Concert Reviews

A Beach Fest For Everyone: Sea.Hear.Now’s Second Run

Indie acts on the Jersey Shore

By Anna Walsh

Standing just beyond the legendary Stone Pony and Wonder Bar is the Asbury Park boardwalk, where the Sea.Hear.Now festival completed its second annual weekend this September. The two days of folk, punk, and indie acts were headlined by the Lumineers and the Dave Matthews Band.

Saturday, September 21, saw a range of acts. Early in the day, Work In Progress played. The band might sound familiar because Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin from Stranger Things) is a member.

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts ruled the afternoon, playing Jett’s iconic hits. The b-52s, a similar legend act, played at about the same time the following day, creating an environment for older festival goers as well as young fans.

A young girl is overjoyed to see legendary Joan Jett and her band perform. By Anna Walsh

On Saturday evening, The Struts played to the crowd with a cover of “Dancing in the Dark” and performed their brand of glam-rock with gusto. Indie darling Rainbow Kitten Surprise helped amass a large crowd at the Sand Stage in preparation for the Lumineers, while punk legend Bad Religion played on the Surf Stage immediately preceding it.

Sea Hear Now is unique in that only one band plays at a time on either of the two main stages. This means there is always music to be heard, but you don’t need to worry about conflicting acts.

Attendees were able to ping-pong between the two main stages or take a break by the third smaller stage, where acts like Jade Bird and Low Cut Connie played.

Dave Hause and the Mermaid, whose album review you can read here, kicked off Sunday with a raucous, tight set, likely one of his best shows. It included guest appearances from festival organizer and photographer Danny Clinch and the E Street Band’s Jake Clemons. Clemons was billed as the “resident surfer/musician” and appeared with multiple bands as well as on surf sessions.

The rest of Sunday afternoon featured smaller alternative acts like Steel Pulse and Lowlight before St. Paul and the Broken Bones took to the Sand Stage in the early evening. The latter group’s pop-accessible soul was definitely a crowd pleaser. Sporting a shimmering cape, frontman Paul Janeway’s powerful voice and enticing stage presence made for a lovely sunset on day two.

Dropkick Murphy’s singers Ken Casey (left) and Al Barr (right). By Anna Walsh

Once the sun set, it was time for something harder. Dropkick Murphys rocked the Surf Stage with its Celtic punk, inspiring a clumsy, endearing mosh pit to break out in the sand.

The Dave Matthews Band followed next. Based on the percentage of people wearing DMB T-shirts, the band was hotly anticipated. It delivered, playing a two hour set with myriad covers and deep cuts to close out the fest.

All the festival’s food options were local and ranged from the healthy, colorful Playa Bowls to sizzling Tony’s Sausages. The lines were extremely long at times, but in true festival fashion, they were also the only option.

Bar lines were much shorter, with varied offerings liked spiked seltzer and Aperol Spritzes. The ability to connect a credit card with the wristband made for hands free easy payments, helping to move lines along. 

Festival attendees sit in the sand or look at the art. By Anna Walsh

Complete with immersive art like giant jellyfish and a surfboard arch, there were plenty of photo opps around the festival. Coupled with the sand and ocean view, Sea.Hear.Now was a particularly Instagrammable festival, ideal for raising awareness of its clean ocean cause.

Overall, the festival was a chilled-out, friendly time. For a festival that is only in its second year, it was impressive how smooth every aspect of Sea.Hear.Now went. It catered perfectly to people of all ages who wanted to squeeze a little more sun and sand out of the summer.

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