HomeMusicWhy Sea.Hear.Now 2018 Was The Best New Music Festival of the Year

Why Sea.Hear.Now 2018 Was The Best New Music Festival of the Year

Pop Break Live: Sea.Hear.Now 2018 featuring Jack Johnson, Incubus, Social Distortion, Bruce Springsteen, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, Blondie, The Menzingers, Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls, G. Love & Special Sauce, Brandi Carlile, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Milky Chance, Nicole Atkins, SOJA, The Parlor Mob, The Battery Electric, The Wailers, The English Beat, Lettuce, Kaleo, Jesse Malin & More.

Words by Al Mannarino | Photos by Matt Heasley

What does it take to make a successful music festival? Does it all depend on the lineup or the weather or does it take much more to ensure an unforgettable weekend for attendees?

With most of this summer’s music festivals feeling like a repurposed version of every other one, it felt like the entire reason for their existence was in question. If you aren’t providing a unique experience then why should someone attend your music festival over any other?

That’s where Sea.Hear.Now comes in. The inaugural festival held in Asbury Park, NJ provided the perfect end of summer, and something completely unexpected, the best new music festival of 2018.

The Perfect Location

Asbury Park, NJ is not new location in regards to music festivals. Over the years, there had shows like Bamboozle and Skate & Surf that would draw big crowds, but neither of these would be able to encapsulate what truly makes the area such an amazing destination.

Under the guidance of photographer Danny Clinch, the organizers were able to make the city a part of the festival by taking over the beach, boardwalk, and Convention Hall, while having after party events at historic Asbury locations like Twin Peaks at Wonder Bar and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band at The Stone Pony.

Other Options Outside The Pit

Trekking from stage to stage at a music festival can be exhausting, that’s why it’s important for festivals to provide plenty of options for attendees who are looking to take a break from the music.

Before each day began, pass holders and passers-by were welcome to join in on free beach yoga sessions curtsey of Wanderlust.

Once attendees made their way into the festival they could earn a free t-shirt by helping fill bags of recyclables and returning them as part of their Rock & Recycle Program.

Between sets, you could visit Danny Clinch’s Transparent Art Gallery to view art from Clinch and some of the performers of the festival and some one-of-kind jam sessions that even had Jack Johnson stop by for an unforgettable performance.

Another aspect that truly made this festival unlike any other was the chance to see pro surfers during their daily expression sessions. There’s nothing better than watching someone catch a perfect wave and immediately turn around and catch a set from Blondie.


It seems like every festival this year had the same four headliners. Now I know this gives people the chance to see the top acts near them, but for someone who attends multiple music festivals a year, there’s no incentive to go to more than one if they all feel the same.

Fortunately, the lineup at Sea.Hear.Now offered the complete opposite of it’s competitors while still fitting in with the aesthetic of the festival. Night one was a diverse day filled with legendary artists and up-in-coming local acts across three stages, Park, Sand, and Surf. Highlights of the day included the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Blondie, Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls, Carl Broemel, Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals, Brandi Carlie, and Highly Suspect.

The first night of the festival ended with 20k+ attendees gathering at the Surf Stage for an incredible set by Incubus.


Sea.Hear.Now was also the destination for some unexpected surprises. Like the aforementioned Jack Johnson set at Clinch’s Transparent Art Gallery, there were many times throughout the weekend that the fest went above an beyond to give attendees the best experience possible.

During the Tangiers Blues Band’s set on Saturday, Danny brought members of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band up to jam on a few songs and artists like Jack Johnson and G.Love caught a few waves on the first day of the fest. Jack would later show up during Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s after party at The Stone Pony.

Day two was already shaping up to be a jam-packed day of music with sets from The Original Wailers, Deal Casino, Nicole Atkins, The Front Bottoms, Lettuce, Kaleo, G. Love & Special Sauce, Twin Peaks, and Milky Chance, but it was the final two headlining slots that would provide attendees with memories that would last a lifetime.

The first of which came during Social Distortion’s set on the Sand. Towards the end of their set, Mike Ness spoke to the crowd and told them a story about earlier in the day when he saw a friend on the boardwalk and invited him to come on stage. That friend was none other than The Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen. He joined them for renditions of “Bad Luck”, “Misery Loves Company”, and “Ring of Fire” to help close out their set and help cement Sea.Hear.Now as a new cultural landmark for the city.

The final surprises of the night happened during Jack Johnson’s headlining Sunday night slot. He played a career-spanning set filled with hits and deep cuts from his studio albums ranging from Brushfire Fairytales all the way to his latest album, All The Light Above It Too. He brought Milky Chance out for a cover of “Taylor”, did a cover of “Ball and Chain” by Social Distortion on ukulele, brought G. Love our to do a reworked version of Rodeo Clowns and a cover of “Good People”, and closed out the show with “Mudfootball” and “Better Together” with help from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

Check out photos of the rest of the bands from Sea.Hear.Now 2018…

Bands Performing on Saturday September 29, 2018

Bands Performing on Sunday September 30, 2018

Pop-Break Staff
Pop-Break Staffhttps://thepopbreak.com
Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.

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