Author Archives: Shaun McGann

TVD Recommends:
Miss Ida Blue at the
Saint, 9/20

Look, I’m not going to pretend I know a lot about jazz or even blues. I like to think I know a little more than the average bloke, but I am certainly not an authority.

But I know what I like, ladies and gentleman. I know what I like and I know that there are times I get sick of seeing rock bands. Why this happens, I can’t say for sure—maybe it just becomes background noise, a muddy blur of distortion, screaming, solos, cymbal crashes etc., but sometimes I just want something different.

Whatever the reason I’ve recently slunk into one of these ruts, so you can imagine my relief when the terms “Brothel Blues/Jazz” popped up on the calendar for the Saint.

Brothel Blues. You don’t even have to describe that. You can hear it. You can hear the smoky club- glasses clanking and the buzz of voices becoming part of the songs. I was in New Orleans in the spring for Mardi Gras and the best night I had was at a local dive, far off Bourbon Street, candle lit, crowded, with a small band tucked into the corner quietly blasting away on their horns. No amplifiers, no one asking the crowd to toast and take care of their bartenders. Just music.

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TVD Recommends,
Field Trip Edition: Balloon Squad at the Clash Bar, 8/15

Robin Williams is dead. That sad knowledge is only a few hours old and sinking in as I sit down to look toward the weekend and wonder if there’s a chance it doesn’t include a wine bender and a Godfather marathon, or playing that goddamn Milky Chance song that’s been stuck in my head all week on a loop while I count down the seconds until this rotten summer expires.

But no. We’re not doing that this weekend friends, at least I’m not. And I’ve got a way out for you. A time warp. What better way to get away from the present than to teleport back to the past? To the 1990s. Everything was going along so swimmingly there for a bit, wasn’t it? In 1994 a local New Jersey band named Balloon Squad released their first EP “May Pangs, June Forays.” The band stuck around for a couple more years, putting out one more EP but eventually split up.

Bassist Cindi Merklee—who has remained a fixture on the scene playing with Speed the Plough most recently as well as performing her own material—her brother Joe, and drummer Marc Garella decided it was time to reunite and give themselves a proper sendoff by celebrating the first appearance of both EPs on vinyl.

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TVD Recommends: Temples at Asbury Lanes, 8/8

Psychedelic. There’s a word that probably conjures up a rainbow of smoke plumes for some of you. Maybe the odd tickle of an acid flashback bubbles up the back of your spine. Maybe you were around when psychedelia oozed itself over pop culture like a bright orb of melted lava.

When I think of “psychedelic” I think of 1967. I wasn’t around for it, but when I was young I bought in. The Summer of Love. The Beatles and the Stones getting weird. Hendrix. The Doors in L.A., The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane in San Francisco. Haight Ashbury. Vietnam. People out in the streets. Riots on TV. It all seemed exciting and insane, like the whole country was holding its breath in unison until everyone got dizzy from it and began seeing bright, swirling colors.

Yeah in the 1990s after the second wave of grunge proved to be little more than over produced toy boys in standard-issue flannels and Doc Martens, I retreated to the back catalogue of “classic rock” and I was all in.

Not just the music, but the culture. The history. The people. Everything seemed so interesting. So important. But as with a lot of things in life, the older I got, the more cynical I became and the more it seemed like a lot of the nostalgia for that period was the fond memories of burnouts staving off anonymity by carrying a torch for their youth—and trying to weave their glory days into myths and legends.

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TVD Recommends:
Deal Casino at the Saint, Sundays this August

Sundays can be a bummer—the fleeting hours of the weekend before Monday rears its ugly head again, which for most of us that means it’s back to the grind. August is the Sunday of months. It’s the back end of the summer with September’s cool spectre looming just off in the distance of your never-ending fun.

Because of this, Sunday nights rarely offer the same opportunities that the rest of the weekend does. That’s why Deal Casino’s residency at the Saint every Sunday for the rest of the summer is so unique. Appearing with special guests each week, the band’s rock/pop sound should be enough to forget the threat of a ringing alarm clock the next morning for a few hours.

Hot off the release of last year’s dual EP releases “Cocaine Love” and “The Runaways” here is the schedule and line-up for the rest of the summer:

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TVD Recommends: Southside Johnny at
the Stone Pony, 8/2

I’m sure there have been articles written about Southside Johnny or the Stone Pony that have not mentioned Bruce Springsteen but this will not be one of them. To some Southside Johnny is distinct for not being Springsteen, that other guy the E Street Band played with.

