HomeInterviewsWorking on a Dream: Danny Clinch on the Creation of Sea.Hear.Now

Working on a Dream: Danny Clinch on the Creation of Sea.Hear.Now

Photo Credit: Keeyahtay Lewis/Deadbolt Photos/Pop Break

Who hasn’t sat around with a friend, or a group of friends, and started dreaming out loud?

You gaze up at the stars, or out into the distance and allow yourself to imagine grand designs for your future. Traveling the world, opening a bar, starting a band, writing movieĀ  — we’ve all had those moments with our friends, and they wonderful, unforgettable life moments.

And that’s how this weekend’s Sea. Hear. Now Festival was created.

Renowned rock photographer, and his creative partner Tim Donnelly, dreamt up the idea for Sea. Hear. Now when they were presenting music, surf and art shows on the Asbury Park Boardwalk in 2011, and 2012.

The concept was simple, yet staggering — a big music festival right on the beach in Asbury Park, a city beloved by both men. The two knew the idea was exceedingly cool, but a musical festival isn’t something you plan overnight. So the idea remained a dream the two would kick around for a few years.

Oddly enough, it was until after Hurricane Sandy hit the Jersey Shore that Clinch and Donnelly knew their dream could become more than just a flight of fancy between two friends.

“After Hurricane Sandy, we organized a benefit show at The Paramount Theater to help get money to the right people in need,” said Clinch.

The duo went to their friends and organized a star-studded sell-out benefit featuring My Morning Jacket, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Steve Earle, and a slew of local acts including Clinch’s own Tangiers Blues Band.

“The response was incredible. There was just so much love generated from that show,” Clinch fondly recalled. The success of this show inspired the duo to shop the festival idea out, but unfortunately the right partner wasn’t there yet.

“Then Gentlemen of the Road happened in Seaside Heights,” said Clinch.

Gentlemen of the Road, a traveling festival produced (and headlined by) Mumford and Sons, took over Seaside Heights, New Jersey for a weekend in 2015.

“That happened in my backyard [Clinch grew up in the neighboring town of Toms River], and we saw that not only was it a manageable festival, but it went over really well.”

It was after GOTR that Clinch and Donnelly ramped up their efforts, and that’s when they met Tim Sweetwood of C3 Presents. C3 is the concert promotion behind a couple of small, boutique franchises you might’ve heard of before — Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, and Shaky Knees.

According to Clinch, Sweetwood was the first person to come out to Asbury Park to meet with Clinch and Donnelly. Flying in on his own dime, Sweetwood stood on the boardwalk, and told them that the vibe for the festival was right there on the beach. C3 wouldn’t haven’t to manufacture a vibe or atmosphere like they do with a festival-in-the-field like Shaky Knees. With the festival-producing juggernaut on board, Sea. Hear. Now officially went from a dream between two friends, to the festival coming to Asbury Park this weekend.

“The timing was absolutely right,” said Clinch in reference to not only Sweetwood’s visit, but the timing of the first ever Sea. Hear. Now Festival itself.

“[Recently] I was shooting Shovels & Rope at The Asbury Lanes, and I was blown away at the diversity of the humanity both at the show, and in Asbury in general,” said Clinch. “The change [in Asbury] really has happened, and now all the travel publications, and [pop culture magazines] are calling Asbury Park ‘the spot.'”

Clinch continued, “I feel like there’s been a whole cultural shift, not just in Asbury Park, but the whole Jersey Shore. Tanning salons have been replace by yoga studios, and nail salons are becoming juice bars. It’s more about wellness now, and we’re all noticing this great shift.”

The excitement in Danny Clinch’s voice when talking about every aspect of Sea. Hear. Now is absolutely infectious.

“It’s really exciting, I’ve never done this before,” said Clinch, a photographer and filmmaker whose shot literally every major artists of the last 30 years. “It was like going back to school — I learned everything from PR to port-o-johns.”

Clinch and his partners knew that this couldn’t be “just” another music festival, it had to be a reflection of the culture of not just Asbury Park, but the entire Jersey Shore. The team represented the shore in everything from the music to including surfing, to their choice in food vendors (a blend of vegan delights, and boardwalk classics).

When it came to curating the music, Clinch admitted it was both fun, and frustrating. “It was the first year, and we felt fortunate to get really good people,” said Clinch. He stated it helped knowing artists like Jack Johnson, and Ben Harper, and getting them on board early was essential in making the festival happen.

Clinch performing with The Tangiers Blues Band. Photo Credit: Keeyahtay Lewis/Deadbolt Photos/Pop Break

The renowned rock photographer was excited for audiences to catch bands he digs, (but might not be household names like Incubus or Blondie) like Icelandic blue rockers Kaleo, Grammy winner Brandi Carlile, bluesy revivalist Langhorne Slim, and local songstress Nicole Atkins.

Of course Clinch will be performing as a part of The Tangiers Blues Band. “It’s the coolest thing ever,” Clinch proclaimed. “Performing, my family will be there…it’s definitely making for a full experience.”

Besides promoting, performing, curating art at his gallery, and shooting — will Danny Clinch be surfing at Sea. Hear. Now?

“If the waves are right…I’m more of a boogie boarder at hear,” chuckled Clinch. “Maybe you’ll see Jack Johnson out there.” While he jokes about his own surfing skills, it was vital for surfing to be a major part of the festival. The “expression sessions” features an army of local surfers who will take to the breaks and compete for cash prizes. All eyes, will undoubtedly be on Shore legend Sam Hammer.

When we interviewed Clinch a few weeks back, he admitted his stomach was filled with excitement, and butterflies (we can only imagine with the show being days away how that’s intensified.). However, it’s more excitement than anything. Clinch told us that because of his partners, Donnelly, HM Wollman, Tim Sweetwood, and C3 Presents, that this festival has truly come together, and why some many people are hyped for it.

“I shot Pearl Jam in Seattle, and Chicago this summer. I had people coming up to me telling them they were coming to Sea. Hear. Now. They were high-fiving me, and hugging me,” said Clinch. “I’ve had the biggest smile on my face ever since.”

While Clinch is excited for this weekend’s show, he gave us even more reason to be excited.

When asked if Sea. Hear. Now will be an annual event, he gave us a resounding yes. This festival is designed to be a yearly event.

Who would’ve thought that all those years ago on the Asbury Park Boardwalk, two guys dreaming about ‘what could be’ has become something music fans for years to come will enjoy, and maybe have their own dreams at.

Catch Danny Clinch all over Sea. Hear. Now this weekend. Click here for tickets.

Bill Bodkin
Bill Bodkinhttps://thepopbreak.com
Bill Bodkin is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break, and most importantly a husband, and father. Ol' Graybeard writes way too much about wrestling, jam bands, Asbury Park music, HBO shows, and can often be seen under his season DJ alias, DJ Father Christmas. He is the co-host of the Socially Distanced Podcast (w/Al Mannarino) which drops weekly on Apple, Google, Anchor & Spotify. He is the co-host of the monthly podcasts -- Anchored in Asbury, TV Break and Bill vs. The MCU.
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