Stone Pony Presents Punk from all Generations
The beautiful and historic music city of Asbury Park, New Jersey has been in a revival and metamorphosis over the last ten years. With the help of new businesses on the iconic Cookman Avenue and a rebuilding of the beach and boardwalk, Asbury Park is now one of the most popular vacation spots during the Jersey Shore summer season. Through the thick and thin of Asbury, one iconic spot has remained as the mecca of New Jersey music: The Stone Pony. A venue rooted in the iconic alumni who have played there, such as Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Elvis Costello and famous New Jersey punk act The Bouncing Souls. Punk is a staple at the Stone Pony, as the Bamboozle festival was held there in its earliest stage and even the Ramones played at the Pony back in its heyday. Today, however, the punk history of Asbury Park is carried on with the 2nd annual Punk Rock Bowling festival — a spin-off from the nearly two-decades long punk extravaganza held in Las Vegas. A two-day bowling and music showcase, the festival opened its first day on Saturday, June 10th to beautiful, sunny weather in the mid ‘70s.
When punk rock fans entered the new Summer Stage at the Stone Pony, they were greeted by a newly renovated venue, as this was the first show of the summer. Typical punk vendors such as skateboard, apparel companies, Dr. Martens and band merch sold swag as fans showed up to see the early up-and-coming bands and their favorites later in the day.
The festival began with the inaugural set from The Vansaders. The Asbury rockers were promoting their new EP, No Matter What, coming out later in the summer. A decent hometown punk band on the up-and-come, The Vansaders were a nice way to kick off the first day of the festival. Ravagers were up next as more fans started commuting into the Stone Pony. This Baltimore, Maryland-based punk band played repetitive but catchy punk songs such as “Suicide Bomber” and “Just Another Rat.”
One of the most interesting sets of the day came from Crazy & The Brains. This NJ band owns a DIY venue in Jersey City called The Funhouse and the crew proved that name’s accuracy by getting decked out in crazy punk costumes that included a robe, a leopard print vest and a cowboy hat. The most intriguing part of Crazy & The Brains was the incorporation of the xylophone. In the middle of songs like “Brainfreeze” and a cover of Jim Carroll’s “People Who Died” the xylophone player would break into a unique solo that the crowd could not help but love and laugh at.
The next set was from Oi! band, The Templars, consisting of black and white skinheads. By the end of their set, fans were really starting to crowd into the front of the stage, as the night was approaching along with some big-name punk rock music.
Toronto, Ontario, new school punk band Pup were the next to take the stage. Pup made a lot of waves with their 2016 release The Dream Is Over through SideOneDummy Records. The record was loosely based on the vocal deterioration of lead singer Stefan Babcock and how his doctor told him he would never sing again, as the tour had, indeed, almost killed Babcock. Fortunately, though, Pup have overcome their medical and personal issues and are riding to the top of the punk rock scene. Pup’s set was the first one where fans were getting involved passionately. Mosh pits opened up as fans with Pup t-shirts could be seen singing along to jams such as “Sleep in the Heat,” “Reservoir” and “DVP.” As the band finished their set, they showed appreciation for the fact that a group filled with former ska players were now opening up for The Specials, doing a great job at setting up our headliner later in the night. Considering the overall fanbase for Punk Rock Bowling was on the older side, it was surprising yet uplifting to see how the Asbury Park crowd accepted Pup by the end of their set. Afterwards, the merch line for the band was swamped, as many fans opted to carry their newly bought records around the venue the remainder of the night.
The Explosion have been doing random reunion shows since their breakup in 2007 and this day was one of them. The Boston band are led by the harsh and raspy punk vocals of Matt Hock, who enthusiastically made small talk with the Asbury Park fans. Hock could not believe the luck Punk Rock Bowling had with such a beautiful day for music. The band ripped into some of their classic songs with their exuberant stage presence and fans slam-danced around each other to “No Revolution,” the band’s most popular song that was featured on classic mid-2000s video games like Tony Hawk’s Underground and NFL Street Vol. 2.
After The Explosion finished their set, the sun began to fall into a beautiful sunset at Asbury Park. Dillinger Four took the stage dressed in all black and were very excited to be on the shore. Bassist and vocalist Patrick Costello mentioned how distracting it was to play a show in front of the Jersey Shore where you can see the ocean from the stage, a rare sight for this Midwestern band. Despite the distraction, this set was one of the most fan-involved all day. Multiple crowd surfers raced to the front during tracks like “Doublewhiskeycokenoice” and “Gainesville.” Overall, Dillinger Four provided a very catchy yet lackadaisical set from this slacker punk crew.
Some could argue that Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires were out of their element at a festival filled with liberty spike hairdos and spiked denim jackets; however, the spirit and energy of Charles Bradley brought everyone together in an hour of funk and soul. It may not have fit with the rest of the lineup, but it was still a delightful treat that was fun and encouraging. Lead man Charles Bradley mentioned in between songs to the crowd his recent achievement of beating cancer, which led to a long applause right before the funkadelic man went into his tunes. Bradley was dressed head-to-toe in a bedazzled costume that made him look like the lovechild of Ric Flair and James Brown. He went from screeching out lyrics lying on the ground to soulfully serenading the crowd of punks, who were at this point in the set, slow dancing with their significant others. The impressive horn section and multiple guitar players of His Extraordinaires were a great backing to the charismatic leading man. At the end his set, Bradley mentioned to the crowd that we are all flowers on this earth, whether yellow, white or black, and we should all work together to build a bouquet. It was at this time Bradley brought out a bouquet of roses and passed them out to the crowd before he left for the night, sharing his passion for love.
The main event of the evening was the second wave icons of ska, The Specials. By this time, the Stone Pony was filled with ska fans and rude boys alike waiting to skank throughout the Asbury Park night. The Specials started their memorable set with some slow jams, such as “Ghost Town,” that set the tempo for a relaxed portion of songs. As soon as these four or five tracks ended, guitarist Lynval Golding asked the crowd, “Who wants to dance?” At this point, the pit opened up with the most courteous and friendly skank pit anyone had ever seen, as The Specials played “Nite Klub.” And tracks like “Gangsters,” with snazzy guitar and bass riffs throughout, sounded exceptional with the acoustics and sound production of the legendary beachside outdoor venue of Stone Pony.
Another set highlight would be Golding dedicating “A Message For You Rudy” to an unnamed politician, who got a swift four letter f-word earlier in the set from lead singer Terry Hall. Throughout the entirety of the hour, fans were yelling for “Monkey Man” and soon enough the band gave into their request with the reggae-infused, two-tone jam. By the end of the set, members from Pup and Crazy & The Brains could be found enjoying The Specials last song, “Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think),” in the crowd, showcasing the overall community that punk can bring to the band members and fans involved.
At the end of the beautiful moonlit night in Asbury Park, punk rock fans headed home after a sweaty and music-filled experience at the first day of Punk Rock Bowling. For many, they will be back again tomorrow to see groups like NOFX, Buzzcocks and Lifetime, but, if not, they witnessed a night of community and relaxing soul and ska thanks to the sets from Charles Bradley and The Specials. The sets from Dillinger Four, Pup and Crazy & The Brains were exceptional for fans who had never heard of them or were fans for a long time. If the punks did not want the night to end, the option was there for the fans to see Sick Of It All, a New York Hardcore band, inside of the Stone Pony as an aftershow to Punk Rock Bowling. However, a long day of Pabst Blue Ribbon and ska dancing led many punk fans needing a rest before the next day’s festivities.