Sure he made it, but never eclipsed the long shadow of that other Asbury kid who made good. Not that it’s a competition—and while Bruce has ascended to rock ‘n’ roll sainthood, he is not the only one with a seemingly ceaseless touring schedule.

It would be hard to imagine Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes not performing as the Stone Pony celebrates its 40th anniversary this summer. Both survived a serious downswing in the 1990’s. For Johnny it saw a relocation to Nashville to take some time off while some of the Jukes joined the Max Weinberg 7 on Conan O’Brien’s show. For the Pony, it seemed certain to meet the business end of a wrecking ball. That it was spared can be thanked, in part to crusading veterans of the scene like the man born John Lyon.

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TVD Ticket Giveaway: King Khan & The Shrines at Asbury Lanes, 6/8

I’m just letting you know now, I don’t know what is going to happen on Sunday night when King Khan & The Shrines take the stage at Asbury Lanes.

It’s entirely possible they will not be joined on stage by a giddy army clad in cartoon, monster costumes or flappers sporting pom-poms. It possible King Khan himself will be wearing more than just a gold cape and black underwear.

It is very unlikely Khan will get another opportunity this Sunday at Asbury Lanes to back up his bare-ass into Lindsay Lohan’s face. But who knows? It’s happened before.

The important thing is that none of that really matters. Even if the band shows up sporting matching tuxedos and a case of stage fright, you’re still getting one of the best rock shows going.

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TVD Recommends:
The Everymen at the Saint, 6/4

Look, this should be the shortest thing I’ve ever written in this space: “If you want to see a really good rock n’ roll show, go check out The Everymen kick off their summer tour at the Saint this Wednesday.” Short and sweet. That should be it. But rock n’ roll? Can I say that? Is that even a thing anymore? Didn’t it die at some point in the ’90s and anything that’s resembled it since falls under the banner of “alternative?”

I don’t know. But if rock ‘n’ roll is still a thing, The Everymen are doing it. Their latest release Givin’ Up On Free Jazz (which you can listen to here or buy on vinyl here) dives in headfirst with tracks like “Ain’t Good Enough For You” and “Spain.”

The album also shows off their soulful side with “A Thousand Miles” and “Izzy,” a gear they’ve hinted at in live performances when covering “I Shall Be Released.” And speaking of covers, it’s worth mentioning that during this time of year an increasingly alarming amount of Jersey Shore clubs are prone to throw as many cover bands at you as possible, to lure in people who’d rather sing along to dusty, old Journey hits and Aqua-Net-crusted Bon Jovi anthems.

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TVD Recommends Wreaths release party at Asbury Lanes, 4/26

I’ve already devoted portions of this space to lament the long, bleak Winter that cascaded over the shore for the last few months, so in the spirit of giving fair time to optimism, I’m here to let you know it kinda-sorta-may be over—the part of the Asbury boardwalk not being renovated has been re-populated with doe-eyed weekenders getting themselves adjusted to being outdoors once more.

Outside the bars and clubs, smokers no longer huddle together for warmth and are even joined by others who want nothing more than to come outdoors for some of that fresh sea air blowing off the Atlantic, and of course, windows are rolled down so passing cars can obnoxiously blast potential Summer anthems into the ether.

For good or ill, Summer on the Jersey Shore approaches.

So, while a band named Wreaths might not (in name anyway) make one think about the sunny promise of Summer, they probably should.

If you’ve been hanging around Asbury Park at all the past year, they’ve been tough to miss—veterans of the Saint, the Stone Pony, and Asbury Lanes where they will be again, this Saturday to celebrate the release of their self-titled debut album on Killing Horse Records.

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Kiss, Nirvana, and
the weird politics
of the Rock & Roll
Hall of Fame

Gil Hodges was a popular baseball player in Brooklyn during the 1950s. In his heyday he was considered one of the best defensive first basemen ever and was fourth on the all-time home run list when he retired with 370. Later, he managed the New York Mets to an unlikely World Series title in 1969. Gil Hodges is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame. He died almost 42 years ago, yet his name is still brought up in New York sports columns and talk radio shows every time Hall of Fame ballots are tallied up and poor old Gil falls short yet again.

