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The Stone Pony Summer Stage

Asbury Park: Riot, Redemption, Rock ‘n Roll

It’s been said time and time again, but there really is nothing like New Jersey. Living here for 16 years, I’ve had the perks of experiencing things that people who aren’t around here find out-of-the ordinary, especially living in North Jersey. Here, we get the best of both worlds, the city and the beaches. Take a quick train ride to New York City? No problem. An hour drive to the shore? Easy. I always think to myself, “What would life be like if I didn’t live in New Jersey?” and I would, 100%, be a totally different person if I wasn’t from this beautiful state. 


Unlike some, I am proud to say I’m from here. We have so much to offer, especially when it comes to music. Iconic musicians like Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi were born, raised, and impacted the culture here. Even “newer” musicians like Brian Fallon from The Gaslight Anthem were born here and started their music careers at the shore. Spending most of my summers at the shore throughout my life, I’ve learned a thing or two about music and learned to enjoy it more and more as I get older. 


Asbury Park is pretty much where it all started for these Jersey born rockers. On May 22 and 29, two screenings of Asbury Park: Riot, Redemption, Rock ‘n Roll were shown at movie theaters around New Jersey. The documentary tells a story about the city, which is divided by train tracks into the West and the East side. The documentary talks about how Bruce Springsteen, Steve Van Zandt and Southside Johnny Lyon got their starts together at the popular Upstage on the famous Cookman Avenue in Asbury Park. 


Upon arriving to the theater, I was expecting there to be a huge crowd, but there were about 20 people in the audience. In the 2:10 of the documentary, I never lost interest in it once. I was so intrigued to learn more about one of my favorite cities down the shore created the “Jersey Shore sound.” 


Just to think that I walked the same paths as these legendary musicians blows my mind. Seeing the casino, Convention Hall, The Stone Pony, and the Paramount Theatre, which are all the places I’ve been in, on the big screen, gave me chills and made me so much prouder to be from New Jersey. Seeing the old videos and pictures of Springsteen, Steve Van Zandt and Southside Johnny performing at the Upstage, owned by Tom and Margaret Potter, when they were undiscovered and then them becoming famous is absolutely incredible. I would have loved to be born at that time and been one of the people that would go to the Upstage and been able to see the young artists before they became famous. The Upstage was an after-hours club, mainly for teens because there was no bar, that stayed open until 5 a.m. and teens who were interested in music would perform and express themselves through their music. 


Once the racial riots occurred on Independence Day in 1970, everything changed and the city never went back to the way it was before. People only went to Asbury Park for the music that it had to offer. Seeing everyone slowly come back together really shows how strong people are from here. The city  flipped upside down over racial inequality and the music brought them back together. Today, the city has transformed itself into a popular destination with restaurants, beaches, festivals and music.


Asbury Park is now a place for everyone to go and express themselves and be who they want to be. It is a very artistic city with all types of people. A majority of the people who live in Asbury Park are apart of the LGBTQ+ community. In the documentary, one woman did an interview on the community in Asbury and how much it has changed. 


Being a music enthusiast like myself, I really do enjoy going to concerts. Since I could remember, I would always, and still do, go to concerts pretty often. Learning about music, especially music coming from my own state, is important to me and gives me a sense of pride when I listen to these certain artists. 


People around school talk about how they went to a rap concert and call it “life-changing,” but I strongly disagree. Seeing someone jump around a stage and do tricks with their music playing on a speaker so they don’t have to actually perform it, even though you paid money to see that person perform it is absolutely absurd and not a real concert. That’s a circus, in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to a Travis Scott concert, but that is nowhere near as amazing as a rock concert. There is such a different vibe given off and it isn’t the same whatsoever.