipation mounted as shadowy figures appeared from behind the screen. As if on cue, a video started and girls started screaming as if this was a Beatles show in 1964. It was definitely the craziest night I had ever seen at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park for a night of unsigned bands. Led by headliner, Status Green, the club drew nearly a thousand people who went home seeing not just a night of great music, but a band on the verge of something special.
Looking over the crowd from the back bar was another musician from the area. He leaned over, pointed to the crowd and asked, "How do we get this?"
The best way to describe the sudden rise of Status Green is by comparing them to the closest thing I have ever seen to an overnight sensation in the area. The band from Monmouth County had the balls, the confidence and the goods to name their CD "Greatest Hits Volume 1" - and they not only get away with it, but the disc delivers!
Since forming in late August, the band has gone from playing their first show around Thanksgiving to opening for Bon Jovi in Connecticut in February to releasing their first CD at a sold out Stone Pony on April 28th. It's been one hell of a ride, and it's just beginning.
The band consists of Lou Montesano (Guitar/Piano/Lead Vocals), Chris Marino (Guitar), Russell Tolas (Bass), and Mike Montalto (Drums). Together the four members have forged an incredibly catchy, almost "retro" sounding band that has a sixties blend of rock and roll and Motown groove to it.
Lou Montesano says his father gave him the name for the band a year before it was created. "You know what would be a cool name for a band? Status Green. That would be a really cool name."
Around that period of time, Lou was preparing to follow his dream. He quit his job working as a mechanical engineer in Hudson County and drove off to California with a friend. His friend later flew back to Jersey, while he stayed in Los Angeles for a month and then headed off to live in Hawaii for a bit.
"I lived there for about two and a half months and then I came back," said Montesano. "I was kind of getting myself mentally ready. I knew when I came back I was going to really create Status Green and throw it right into the mix as fast as I could."
It didn't take long for word about the band to make its way around the Asbury Park music scene. Their first show at Deep in Asbury Park drew nearly 400 people and the crowds kept coming back largely for two reasons: they loved the music and the band made every show a true event not to be missed.
"We don't want to be like the average band," said Chris Marino. "We want to be on top of everything. The game plan is to just keep moving forward and try to make everything better than what's expected."
The CD release party was a brilliant example of that. Girls on roller skates sold copies of the CDs throughout the club; free hotdogs, cotton candy, and popcorn was available all night long; the band was all dressed in classy suits reminescent of sixties bands, and, of course, there was the curtain.
Several girls were actually using the cell phones to take pictures of themselves in front of the curtain with the shadow behind them. It was nuts!
"It was just a great night of free hot dogs and fun lovin' rock ,Aeon roll!" said Russell Tolas. "The best memory was probably dropping the curtain. That was just killer because we were hanging in the back trailer for a while and I hadn't even seen how packed the place had gotten. Then we came in the back way and ran on stage, everyone was pumped by the video and then when it dropped there was just people everywhere!"
The idea for the curtain came from Chris Marino. "I really wanted an explosive opening," he explained. "Something that our fans would look at and be like ,AeoWow! this is a rock show not just some local concert.' We really wanted to go over the top with it to keep that in people's minds."
When the band plays out of town clubs in places like Maxwell's or CBGB's they offer a bus trip for their fans to make it easy to get there and back. Of course, a little beer on the bus never hurt ticket sales either. It may seem like a simple thing but the results go a long way. Not only does the band bring plenty of their own fans to the show but the crowd at the venue see people hanging out, enjoying themselves and digging the band - and that leads to more people paying attention to the band, which leads to picking up new fans in those areas.
"I think it's important that our friends don't come out to support us because they feel they're obligated, they come out because they have a great time," said Mike Montalto. "We don't have to twist people's arms to see Status Green. People look forward to seeing Status Green."
The end result is being able to have enough fans to win contests like the XM contest to open for Bon Jovi. Status Green beat out hundreds of bands for the chance to open for Bon Jovi at Mohegan Sun. That was just another example of how things are moving quickly for Status Green. They entered the contest about a week before the deadline; found out they had won on a Friday and played the show at Mohegan Sun that next Wednesday.
"It was cool when we pulled up and his (Jon Bon Jovi's) whole road crew came and grabbed all of our equipment and we didn't have to bring anything to the stage!" said Tolas. "It was overwhelming to walk in and look at all those seats, but once we were up there it was second nature. We just rocked!"
The band briefly got the chance to meet and take a picture with the guys in Bon Jovi, but it was the experience itself that was incredible. From playing in front of 10,000 people to signing autographs to fans the next day, the show gave Status Green a glimpse of what the next level is like.
"I think it's hard to deny the kind of music we're playing right now," said Montesano. "With the stuff we've done so far, I'm so happy and proud of my band and that we've done all this. With the rapid success we've gained so far, it's going to be hard to really disappoint me at this point. I mean, if it all got flushed down the toilet next week, I'd be like it was a fucking awesome few months!"
"The Asbury Park live scene is the healthiest I've seen it in many years."
-- Coleman R. Brice
Creative Entertainment Officer (CEO)
AERIA Entertainment L.L.C.
"You can feel a scene emerging around here. It's great! Just to be part of that scene is way better than anyone paying attention to it from a corporate point of view of who could make you famous."
-- Lou Montesano (Status Green)
"The Revitalization of the original music scene has mirrored the metamorphosis of Asbury Park. No longer is it a city of failing structures, but a living breathing community, a family, championed by talent and hope."
-- Joe Savio (Agency)
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.