Saturday was the final evening of The Bouncing Souls’ four-night Snowed In event at The Stone Pony. I was only able to cover the opening show on Wednesday…this is my story…
…After The Bouncing Souls’ four-evening extravaganza in december was snowed into submission it was unclear if the New Brunswick basement dwellers, turned boardwalk emperors, would continue with their original plans and play album specific shows for the capacity Stone Pony audience. The tuxedo clad sporting ring announcer, doing his best Michael Buffer, and the scantily clad ring girl presenting the album cover of The Souls’ 1994 debut The Good, the Bad, and the Argyle quickly revealed what lay in store.
“Ladies and gentleman,” he addressed us, “tonight’s event will feature two bouts. The first, from New Brunswick, New Jersey, weighing in at 31 minutes and 18 seconds, with more than 53,000 copies sold, it’s The Good, the Bad, and the Argyle!”
The Pony patrons gave it all they had from the scorching 47-second opener “I Like Your Mom” to the fan favorite “These Are A Few Of Our Favorite 80s Movies,” and after being crushed against the rail by an army of crowd surfing punks I have the shattered fifth rib to prove the audience’s immense adoration for the latter of those two.
Front-man Greg Attonito risked his well-being when he leaned over the divider into the jovial sea of his subjects in search of the chosen one, the prophet, the mere mortal sent to the show by a cosmic force unknown to yield the the perfect 1980s film quotation. Attonito’s divine gaze fell upon a bearded member of the congregation who delivered the word of Murray.
As the riot brought itself down to a simmer to better experience this immaculate moment, he finally spoke to the onlookers, “It’s true your honor, this man has no dick.” An eruption of cheers followed, Pete Steinkopf’s guitar ripped back into us, and the show went on in celebration of the perfect Ghostbusters reference.
After a short intermission the ring orator and his luscious lass returned to introduce the second grappler. “Weighing in at a mere 23-minutes and 44-seconds, the album that launched The Bouncing Souls into basements and VFW Halls across the nation, selling more than 81,000 copies in Minnesota alone, Maniacal Laughter!”
Innocents braved the second set like a pirate crew in peril, tossed overboard into angry waters of possessed, soul sucking, undertows. They clung to the rail like it was the masthead of their capsized vessel. With every few chainsaw revs of Steinkopf’s electric sing-string, rogue waves of Punks and Skins would rise up and crash into the rail, hauling away my sisters and brethren one by one as it receded.
The performance came to a head when the Souls’ performed its classic track “Here We Go.” The chorus hit and an undersea volcanic eruption exploded in the center of crowd causing the mosh-pit to overflown. Bodies piled on top of bodies, elbows and eye sockets became dangerously intimate, and someone or something grabbed the legs of my good friend Brian Guzik and took him. It could have been a crazed man or beast, or even Cthulhu himself, but my brother in Punk has not yet surfaced, and I fear the worst.
However, all was forgotten when The Souls brought out a special guest on lead guitar and vocals in the form of Johnny X (a.k.a. Mr. Pete Gofton), for “The Ballad Of Johnny X.”
On a final note (and it pains me to write it sour, but the job wouldn’t be done correctly if not mentioned) if you’ve read this far then you’ve probably grasped that the focus of this story has been on the audience…and that’s because it was great audience, one that danced and screamed the lyrics to the most obscure of Souls’ songs until hoarse. But as much props as I give to the Pony patrons I reward the inverse to The Bouncing Souls.
Of course the Souls’ faithful had a great time, their favorite band had come home to play upon Asbury Park’s most hallowed and revered stage. In a situation such as this, the least a band can do is match the energy in the room. Musicians will tell you, the live show is a give and take process, but the Souls just didn’t seem to feed off the electricity.
I understand Greg Attonito has a laid-back performance style. He’s not one to hop off amps and flail around, so you can probably imagine how little stage presence the front-man exhibited when he was forced to read, not sing (he left a lot of the singing up to the riot in the pit who knew every word), but literally read lyrics off a cheat sheet.
And don’t get me wrong, I have no problem when a singer uses a cheat sheet/prompter to get through a song…if they’re Bruce Springsteen, or another 60-year old artist who’s memory might not be as sharp, and has written volumes of music, and changes his setlist every night, which isn’t yet the case for our beloved Bouncing Souls. But that’s not the most disappointing part.
Despite the audience’s intense support throughout the night, after only an hour-long set, the hometown heroes skated out the back door over to Asbury Lanes for the pre-scheduled after party without so much as a one-song encore. The capacity crowd stood pat for 10-minutes chanting in unison the choruses for “Here We Go” and, what’s become the The Souls’ theme-song, “Ole.” I’m sure the local legends were on their second Yuengling by the time the raucous group of rioters grew disheartened and disbanded. It was most definitely a sad ending to an otherwise decent show.
But, for the Souls to excuse its lack of an encore, and its seemingly half-hearted effort, away by saying, “This is our last song of the night, only to return tomorrow, we’ll see you then” is wrong. I think I speak for everyone in attendance that could only make it out on that lackluster Wednesday when I say that going to Bouncing Souls shows doesn’t pay the bills. You can’t evade the fact that you let a lot of people down who could only clear the calendar for one of the four dates due to other engagements, like work or school, or who couldn’t afford to part with the cash for a four-night pass.
Like a saddened parent, I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed, but I’ll ALWAYS LOVE THE BOUNCING SOULS!!!
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