From the outside, Asbury Lanes appears to be nothing more than a shady dive bar and bowling alley, from which I expected the likes of a sinister, pistol toting, Walter Sobchak-type character to emerge and demand the keys to my big purple mini-van.
I waited outside the brown brick building for the headlining act to show when a couple of punk rockers strolled up hand in hand.
“Why can’t we go in yet?” she inquired.
“It opens at eight,” he answered from experience.
“Shouldn’t it be open by now? I thought this was a bowling alley?” she asked.
“It’s more than that!” he passionately replied.
I have to be honest, I didn’t quite grasp what the guy was so zealous about. The grass was burnt. The shrubbery browned and dying, and a large piece of the Asbury Lanes’ sign hung on by a weakening, weathered sheet of metal, dangling back and forth in the cool breeze that danced in off the Asbury Park Boardwalk. Finally, the vehicle I’d been awaiting pulled up and out they stepped, the band of honor, The Gay Blades had arrived.
“Where is everybody?” asked a concerned member of the band’s crew.
“Dude,” said front-man Clark Westfield (Wells), sarcasm dripping from his lips. “Kiss is playing down the road. How are we supposed to compete with that?”
Trailing the band in through the front doors I gazed about in bewilderment. I saw Asbury Lanes for what it truly is and understood why the venue is so beloved…the stage was strategically placed on the lanes, show posters placed on the walls as monuments paid homage to the venues past, the sound booth and snack bar were one in the same. It’s another precious Rock N’ Roll gemstone on the Jersey Shore, and what it housed last Friday night was a Trash-Pop diamond from New Brunswick.
Surrounded by psychedelic circus folk that lined the lanes and an audience that weaved in between and around ball racks, return machines, and thick plastic benches, Clark Westfield (Wells) and his longtime stick wielding cohort Puppy Mills (Quinn English) took the stage in support of their upcoming album, Savages, and showcased a new member of the band.
“Who the fuck is that guy!” ranted Paul Caffrey and Damion DeStefano of the rocking Monroe, NJ three-piece Tango Machina.
Who indeed was this mystery man standing stage right? It was Mike Abiuso, the guy that has assisted The Gay Blades in the recording studio since 2008’s Ghosts, the guy who plays in another Indie Rock band called Kiss Kiss, and the gentleman who has stepped out from the shadows to melt your mind on the electric ivories.
“I just wanna feel ya,” conveyed Westfield to the crowd. “I wanna feel ya, I wanna hold ya, I wanna know ya, I wanna control ya,” he continued before cuing up “Hey She Say” and jamming a wall of sound into the heart of us.
The show was an assault on the senses, a three-pronged attack of old material, new tracks, and even a song from The Blades’ 2009 7-inch split record with Millions of Brazilians. “The song is called “Mean Muses,”” said Westfield in a post show interview. “Mean as in not kind, and muses as in one who inspires. It’s probably my favorite song that we have in the catalogue,” he continued.
“Try To Understand,” The Blades’ powerful new single off Savages, was next and the tsunamis waves of sound that rushed out of the speakers crashed into the bachelorette party bowling off to the right, their rocks sent airborne off the lanes and into the gutter with each stoke of the six-string and every stomp of the bass drum.
After dedicating “Dog Day Afternoon” to a friend in the audience, and running through a crowd pleasing rendition of “Bob Dylan’s 115th Nightmare,” Westfield announced that this 11-song set of energy draining, sweat drenching, debauchery was on the brink of coming to a close.
“This is our last song,” said Westfield. “We’ve got to get you kids out of here before you’re too wasted to drive home.”
The closing number was the band’s hit “O Shot.” Now, I’ve made the claim on this blog in the past that bands have caused “riots” at shows, and I wasn’t proclaiming falsities. It’s just, compared to what occurred on Friday night, when Westfield strummed that oh so catchy riff, then tossed his black sun-burst axe to a fan capable of continuing the song, then jumped into the audience to slam dance with his adoring supporters, it seems those other acts spurred up mere slap boxing matches.
This entire show was a skirmish, a donnybrook if you will, a true riot. I left with a swollen lip and a gash above my right eye…this was the best show I’ve seen in a while.
- Hey She Say
- Why Winter In Detroit (Savages)
- Mean Muses (7-inch)
- Try To Understand (Savages)
- Rock N’ Roll (Part 1)
- Dog Day Afternoon
- Mick Jagger (Savages)
- Burns and Shakes (Savages)
- Bob Dylan’s 115th Nightmare
- O Shot
A gift for those who stayed with me this long. This is the official music video for “O Shot.” If you couldn’t make out any of the words in my live video, watch this, and watch mine again. I love this song and have listened to it more times than any song with less than 40 words usually merits. Enjoy, “and a good day to you sir!”