Each of the three years that the Wave Gathering Festival has taken place has been better than the one before. I think it's become an institution of sorts. People are starting to know that the festival is the place to see great bands they've never seen before, a place to see all of the great bands in the area, and a place to hang out in a city where the line between the music scene and music fans completely disapears.
This was the first year I covered the Wave solely for AsburyMusic.com. Since the demands of print are very different from online, I tried thinking of ways to take advantage of the extra space this time around. I shot a couple of videos before my cheap little video camera conked out - videos that will be put online shortly - and I shot tons and tons of photos during the weekend. I tried capturing the spirit of the festival as it's not just about the music on stage, it really is about the community. That's been one of the goals of the Wave Gathering from the beginning and I think they've largely succeeded.
There were definitely bands that I wanted to see that I couldn't and some I planned on seeing but didn't for one reason or another. I wish I could have seen everything but logistics just doesn't allow for that. The festival covers a pretty wide area - one that can be walked, but not quickly enough to catch everything. As it was, I tried being in as many places as possible and tried keeping my eyes open for whatever was going on to get the shots like above.
Whether it was craziness in the streets or a possible fire breaking out in the building across the street from the Twisted Tree Cafe, here is a look at some of my favorite shots from the Wave.
If you are an artist and would like copies of any of the shots on the website, feel free to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll be glad to send them your way.
See you at the Wave next year!
-- Gary Wien
This year's Wave Gathering festival kicked off with a set by Anthony D'Amato at America's Cup. I was glad to be able to catch him as Anthony is someone very connected to this website. He started writing for AsburyMusic.com as a teenager and later wrote for Upstage as well. In the past few years, he's been playing out a lot and as he nears graduation from Princeton University, he's got a great chance to be that rarity of rarities - an accomplished music journalist and artist as well. His set was a great way to begin the weekend.
I spent a great amount of time over the weekend bouncing around Cookman Avenue as it was the easiest way to see the most amount of artists in the least amount of time. Parking was at a premium for much of the time and I actually spent a lot of the weekend without a car as I took advantage of walking from Belmar to the festival. So, I was at the mercy of where I could walk to and the shuttle (which although I am extremely glad the festival added a shuttle, was rather hard to find when you wanted it).
Nevertheless, it was an incredible three days of music and I hope the festival becomes an annual event that the city really gets behind. What we've seen in the first three years is really just a small sampling of the vast potential for the festival. Asbury Park has largely been a construction zone these past three years which limits things. It's amazing what people like Gordon Brown and Scott Stamper have been able to do as each year truly has been better than the last. I can only imagine what is possible with help from the city and with Asbury Park's construction behind it. This could become one of the biggest festivals in the northeast and a wonderful way to kick off the summer.
There are so many highlights for me during this weekend, but I'm just going to run through a few of them here. Hopefully you'll get the idea of how great the festival was through the pictures.
The biggest highlight for me had to be when Maybe Pete played "Strength" by the Alarm and dedicated it to me. These guys are a band that has always supported me and the feeling is definitely mutual. I'll never forget the day Frankie McGrath came up to me and said, "I was reading the credits in Beyond The Palace - dude, are you an Alarm fan?"
Amazingly, both Frankie and his wife Kelly turned out to be huge Alarm fans as well. To this day I still don't know what is more amazing - that they are Alarm fans or that Frankie (or anyone) actually read the opening credits of my book!
Frankie McGrath is like my doppleganger. Without knowing each other, we've been to hundreds of the same shows while growing up. Ironically, the latest member of the Maybe Pete family - Keith McCarthy - has become just as important to me thanks to his incredible love of music. One of the highlights of the weekend was hanging with Keith at Mattison Park as we caught Beth Arentsen's set and then rattled off tons of album titles in our collections. I used to call Bobby Bandiera the human jukebox because he seemed to know everything and then I realized Bob Burger was a jukebox as well. Well, consider Keith McCarthy (the Governeour, as I call him) the human jukebox Vol. 3.
Speaking of Bob Burger, he was one third of one of the best sets of the weekend. Playing alongside Glen Burtnick and Lisa Bouchelle, the three took turns playing their own tunes with the others on backup vocals and lending musical support. It was an incredible set in front of a packed room at Synaxis and easily was one of the most anticipated sets of the festival.
While I loved all of the artists that I saw this weekend, a few actually made me cross the street to see who was playing. The first to do that was Deni Bonet who had a set at Munch that sounded great as I was walking up Cookman. I decided to drop in and saw her playing everything from guitar to accordion and rocking out with each!
