Following a pandemic postponement in 2020, Sea.Hear.Now retained all the charm (and all the crowds) of prior incarnations. Beyond the music, the two-day festival included a surfing competition, environmentally friendly booths and activities, an “alley” where surfboards were crafted, and a pop-up art gallery offering art from performers. There were also several art installations along the beach, including this surfboard arch that would have been familiar to prior attendees.
Patti Smith, Scott Avett, Liz Cooper, and Pearl Jam members Jeff Ament, Mike McCready, and Eddie Vedder, were among the many performers who showcased art, much of which was for sale, at the Transparent Clinch pop-up gallery on the festival grounds. Photographer Danny Clinch’s work was in one corner, and a small stage allowed musicians to perform during the fest.
Austin, Texas’s White Denim were one of the many rock bands on the Saturday slate. Lead singer James Petralli led the group through a wild, eleven-song set that featured some face-melting guitar solos.
Though there were a lot of food vendors in one area, there weren’t a lot of food or drink offerings throughout the festival grounds which resulted in overly lengthy lines at times.
Dr. Dog announced that they would be retiring this year and are currently on their final run as a group, which will culminate in a grand finale in Philadelphia.
Beyond the surprise guests in the art tent, there were some scattered musical surprises including the Ocean Avenue Stompers leading a procession.
Patti Smith, clad in black in the direct sun, performed many of her iconic songs (including “Dancing Barefoot”, “Because the Night” and her take on “Gloria”), some covers (Bob Dylan’s “One Too Many Mornings”), and dodged frisbees on the main stage.
The full harvest moon wouldn’t arrive until a night or two later but Earth’s satellite still made for a fantastic view whether catching it over the water or over the convention center.
Lord Huron proclaimed their joy at playing at the festival, closing out the Park Stage with a dusk set that included tracks like “Mine Forever”, “The Night We Met”, and “Wait by the River”.
Technical difficulties had been building up through the day, so many bands weren’t starting at their allotted time. But Matt & Kim fans were ready for a raucous time with the duo as the fierce set got them moshing, tossing about inflatable sex dolls and otherwise screaming their lungs out.
Pearl Jam’s last live performance was back in 2018 (it had been five since I last saw them) as they were gearing up for a new album release and tour cycle. When Gigaton dropped in early 2020, the group had planned a massive Europe summer tour as well as some US headlining dates and festival slots. So Sea.Hear.Now marked the live debut for the band’s new material and readily showcased Gigaton kicking off their set with three new songs (“Dance of the Clairvoyants”, “Quick Escape”, and “Seven O’Clock”).
Pearl Jam performed what could only be described as the set that fans needed and that the night called for. Memorable classics like “State of Love and Trust” and “Even Flow” were joined by “Superblood Wolfmoon” (under the almost full moon) and a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “My City of Ruins”, which included several of Asbury Park’s finest young singers providing vocals.