As has become an trend among long-running bands who’ve developed a particular affinity for their respective hometowns, groundbreaking New Jersey punks band The Bouncing Souls threw the latest installment in their “Stoked For The Summer” concert events last Friday at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, and it may well have been the best of the bunch.
“Stoked For The Summer” technically takes place at the Stone Pony’s Summer Stage, the asphalt lot immediately adjacent to the legendary venue that turns into a 3000-capacity outdoor beachfront venue once the weather turns warm enough to allow. If there’s an idyllic setting for an outdoor summer punk rock throwdown, it may well be this one. But I digress.
For late August, the weather could not have been better; a warm-but-not-hot, sunny-but-not-overpowering. Timeshares kicked off the festivities in the late-afternoon with the venue still filling in with revelers who were able to pull themselves away from the picturesque setting of the beachfront boardwalk just steps away. The three-piece NY band (playing as a four-piece with the addition of Max Stern on guitar) kicked things off in good form, their uptempo half-hour set going over quite well with the Souls’ hometown crowd. Of particular note: the played played a couple of songs from their still-unannounced but nevertheless upcoming full-length that, if these tracks are any indication, promises to be a banger later this year.
Boston’s Mickey Rickshaw followed and kept the energy level high. We’ve seen the eight-piece Celtic punk swashbuckling crew on some of the smaller stages in the greater Boston area in the past, so it was fun to not only see them take over a massive outdoor stage, but to win over a sold-out crowd of out-of-towners in the process. If you haven’t jumped on their latest, vastly under-rated album yet (last year’s Behind The Eight Ball), you really should stop wasting your time. Check out video of the band’s Stoked For The Summer performance of the track “Not My Problem Now” here.
The Menzingers, who have pretty much retaken their claim as the “it” band of our scene again with the release of this year’s stellar full-length After The Party, occupied the third slot on the bill, taking the stage in the very early evening. the four-piece from just down the I-95 corridor in Philadelphia could very well have headlined and sold out the venue on their own, lending credence to the strength of the event’s lineup. Their eagerly-anticipated twelve-song set kicked off with After The Party‘s opening track, “Telling Lies,” and had the crowd well whipped-up from the opening notes, inspiring the first member of what would turn out to be an at-times seemingly endless parade of crowd surfers. The bulk of the remainder of the set was a veritable sing-along, and included such crowd favorites as “I Don’t Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore,” “The Obituaries,” the Stone Pony-referencing “Your Wild Years” and set closer “Lookers.”
Lucero occupied the bill’s penultimate spot, hitting the stage as the last remaining vestiges of daylight were taking their leave. As has been the custom in recent years, the band split their set in half, leading off with a handful of acoustic tracks before kicking things up a notch as the set went on. “Texas & Tennessee,” which we’ve established on these pages in previous show reviews is one of the two or three saddest songs in a catalog chock full of sad songs, may be a curious choice for a song to kick off a set for an out of town band opening for a legendary punk rock act in their hometown, but this is Lucero we’re talking about — one of the hardest working, genre-eschewing bands in the game with a penchant for keeping things, shall we say, interesting — so of course the song turned into a singalong. The set was a little bit close-to-the-vest in some regards; fans hoping for either obscure, rarely-played older tracks or hints as to what is to come on their upcoming full-length would have to wait. Still, Ben Nichols and company were in fine form, with lead guitarist Brian Venable adopting a Willie Nelson sort of visual vibe and bassist John Stubblefield adopting a sort of stone-cold, baddest mofo in the venue sort of visual vibe (seriously, check those shoes in the picture below – and he didn’t even get “seasick”). We’ve yet to see keyboardist/accordion player Rick Steff play a set that he didn’t seemingly enjoy the hell out of, and drummer Roy Berry somehow keeping the whole impromptu set anchored and heading in the same direction. Particular highlights included “Chain Link Fence,” “Tears Don’t Matter Much,” and Nichols’ a capella lullaby rendition of the title track from his Last Pale Light In The West solo EP.
A show that included only Timeshares, Mickey Rickshaw, The Menzingers and Lucero would have been quite a party in and of itself, but this was unmistakably, without question, The Bouncing Souls’ night. Hometown shows for legendary, beloved bands have a bit of a homecoming, high school reunion type of vibe to them, and even though yours truly traveled down from Boston (sadly not with Mickey or the Rickshaws) for the occasion, there was still very much the overwhelming sense that we were among friends and family (and not just because my wife and our daughter came along for the festivities). The band took to the stage surrounded by their own literal families en masse, teasing the first few notes of “Ole” before diving headlong into crowd-favorite “Hopeless Romantic.” From their followed nearly two dozen of the band’s most beloved tracks: “The Gold Song,” “That Song,” “East Coast! Fuck You!,” the ode to their long-time manager/den mother Katie Hiltz “Kate Is Great,” “Satellite,” “Manthem,” “Anchors Aweigh,” and on and on into the evening. They also played a rousing cover of the Avail classic “Simple Song,” an ode to their Chunksaah label brother Tim Barry whose own newest album is due out on that very label next week.
When Dying Scene caught the Souls in Boston in their opening slot at Frank turner’s show at the Agganis Arena, we noted how the band sounded tight but the sound seemed to get swallowed up in the cavernous environs. Yet on this late summer night, the high energy performance from the band and the crowd alike was more than enough to fill a setting that was bound in only by the horizon line. The obvious mutual reverence that the four-piece — founding trio Greg Attonito (vocals), Bryan Kienlen (bass) and Pete Steinkopf (guitar) now being anchored by Hot Water Music’s George Rebelo who seems like he’s been with them on drums forever now — have for each other and for their fans meant the gave the entire evening a positive, celebratory vibe that had people watching and dancing along from nearby rooftop and patio bars for blocks in either directions. A happy and well-deserved celebration of one of our scene’s — and New Jersey’s — beloved bands of brothers. Check out our full photo gallery below!