Shooting A Bunch of Jirks
Music and The Jersey Shore will be linked forever.
With the beach clubs situated halfway between that up-and-coming city of Philadelphia and that golden-ring grasp of New York, many musicians over they years have stopped off and put in time in little seaside bars.
Of course, the NJ musicians who have “made it” is large: Sinatra. Count Basie. Frankie Valli. Dizzy Gillespie, Paul Simon. Bon Jovi. Whitney Houston. Jay-Z. Some guy named Bruce and his band. The list goes on.
If the musical notes that float over this great state of our were visible, we’d be bumping our heads at every turn.
And for every “big time” name and act out there, there are dozens of smaller bands or musicians, making their living every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and maybe Sunday night playing to packed, and not so backed, bars and coffee shops up and down the coast. Some also supplement the weekly gigs with weddings, bar mitzvha’s and the like. They play cover songs, their own music or a mix of both. They too are the rock stars of the Jersey Shore with fans and following.
Kimon and his band started early, when the walkway in Convention Hall was nearly empty. But as the crowds started to filter in, like the flat morning light, they helped warm the place up.
While I knew my Job 1 was to shoot the Plunge and the goings-on around it, I make a conscious effort to pay more attention to the bands. Shooting music gigs would be something I wouldn’t mind getting into so I did want to focus a bit of time on that.
And, I really wanted to focus on Brian Kirk. Brian and his band (he’s the steady lead with an often-changing menu of bandmates) have been a Jersey Shore institution for nearly 20 years now. They’ve been named MTV’s Official Cover Band. Been on the New York TV morning shows, played with Little Steven, and, once, were surprised on stage by The Boss himself.
Brian is an infectious front-man. He continually involves the crowd in his sets, and can swing from singing Rosalita to Summer Wind to Sweet Caroline without missing a proverbial beat. (If you’re hearing Brian Kirk sing Sweet Caroline, it’s probably 1:30 a.m. in whatever Jersey bar you’re in and you better start making your way to the door because it’s almost closing time. Some things one just knows as a fact.)
So, I took a few minutes to focus on Brian and the band and see what I could get.
Actually, a few days prior, I emailed the Jirks events coordinator to see if I could get 15 minutes with the band before they went on to do some full band press photos. All came back good but it was loose. As it turned out, on the day of the Plunge, it was crazy. By the time they went on around 12:15, it was crowded. The band had arrived at different times, with Brian arriving last, after the drums and horn section were set up. By that time, too, I had to start getting ready as the Plungers were scheduled to hit the water at 1. Unfortunately, the whole group photo never transpired, though I had done some scouting and had a couple locations picked out. Ah well.
Brian and the band played a few songs before the Plunge, then continued on for another hour and a half after the swimmers came out. By that time, everyone was dry and warmed up (either because of dry clothes or libations) and the party was full on. Brian even joked at one point that this was the biggest Wednesday afternoon crowd he ever played to.
I got some shots I like, especially the one above where the shadows really create neat mood. It was certainly a challenge, though. Brian and the band don’t stand in one spot. They’re moving and grooving. Some images aren’t tack sharp but that’s OK. And I was shooting at a high ISO so there will be grain. That’s OK too.
In the end, I sent the images to the Jirks event coordinator. Maybe the press shots will happen at a later date. Never know.
Aside from building his end of my portfolio, there was another reason for me to shoot Brian Kirks and the Jirks. I’ve seen them play countless times on countless summer nights. But the one night that I always link to them was back in March 2000. It was cold and the wind whipped off the beach. I was in Sea Bright at now-demolished-to-make-way-for-condo joint called Tradewinds. Brian and the band provided the good times that night, taking the chill out of the air.
And it was the night that I met this blonde gal. We danced to Rosalita, and the Summer Wind and yes, to Sweet Caroline.
Three years later we were married.
Good things do happen at little seaside bars listening to cover bands.
© Mark V. Krajnak | JerseyStyle Photography | All Rights Reserved 2014