One would think if the merits of your career are fodder for vigorous debate decades after it ended, then really what can be the argument against inclusion? This of course is not a symptom singular to baseball, or sports for that matter. No, it’s most appalling application is when it comes to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Sport is based on competition—almost all American mainstream sports are team sports, so to single out certain members from these teams after their career is over is not such a far out concept. Unfortunately the process for these honors has become such a self-important industry unto itself that it almost doesn’t seem necessary anymore.

Art, music, and specifically rock ‘n’ roll isn’t competitive in and of itself. Sure, Brian Wilson can record Pet Sounds as an answer to Rubber Soul and the Beatles can return the volley with Revolver, and so on. Stories of one-upsmanship and rivalries litter the history of rock like cigarette butts on the floor after a Van Halen show.  But so what? That kind of thing is good for magazine articles or retrospective documentaries, but it doesn’t really mean anything.

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TVD Ticket Giveaway: Reggie and the Full Effect at Asbury Lanes, 2/22

It’s been a rotten winter in New Jersey. It snows, and then it snows some more, and then it stops occasionally to sleet. Someone has broken the handle on the weather machine.

Going to shows in the winter, in this winter can be a daunting task, something you can easily talk yourself out of when you match the joy of digging your car out with the hazards of catching pneumonia and breaking your tailbone on a patch of ice. I can fully understand employing a “see you in April” policy when it comes to any extra-curricular activities.

But I’m here to tell you this Saturday is not the time to hibernate. James Dewee (Get Up Kids) is bringing his schizophrenic, synth-punk trip Reggie and the Full Effect to Asbury Lanes to promote their latest release No Country for Old Musicians. The album (their first in five years and available on vinyl) was financed through a Kickstarter campaign last spring.

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TVD Recommends: Light of Day 2014 and Asbury Underground Art and Music Crawl, 1/16–1/19

The Light of Day Foundation has been putting on shows since 2000 to raise money for research and support for victims of Parkinson’s disease. Occasionally peppered with Springsteen appearances, the shows have grown in scope and even ventured abroad, but this weekend Light of Day 2014 returns home to Asbury Park for a three-day binge of music and art spread out all over town.

With possibly every musical act in a 200 mile radius descending on the town, everything from punk and folk to Broadway show tunes and kids music will be represented, climaxing on Saturday with the  Asbury Underground Art and Music Crawl.  Art exhibits and small intimate performances invade the stores and galleries on Cookman Avenue.  Wristbands for this portion are available for $5 at any local retailers. For a full schedule of the downtown events on Saturday go here.

Aside from gallery shows and musical performances you can check out movies at the Showroom Theater, a Bruce Springsteen photo exhibit, and the Asbury Angels Induction which honors members of the Asbury Park musical community.

Below is a list of some highlights from the scheduled performances, for a complete list of shows and ticket information head here.

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TVD Recommends: Blue Food with Chevy Lopez, Underwater Country Club, Ed Tang and the Chops, the Ragazzi Boys at Asbury Lanes, 1/11

Well, that’s it. The holidays are over. For some this is a relief, for others the sad beginning of a long, grey countdown until Spring.

Yes, if you managed to escape the season without having your eyes burned out by hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights or jamming candy canes into your eardrums to avoid hearing “Winter Wonderland” yet again, you’ve earned a deep hibernation—an excuse to wrap yourself in blankets and hold days-long Nicolas Cage movie-marathons while sinking further into your couch.

But just before you drift off into hermit life here I am with a lifeline to pull you from the cushiony abyss of your post-holiday blues:

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TVD Recommends: Dromedary Records’ Camelfest at Asbury Lanes, 10/18 & 10/19

Dromedary Records’ third annual Camelfest rolls into Asbury Lanes this weekend with an impressive lineup of local favorites featuring headlining performances by The Everymen on Friday and Stuyvesant on Saturday.

This is the first year for Camelfest at the Jersey Shore. Previous years have been hosted at the recently-deceased Maxwell’s in Hoboken. All proceeds from the show will go to benefit Roots & Wings of New Jersey, an organization that provides safe housing and educational services to young adults who age out of the foster care system.

This year’s event coincides with Dromedary’s 20th Anniversary which will be marked by the release of From’93 ‘Til Infinity, a compilation of current indie bands covering some of the seminal songs of 1993 from artists like Yo La Tengo and Superchunk.

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  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


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