Sea Hear Now Music Festival
Asbury Park, NJ
Sept 28th & 29th, 2018
Photos and review- Brian Berson
For music fans, summer means long days at the beach, hanging with friends and enjoying outdoor concerts. Thanks to the brainchild of music photographer and filmmaker Danny Clinch, those elements were combined to give us Sea Hear Now Festival. Literally on the beach of Asbury Park, NJ sat two main stages where families watched their favorite bands and enjoyed surfing competitions with some of the top surfers in the world.
Many summer music festivals pander to the mainstream audiences by supplying a lineup of the most current and popular artists, usually lacking rock acts and recycling homogenized pop culture faces year after year. Sea Hear Now had legendary bands from all different genres.
Sea Hear Now embraced a fan’s love of all types of music and art including paintings on display created by some of the artists performing. Original works by Brandon Boyd of Incubus, Carl Broemel of My Morning Jacket, G.Love, live painting by Nicole Atkins, and photography from Jack Johnson and of course Danny Clinch were on display all weekend in the pop-up “Transparent Gallery.”
Great food was also a main feature with gourmet food trucks lining the closed streets within the festival and on the lawn across from the third stage.
Another cornerstone of the festival was sustainability and raising awareness about issues facing the ocean environment and lowering your carbon footprint. Instead of selling bottled water, they sold reasonably-priced souvenir tin water bottles with unlimited free refills at any of the many filing stations.
Obviously you can’t have a music festival without great music, and Sea Hear Now pulled out all the stops. Day one had sets from NYC singer songwriter Jesse Malin, while reggae band Soja kept the fans dancing on the beach. The legendary ska band The English Beat brought their authentic British reggae/ska to the Jersey shore, and queen of NYC punk Debbie Harry and Blondie played all their hits including One Way Or Another, Call Me, Rapture, and Heart Of Glass. In keeping with her true punk roots Debbie Harry wore a cape that read “Stop Fucking The Planet.” On
the third stage was indie rock band Deer Tick which drew a nice size crowd. In keeping with the mellow and peaceful vibe of the festival, Ben Harper and The Innocent Criminals played the main stage and opened their set with a brilliant cover of Atlantic City by local hero Bruce Springsteen, and played crowd pleasers Burn One Down and Keep It Together within their one-hour set. One of the sets that really stood out was
Brandi Carlile whose singer-songwriter style and booming voice had everyone talking. Closing out the first night with a bang was SoCal rockers Incubus, whose set was packed with hits spanning their whole career, proving how they’ve stayed relevant with a huge draw after twenty-plus years of touring and releasing massive albums.
Day two of the festival was full of bands from Jersey including rockers like The
ParlorMob, The Menzingers and the folk rock band The Front Bottoms. Another Jersey native, Nicole Atkins is part singer-songwriter, part soul singer, and had the midday crowd in the palm of her hand. The Original Wailers provided the crowd with authentic Jamaican reggae playing Bob Marley songs that everyone knew. Dishing out some funk was the jam band Lettuce who kept the crowd on their feet and dancing in the sand with their extended tunes. Blues bands Kaleo and G. love and Special Sauce brought a taste of authentic electric blues and rock n roll to start to wind down theday before the two headliners Social Distortion and Jack Johnson. Social Distortion played to a packed crowd and blasted through their set relying mainly on songs from their last two albums and reaching back into the catalog to the first album. With the show being held on the Jersey shore, rumors flew around all weekend about possible special guests, and one notable native in particular. The moment finally came towards the end of the Social Distortion set when Mike Ness joked that he had met someone that day on the boardwalk and they were going to bring him out for a few songs. On walked the legend, The Boss, Bruce Springsteen to join them for covers of Bad Luck, Misery Loves company from Mike Ness’ first solo album
Cheating at Solitaire, and to end their set the Social Distortion classic cover of Ring Of Fire by Johnny Cash. Through a sea of cellphone cameras and screaming fans, Bruce and Social Distortion jammed on each song giving the crowd exactly what it wanted: a huge helping of rock n roll!
Not many acts could successfully follow that set by Social Distortion and Bruce Springsteen, but on walked Jack Johnson to the main stage at the opposite end of the beach and brought some of his native Hawaii to the northeast. Jack Johnson’s mellow songs and demeanor perfectly summed up the weekend. His set was packed with fan favorites such as Better Together, Sitting Waiting Wishing, Breakdown, and Banana Pancakes, along with covers of Badfish/Boss DJ by Sublime, a ukulele cover of Ball and Chain by Social Distortion, and brought out his long-time friend and festival companion G. Love for Rodeo Clowns and Good People. Jack was joined by the incredible Preservation Hall Jazz Band from New Orleans for his last two songs to close out the festival.
You could walk around the grounds of the festival all day and wouldn’t see fighting or anyone causing problems; instead were families enjoying art and music together, and festival security was polite and friendly. For the first year of a music festival everything ran like clockwork from bands starting and ending on time to the grounds being kept clean and organized. It was a joy to be there and experience such a wonderful community of fans of music and art. It will be highly anticipated to see what’s in store for Sea Hear Now 2019.