Event: Greetings from Sea. Hear. Now

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One of the biggest events to hit the Jersey shore happened last weekend.

The Sea Hear Now music and art festival took over Asbury Park last Saturday and Sunday.

For as wonderful as the Jersey Shore is during the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day, many say September is even better.

“Locals Summer,” as it is called, is loved by many because the tourists and day-trippers aren’t as plentiful, but the Atlantic Ocean is warm, and the weather is usually nice.

This past weekend in Asbury Park, the weather was indeed nice. Hot even, for the last weekend in summer.

But it was plenty crowded as well. And I emphasize plenty.

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Roughly 35,000 people took in the Sea Hear Now music and arts festival, now in it’s second year. Last year, the crowd estimate was between 28,000 and 30,000. And last year Bruce Springsteen came out to help Social Distortion on a couple of songs to close out the festival.

Last year, SHN took place during the last weekend of September, the same weekend I was shooting the Global Citizen Festival. Earlier this year, when I saw  Tim Donnelly, one of the creators of this festival at Monmouth University, he told me they were moving it up a weekend in September. And my mind started to figure out how to get in to shoot it.

Luckily, I had Backstreets.com backing me up. When I filled out the online paperwork to get credentials, it was they that I said I was shooting for. (In fact, a version of this post is up on backstreets.com now). A few weeks later, I got my confirmation that I was in.

Here’s the kit I’d use all weekend:

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  • Canon 70D
  • 24-105mm
  • 70-200mm
  • Canon SX610 point-and-shoot
  • FujiX100T
  • Extra batteries
  • Charging blocks
  • USB cables
  • Power blocks
  • Extra cards

That was it. Pretty tight. Pretty much what I use at any concert.

I actually started BEFORE the festival officially opened, shooting The Vaughns (a young indie band from NJ) and Low Cut Connie (from Philly) at the House of Independents on Friday night.

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The Vaughns lead singer Anna Lies

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Low Cut Connie from up high

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Then Saturday came. I got down to AP by 10:30 (did have any time to do my Visual Week In Review this week) as I thought parking would be tough. I had a few block hike but it wasn’t too bad. It would be 13 hours before I’d see my truck again.

The sun was shining, and temperatures were in the mid-80s. That, combined with the fantastic music of local and national artists, made this weekend in Little Eden one to remember.

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Sea Hear Now is the brainchild of Donnelly and Toms River native, photographer Danny Clinch. Having worked many festivals, like Bonnaroo, together, they knew what needs to happen to put on a successful event.

The first thing, of course, is bringing in great bands. This year, the headliners included The Lumineers – who closed out Day 1 – and The Dave Matthews Band who capped the weekend festivities with a jingle-jangling 90-minute set on Sunday night.

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Wesley Schultz, The Lumineers

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Dave Matthews

In between, though, were local bands like Lowlight (Asbury Park), Sharon Van Ettan (Hunterdon County), Low Cut Connie and Dave Hause & The Mermaid (both with South Jersey/Philadelphia roots) as well as other big-names such as Blind Melon, Dropkick Murphy’s, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, The B-52s, Bad Religion, and The Struts taking over either the Park, Surf  or the Sand Stage.

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Sharon Van Etten

Technically, The Lumineers can be considered a New Jersey band too, as they got their start in Ramsey, NJ. And let’s not forget, while the B-52’s are considered an Athens, Georgia, band, lead singer Fred Schneider lived in Long Branch, NJ and attended Shore Regional High School. This was a sort of homecoming for him as well.

All the while Danny could be seen on stage either snapping photos with his Leica or adding his harp to some of the songs. This, in between acting as event promoter, host and organizer of some late-night jam sessions with the artists.

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Danny with Dave Hause, and Tim Hause (green guitar) looking on.

And, unlike last year when Bruce showed up to play a few songs with headliner Social Distortion, there still plenty of the Springsteen vibe to be found: E Street saxophonist Jake Clemons guested with Donavon Frankenreiter, the  Marcus King Band and Dave Hause & The Mermaid, as well as with Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready and other artists at a Stone Pony jam on Saturday night, while a number of artists did their version of Springsteen songs during their sets. Click here to watch all the covers – Springsteen and otherwise – done at the festival. A good number of festival goers sported E Street Band t-shirts from concerts through the years as well.

As usual, I was looking to shoot entire-to-detail.

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Black Pumas drummer, Stephen Bidwell

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The Beach Rats guitarist, Brian Banks

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Marcus King on Big Red

What really makes Sea Hear Now unique, though, is its proximity to the ocean. While the bands are jamming one of the stages, festival goes can also be watching world-class surfers doing their thing during “expressions sessions” on the water.

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And, in the Transparent Clinch Gallery tent that was in Bradley Park, not far from the Park stage, artists from the bands had a chance to display their other creative outlets. Art and creativity were definitely as central as a theme as the music. From those on-the-beach art installations like the shimmering “jellyfish” seen above to the surfboard archway – which was so much an Instagram moment that there was staff there just to take photos – done by local artist Porkchop, art was on full display. Hey, even me and Flo weren’t immune.

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This was quite a summer in Asbury Park, which saw a good deal of Springsteen action. In May, he did a guest turn with his consiglieri, Little Steven, when the Disciples of Soul kicked off their tour (and the summer) in Convention Hall. In July, he returned to help out his pal, Gary Tallent, on a couple of songs on the Stone Pony Summer Stage, and then doing eight songs with Southside Johnny later that same night.  Then, in August, he and Patti walked the red carpet for the premier of Blinded By The Light.

Overall, the Sea Hear Now festival was an incredible way to goodbye to Summer 2019. Some festivals, like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza may be bigger in name and scope, but in a few years, SHN may be up there as well.

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A crowded pit for The Lumineers

I’m still working through the bulk of my photos, and I’ll cover some other aspects in another post. But SHN 2019 was a great experience for me – got some good shots, met some new people, and learned some new things as well.

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© Mark V. Krajnak | JerseyStyle Photography | All Rights Reserved 2019

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