Each Wave Gathering festival has introduced a new venue or led a venue (like Twisted Tree Cafe last year) to take that next leap and book national acts once in a while. I think this year's surprise venue, for me, was Munch. Yes, it's a restaurant and it's a little awkward having artists play in front of people eating but how is that different than playing in a cafe where people are eating snacks or meals? Munch offered a lot of room - more than enough for a sound system and a full band - and provided great sight lines for the entire crowd. It was an excellent addition to the list of venues that the festival had throughout town.
Jon Caspi had a good set at the Twisted Tree Cafe but what I'll remember most was our conversation about setting up a soccer league. As Jon was talking about that, a woman from Europe suddenly cried out in her foreign tongue - "Are you talking about soccer? The greatest game in the world!" It was classic.
Kelly Zullo from Nashville was a surprise last minute replacement artist who blew people away. I caught up with her later that night as we watched James Dalton performing outside Market in the Middle and recanting tales from his various days in Europe. Both James Dalton and Colie Brice who played outside Market in the Middle were excellent; however, I can't even begin to describe the area of Market in the Middle and the Brickwall without mentioning the amount of police that seemed to take residence in the region all weekend long. Apparently, reports of noise problems from the residents living above started coming in at 8pm on Friday night. This is simply ridiculous. The vast majority of people performing in that area over the weekend were singer-songwriters - not punk, metal, or even loud bands. Asbury Park residents need to get a grip. Both Market in the Middle and the Brickwall have large outside dining areas. On almost any normal Friday night during the summer there will be noise at 8pm there. I think they chose the festival as a way of picking on the musicians and I believe Asbury Park should be ashamed at the way they dealt with the situation. Noise violations after 10pm are one thing, noise violations at 8pm on a Friday night are something else. This is something that the city needs to work out a clear-cut agreement about. If they want the people in their 20s-50s who came out to hear the music and spend their money in the restaurants and bars, they need to allow the music to be played - at least until 10pm. I can't even begin to estimate just how many police officers I saw in that portion of Cookman Avenue. It was ridiculous. You would have thought fights had broken out, people or people were passing out on the street. None of that was happening and nobody was in any danger. It reminded me why I love cities like Toronto. There are cities with absolutely no crime and no police presence. Meanwhile, a police presence like seen on Cookman Ave can actually make people nervous. I also took it as a reason why the Wave Gathering festival needs to get the city more involved. It shouldn't be us versus them and, at times, that's the way it looked to me.
I wrapped up Friday night at The Saint with Val Emmich and then Chris Batten & the Woods. Val gave one of - if not the best - sets of the festival. Playing a mix of songs from his latest disc and some older favorites, he packed the Saint yet again. Afterwards, Chris Batten & the Woods provided another one of their stellar performances. Unfortunately, their set started rather late and the crowd had dwindled. But after watching them again, I still don't understand why more people don't turn out for their shows. They are probably one of the most consistently good live bands in New Jersey. Talking to them afterwards, they said something that another band had told me recently - "people seem to have a one-year attention span for bands around here. If you don't make it by then, they generally move on to the next thing." They could be right, I guess.
Highlights on Saturday for me included a great set by Tommy Strazza at Munch that was very well attended (backing up my belief that Munch could be a future regular destination for live music). Later on Shane Cooley showed I was right for making sure I didn't miss his set. He was one of my pre-Wave favorites and he definitely delivered. Cooley, from Virginia, gave a set highlighted by the song which apparently caught the attention of the Wave Festival folks enough to bring him here. The song was called "My Asbury Park" and it was simply wonderful. Ironically, he wrote it without ever being in Asbury Park before, so he was excited to be able to perform it here.
The previously mentioned set by Beth Arentsen was incredible and one of the first times I had been to Mattison Park. I was amazed by how well the drums bounced around the room in a good way. Mattison had a nice large stage area and the room gave everyone a good view whether sitting at the bar or on one of the comfortable couches. The room definitely had a great vibe.
Bouncing around as much as I could allowed me to catch James Dalton sitting in with Outside the Box and then swing across the street to see Ladies of the Canyon, a trio of women from Canada. I then walked across town to check out the Paramount Theatre lobby stage and caught Alice Project and George Wirth before catching a ride back with Alice to see the final songs by Mimi Cross and see how much her son had grown up in just one year!
There's not much more I can say about the Wave except that it continues to get better each year and it's become something I truly look forward to. There's plenty of room for improvement, but the simple fact that it's become a staple of the Asbury Park music year says volumes about the work they've done.
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.