A Wonder(bar)ful Night
“Hey girl, you want to ride in Daddy’s Cadillac?
‘Cause I love the way your long hair falls down your back
Bo Diddley, Bo Diddley’s at the Seaside Bar
We’ll run barefoot in the sand, listen to his guitar.” ~ Bruce Springsteen, Seaside Bar Song
The Stone Pony is the famous one. People come from near and far to go to the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey.
But when I heard Bruce and the E Street Band, with Professor Roy Bitans setting the tone on the electric organ, launch into Seaside Bar Song, I think of the Wonder Bar. Just two block up Ocean Ave from the Pony, it could very well be as legendary as it’s more famous neighbor. At least by Jersey rock ‘n roll standards.
Ironically, for as many times as I go to Asbury Park, I’ve only be inside the Wonder Bar once. And I didn’t even hear a band. It was a few January’s ago, after a Polar Bear Plunge. The pub inside Convention Hall, Anchor’s Bend, was crowded and I was hungry. I went across the street – the sky looked a lot it did in the above photo, even though I shot that one on a June evening – and had a burger and a beer.
It tasted good.
But last Friday night, I got inside the Wonder Bar to actually hear some music, and shoot, of course.
Last weekend, at Monmouth University, the Darkness On The Edge Of Town: Springsteen Symposium was held. Back in 2014, I was part of another Springsteen Symposium at Monmouth. But alas, my calendar was already filled up so I couldn’t attend, unfortunately.
But there was one part of the program that I did get to attend – and shoot – a jam session at the Wonder Bar on Friday night. And the participants included a number of musicians from the Monmouth University music program, including my buddy, Zack Sandler (who, the previous Sunday, played with Bobby Mahoney’s band as they opened for Rock n Roll Hall of Famer Bon Jovi at the Prudential Center in North Jersey. Quite the week for Zack.)
The seaside bars on the Jersey Shore are known for their jam sessions. Musicians from various bands will gather round and play some good tunes. This jam Friday night was no different.
But the musicians weren’t just from Monmouth U. Others on the stage included Mike Masefield, (electric organ), Ian Gray (trombone) both with Remember Jones (and in advance of opening the next night for Ronnie Spector), original E Street Drummer Vini “Mad Dog” Lopez, David Hernandez on keyboards, and legendary Jersey Shore blues guitarist Gary Cavico.
It was a crowded stage for sure. Now, you walk into a little bar on the Jersey Shore and you see any of the elements below, you know you’re in for a fun night. Crowded stage or not.
Joe and his students got things going with a fantastic rendition, appropriately enough, of Darkness On The Edge of Town.
From there, the 45-minute set just took off.
I first saw a number of these guys play back in January. There was no Elvis this time, but it was a heck of a set. There’s just something about being in New Jersey, in Asbury Park…and hearing bands do Springsteen songs. It just feels right.
I was busy shooting stills, of course, but here’s a quick 30 second clip of the jam doing Springsteen’s Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) to give you a little flavor.
When I left my house in Upper Freehold, it was 85 degrees. By the time I got to Asbury Park, it was 65. And by the time I left the Wonder Bar (and ran across the street and up the boardwalk a bit to catch a short set by Bobby Mahoney at the Asbury Park Yacht Club, the night mist was setting in.
The temperature was about 55 and chilly, but the air smelled salty, like the ocean on my left as I walked further up the boardwalk to the Casino. There was nothing up there, though I was hoping for the High Voltage coffee shop to be open. But I still had to keep walking through the midst, to step into the cover of the hulking relic.
The ghosts of Asbury seemed to be out. I thought I saw one in the distance. But, no, it was just a lone person, carrying his guitar in his right hand, headed home after whatever gig he played that night. The same path, I bet, Springsteen himself would have walked after a gig about 40 years ago.
I paid my respects to the Casino, turned around and walked back down to the other end, where Convention Hall is, and where my truck was parked across the street. The wind was blowing and I hunched my shoulders down against it.
The wind blew, the waves were crashing, a guy on a fat-tire beach bike pedaled past me. Otherwise, I was along on the boards. I half expected to see Rosalita – or Bruce himself – materialize out of the midst. But no such luck (it would be until Sunday that he showed up in Asbury Park. With his 92 year old mother. At, where else, the Wonder Bar.)
On this night, though, thanks to some young music students – and the old S.O.A.P (Sound of Asbury Park) guards – some of my faith was restored.
The darkness lifted, at least for a while. A wonder(bar)ful night.
© Mark V. Krajnak | JerseyStyle Photography | All Rights Reserved 2018