The second annual Sea.Hear.Now took place in Asbury Park in late September. Set atop and against the New Jersey town’s beach and boardwalk, this location proved to be a beautiful spot for a festival that promised great musical performances and included the unique element of surf competitions with access to great food options both inside and outside the fest.
I have a couple of criticisms to level though. My first complaint, whatever brand of alcoholic seltzer the festival offered was pretty terrible (it included fake sugar!). The second issue was maybe a little more specific to my situation (as a photographer), though I heard it echoed outside the photographers. There were simply too many people at the fest (or not a clear enough walkway on the beach, it was an unwelcome slog exiting the photo pit). The 35,000 people at the fest felt more daunting than the 90,000 at Outside Lands.
Sea.Hear.Now was co-founded by renowned music photographer Danny Clinch and Tim Donnelly, both natives of the Jersey shore. Coming at the tail-end of the summer, though on an unseasonably warm weekend, with tourist season winding down, the fest gives businesses on the shore another boost benefiting the community. It certainly helped that daily repeat entry was permitted on festival days, which allowed one to dine more comfortably at a restaurant if so desired.
The musical acts booked for the fest included some safe headliners Dave Matthews Band and the Lumineers, classic rock acts like Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and the B-52’s, and newer thrills like St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Black Pumas, Marcus King Band, Jade Bird, Rainbow Kitten Surprise and Low Cut Connie. An exciting late addition to the lineup was Mike McCready and Kate Neckel’s Infinite Color & Sound. I only spent a few hours at the fest on each of Saturday and Sunday as I was absorbed in enjoying the whole weekend, which included watching some surfing, traipsing the boardwalk, and catching an aftershow.
The surf element of the fest was particularly interesting because, as a photographer, I like to go beyond music and events on terra firma. While I couldn’t get as close to the water as I would have liked, I felt calmed watching the surfers wait for the waves and pass along the surface. IF there was actually a competition, I was not aware of such. Some photos from the live performances are in the first gallery — notably, St. Paul and the Broken Bones who put on a great live show.
Meanwhile, St. Paul and the Broken Bones were also part of the Saturday night after-party at the Stone Pony along with Tangiers Blues Band with special guest Mike McCready. Following a set from each of those acts, members of each returned for a collaborative set. Additional performers including Wes Schultz of the Lumineers and Luke Spiller of the Struts and a couple of local friends, like Nicole Atkins and Renee Maskin, participated in a sing-along friendly covers set. Songs included the Beatles’ “Hey Jude”, The Sopranos theme song, Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down” and of course, Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” (The Boss’s presence loomed large over the fest even though he didn’t drop-in this year). Images from the after-show are in the bottom gallery.
Sea.Hear.Now will return to Asbury Park on September 19th and 20th, 2020.