These days Winston Cruthers is more interested in bowling than the Rock N’ Roll shows he religiously attends at Asbury Lanes. He’s an Asbury Park original who longs for the days when Bruce, Southside, and John Eddie ran the boardwalk. According to Cruthers, “That was the golden age of The Asbury Park Music Scene, and nothing done today comes close.” He’s been to all the clubs, seen all the shows, and knew all the bands before they made it, “when they were happy to play for lukewarm Rolling Rocks.” Essentially, Cruthers is the forefather of hipsterism on the Jersey Shore.
Cruthers “begrudgingly” graced The Lanes last Saturday with a four-hour residency next to the stage that saw the likes of April Smith & The Great Picture Show, Scott Liss & The 66, and Amadna Duncan perform.
April Smith and company received a good deal of press this past year for the band’s debut, Songs For A Sinking Ship, which included the track “Terrible Things,” a sinister swing type of tune best danced to by the likes of Nucky Thompson, Al Capone, and other shine smugglers, that was picked up for the promotional commercial of the HBO series Weeds.
Smith & The Great Picture Show ran through a catalogue of speakeasy-esque numbers accompanied by an impressive collection of stringed instruments, running the size gamut from miniature ukulele, to Smith’s red Gretsch, to Stevens’ colossal cello (NOTE: The cello players name is Stevens. Stevens is able to get away with using a single surname because, according to sources, the 6’8 giant amongst men operates on various levels of “Bad Assedness”).
Smith and company overcame a series of sound problems to run through an impressive 13-song set that included a cover of U2’s “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” as the encore, much to the delight of Cruthers, who bowled steadfast and stoned faced during the first 12 tracks, but couldn’t stop tapping his foot during this number.
Prior to Smith and friends’ performance, Asbury Park’s own Scott Liss & The 66, stepped to the stage, wearing Grungy flannel, leather jackets, and fingerless mittens. Liss and company, with their Rock N’ Roll wardrobes, stood apart from the ’40s styled Picture Show and the Christmas sweater clad Amanda Duncan, and Cruthers wasn’t impressed, paying more mind to fixing the lack of slice on his ball than the band.
However, the rest of the Asbury Lanes patrons couldn’t keep their eyes off these guys. Liss & The 66 played a mixed bag set of crunching guitar laden Hard Rock tunes, for the dudes, with a series of sensitive, acoustic tracks, for the long line of scantily clad ladies that collided along the front line of the stage, jockeying for the position closest to the elegantly disheveled Liss.
Despite Cruthers reaction Liss & The 66 performed a solid seven-song set and continues to cement itself as one of Asbury Parks best.
And before this piece ends I have to mention the opening act of the night, Amanda Duncan. Duncan is one of the most fun artists I have had the pleasure of seeing perform this year, and it is with Duncan’s interactive banter with the audience between her poppy folk numbers with Southern twang through which she was able to make this performance seem pleasantly intimate.
There is nothing worse than sitting through a set by a self-absorbed artist that is incapable of communicating with the audience, and Duncan does not fall under that heading. In fact we all had a big laugh at Cruthers’ expense when Duncan mockingly cheered for him as he celebrated a strike in the midst of her set. When I was snapping pictures of Duncan she stopped, struck a pose, and allowed me to take a proper photo because she “didn’t like the way she looked in the others.”
And finally, I would just like to give credit where credit is due because Duncan’s ability to impersonate a trumpet, with a mute mind you, is very impressive…and her kazoo solo on a cover of “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree,” was more than enough to put even the most cynical of Lanes patrons, namely Cruthers, in the Holiday spirit.
(NOTE: Mr. Cruthers would not let me take a picture of him because his religious beliefs state that “photographs steal your soul.” He was a very strange individual.)
April Smith & The Great Picture Show Setlist:
- Movie Loves A Screen
- Drop Dead Gorgeous
- Terrible Things
- Stop Wondering
- You Don’t Own Me (Lesley Gore)
- Can’t Say No
- Wow And Flutter
- Bottoms Up
- The One That Got Away
- Dixie Boy
- What’ll I Do
- Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (U2)
Scott Liss & The 66 Setlist
- Lloyd Braun
- My Hands Are Tied
- Late November
- Silver Lining