Gallery: Asbury Park Music and Film Festival
Three Days of Music, Films, and everything Asbury Park
Over 15,000 people invaded Asbury Park for an amazing three days of music, film, laughter, and fun! From world film premiere and intimate gatherings discussing the music and film industry to great music from both prominent bands and local legends, the Asbury Park Music and Film Festival had something for everyone. Attendance exceeded last year’s tally and many events were sold out beforehand. Even though the guitars are packed, tour busses are gone, and the projectors are off, the 4th annual Asbury Park Music and Film Festival will go down as the best one yet.
Michael Franti kicked off the festival Friday night at a VIP Party at the Asbury Hotel. Patrons had the opportunity for a meet and greet with Michael, and of course the proverbial selfie. Seemingly out of nowhere, Michael and his band materialized outside the front of the Paramount Theatre singing “The Sound of Sunshine” to hundreds of adoring admirers. Acting like a singing pied piper, Michael and his entourage compelled the guests inside to their seats for the screening of the World Premiere of his new movie, Stay Human.
Following the movie, a loving Q&A session with the audience was followed by an uplifting and joyous concert for all. Having met Michael various times in the last 10 years, he is one of the nicest, most down-to-earth caring people in this world. When I caught up with him Friday night, he greeted me like an old friend and remembered me like it was yesterday. The conversation was easy, deep, and real. His new movie is raw, emotional, and exudes optimism in the face of adversity and cynicism. I highly recommend seeing it. It will give you a new perspective on life and how we all perceive and live each day.
Saturday is the biggest day of the festival with major events happening across multiple venues simultaneously with something for everyone. With so much to see and do, it was truly a hard choice in picking an event at some points during the day. Luckily for attendees, the Asbury Trolley was up to the challenge of transporting guests, for free, to locations not within walking distance. Of course, you could just hop on the trolley to enjoy the sights of Asbury Park from a completely different perspective too. A very nice touch that was completely unique, unexpected, and a joy for me to experience.
The Jersey Storytellers event, held at The Wonder Bar, had six individuals sharing an intimate story about themselves within a music or film theme. Some of these stories were very personal and touching, other stories were inspiration and introspective. The capacity crowd was captivated, moved, and the 90-minute session flew by in a blink of an eye. While all the stories were exceptional, Danny Clinch’s story of how his life completely changed within a one-day cascade of events and Shelli Sonstein’s love story about her new husband moved me to tears with the parallels to my own story.
One highlight of Saturday that I did not have the great fortune to attend was: “The Word Premiere of Break on Thru: A Celebration of Ray Manzarek and the Doors” with Producers John Densmore and Justin Kreutzman answering questions during a Q&A panel. From what I heard, it was extremely entertaining, enlightening, and thought provoking and the movie was exceptional.
Danny Devito’s career spans over four decades as an actor, director, and producer. While watching his career retrospective before taking the stage at Convention Hall, I felt like he’s a part of my family. I grew up with him as a teenager watching Taxi and laughing my ass off.
When meeting Danny before the show and watching him interact with everyone, he is as real, down to earth, and a genuine N.J. native as they come. From the APMFF staff, the media, the Governor of NJ, and the dignitaries that were on hand to the horde of admiring fans who packed the theatre, Danny’s love for people, making them feel comfortable, and being silly to get them to laugh was a joy to behold. How effortlessly he accomplished this was amazing to. Everyone that he met and that attended his show left with a smile on their face and warmth in their heart.
I am not a hip hop/rap fan, not even close, but I have to tell you that the Wyclef Jean show at the Stone Pony was one of my top 10 shows of the past year. The energy in the Pony was electric. The jam-packed crowd waved, sang along, danced, and had the time of their lives. A poignant moment for me was the entire crowd… and I mean the entire crowd singing at the top of their voices “Killing me softly with his song”. Wow… goosebumps!
Having met Wyclef earlier in the day, he was extremely generous with his time and posed for pictures with anyone who asked. At one point, Wyclef took one of the media member’s camera to take a photograph of that media member, while surrounded by the gaggle of media. Too cool! Wyclef’s work with the Lakehouse Academy to bring music less fortunate kids tugs at my heart strings and is inspiration. I love celebrities who use their status to make the world a better place. Throughout the 2.5 hour show, Wyclef brought different kids on stage during the concert to show off their talents, and all kids the kids who participated joined him on stage for the finale. A great night was had by all.
At the same time as Wyclef Jean performed, the power reggae/rock trio Sublime with Rome was killing it at Convention Hall and the crowd pleasing Low Cut Connie had the Wonder Bar’s packed crowd howling with delight from the music and antics going on.
I wish I had the ability to either clone myself or have some type of teleportation device to hop between all these shows. The reviews and crowd buzz for all three shows were incredible.
The last day of the festival kicked off with the Word Premiere of Long Strange Trip, the Untold Story of The Grateful Dead followed by a QA with produces Justin Kreutzmann and Eric Eisner at the House of Independents.
The movie was amazing, and a must see for all Deadheads. Dark City Strings and the Kitchen Dwellars brought some good ol’ country bluegrass to the Wonder Bar where fans in attendance danced along to an incredible groove.
Across the street, music filled the air with various bands playing on a small stage in the park. The Asbury Park Convention Hall with the “Greetings from Asbury Park” sign loomed in the background of the park stage while delicious aromas swept through the crowd from the multi-cultural food trucks on this sun drenched beautiful day.
My favorite two bands in the park were Williams/Honor and Mad Kings. Williams Honor was a duo this time out rather than the usual four-piece band. Gordon and Regain, the lead guitarist and singer who are extremely charismatic, look and act like they truly love each other and playing music. Great tunes, amazing guitar riffs, and soaring vocals led to a great show. Mad Kings is a 4-piece band of young adults with the shows substitute drummer being only 15 years old, and they were captivating from the start. Jamming to songs from the Allman Brothers and other artists with amazing guitar work and singing, the band was a true treat to experience. I am positive we will hear more from these kids in the future.
To end the festival, Government Mule with the Tangiers Blues Band as the opener, did not disappoint the large crowd at the Paramount Theatre. I had never seen the Tangier Blues Band (TBB) and I was very impressed. The band was tight, the musicianship was excellent, and the show was engaging from the opening notes. While no unexpected guests showed up at the Festival as once speculated, Warren Haynes did help out TTB with a guest appearance on a song and at the end of their set.
Asbury Park Native Danny Clinch returned the favor and helped Government Mule close the show and festival with a Muddy Waters cover of “She’s Nineteen Years Old” and a Sonny Boy Williamson cover of “Good Morning Little School Girl”.
The Mule was off the charts great, tight as hell, some great jams, and all this was enhanced by the unbelievable light show and sound quality. A fantastic way to end this magical festival!!
I only wrote about a few of the many highlights that I had from this amazing weekend. I could literally write a book about all people I met, the staff I interacted with, the new friends I made, the films I saw, and the music I heard. You really need to attend yourself to take in this extraordinary festival and all it has to offer. Less than a year to go to the next era…
And by the way… with so many events happening at the same time, there is no way to be in 2 places at once let alone three. A big shout out to my crack team of photographers (John Hester and Ron Adelberg), for which half of these photos would not possible. The gallery is a compilation of our images, and for without their help and dedication the gallery would be sparse and my recollections slim.
Peace and love to you all!