bill bodkin interviews Asbury’s beloved son as he gets ready to perform at Pop-Break.com’s Shipwrecked At The Shore Showcase at The Wonder Bar in Asbury Park, N.J., on Thursday, Feb. 16 …
Bruce Springsteen is synonymous with Asbury Park, N.J. Past, present and future, the city by the sea will always be associated with The Boss. He’s the man who put Asbury on the map — who championed it during its darkest days, the guy who still walks the boardwalk as the girls in their summer clothes pass him by and the dude who stills jumps on stage for impromptu jam sessions at local clubs with local musicians.
Yet while Bruce may be the eternal face of Asbury, there’s another face that I put with today’s revitalization of Asbury Park culture. Someone who I associate with the young, vibrant, artistic and musical community that is surging back to its glory days. And that person is Chris Brown.
And while you might think this is a bunch of hyperbole and this writer is just being very generous to someone performing on our showcase, I say to you, hear me out.
Chris Brown represents the spirit of today’s Asbury Park much like The Boss represented his era of Asbury Park. Back then, Bruce was the face of the amazing music scene that was just churning out great musician after great musician. Chris Brown, on the other hand, represents the current generation of artists who are “all in” on Asbury Park — who want their community, both the artistic one and the one they actually live in, to survive and to thrive. And they do this through their art and they do this through the faith they have and support they give to their fellow musicians.
Chris Brown is this to a T — he’s everywhere within the Asbury scene. He’s the guy behind the bar at Bond Street serving up drinks (including his famous maple-bacon martini), he’s the guy out at Asbury Lanes supporting local music, he’s the guy skateboarding around town in the middle of winter helping you promote your local show. He’s all Asbury, all the time.
And yet, while we in the Asbury scene all know Chris Brown, the guy with that eternal smile on his face, do we all know just how talented this guy is?
Upload his album Sing Yourself To Sleep onto your computer, iPod or mobile device and you’ll be amazed at how wonderfully crafted the lyrics of Chris’ work is. He’s a storyteller singing to us about life, love and drinking. And if you look at his musical inspirations — Jeff Buckley, Damien Rice, Elliot Smith, Frank Turner — it’s to no surprise that words have a lot of meaning to Chris Brown’s music.
And as a musician and singer, the man can more than hold his own. Having performed for more than a decade, including a run hosting open mics and showcases with indie darling Kevin Devine during their time at Fordham University, Brown is a seasoned musician who has this wonderfully honest voice. It really draws you in, makes you feel his lyrics. He’s a soul singer, minus the James Brown dance moves.
And the soul oozes off Sing Yourself To Sleep because it was a true labor of love. It was recorded over a multi-year span in Brooklyn with longtime friend Peter Boiko (who also played drums, keyboards and bass on the record). You can really feel that love, time and energy was poured into this five-song EP. And that just bolsters the feeling of honesty you get from Brown’s vocals.
On Thursday, Feb. 16, Chris Brown will be taking the stage at The Wonder Bar with a full band that he’s dubbed Last Night’s Disasters. The band consists of a collection of Asbury regulars — former Dibs drummer and manager of Only Living Boy Joe Chyb on drums and guitarist Howie Cohen and bassist Jimmy Boyce from The Athletics. And while the name of his band is a loving nod to wild nights of drinking, you’ve got to recognize that Brown is bringing a trio of extremely talented musicians together. According to Chris, despite their relative short time they’ve been together, this band is tight and they bring to life the music on Brown’s album — an album none of them performed on.
So Pop-Break is proud to present a performance of a man who we believe embodies the spirit of modern-day Asbury Park perform. And on this night, we get to hear him tell us tales of love and Sailor Jerry rum. And it’s something we can’t help but get excited about. It’ll be a magical night for sure. It’s the type of performance you can wax romantic about … kinda like people our age did back when another face of Asbury used to play the clubs of the beachfront city.