Sea. Hear. Now-Asbury Park, NJ
by Michele Amabile Angermiller
Midway through Weezer’s set at the Fifth Annual Sea. Hear. Now Festival on the beach in Asbury Park, New Jersey, leader Rivers Cuomo marveled at the day’s lineup featuring Foo Fighters and The Beach Boys.
“Dream come true,” he said. “’90s me is freaking out right now.”
Cuomo in 2023 is 53 years-old-now, just one year younger than Foo Fighters leader Dave Grohl, who repeatedly made references to the audience being in their fifties. Weezer’s set- packed with hits and a promise to “Weezer” the festival. Beverly Hills,” “All My Favorite Songs,” “Hash Pipe” and “Buddy Holly”- took the audience on a road trip with the band and now married father of two, who took a picture of the audience with an instamatic camera, referring to himself as the Dad that takes family photos on vacations.
While the band played enthusiastically, online posts from festival/ goers complained they couldn’t hear the music. Sea. Hear. Now producers indicated wind off the ocean from Hurricane Lee- while providing a gift of surfable waves for the professional surfers exhibiting moves in the North Shore competition- affected the sounds from the speakers, making it hard to hear at mid-beach. Grohl tried to help out with the “Sea” part of the festival, chastising fans holding up signs like they were on the “Price is Right” to put them down so other fans could “see the show.”
“Bob Barker isn’t here,” he said.
The “hear” part of the festival did have issues. One Facebook user complained that all he heard of Foo Fighters was Josh Freese’s drums. That was too bad, because Grohl was a man on a mission to reintroduce Foo Fighters to fans that seeing the band for the first time since drummer Taylor Hawkins passed away and make new fans that had never seen them perform in its 28 years of existence.
“Give it up for Taylor so he can (blanking) hear you,” said Grohl before performing “Aurora,” Hawkins favorite Foo Fighters song.. “This is definitely Taylor’s vibe by the way.”
The set treated fans to full throttle rockers “All My Life,” ” Break Out,” “Monkey Wrench,” “Everlong,” and “Times Like These” with a beautiful surprise performance of “The Teacher,” which the band hardly ever performs but did special for the occasion. Oddly enough, Grohl –who threw in licks of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” Van Halen’s “‘Aint Talking ‘Bout Love” and Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” and attempted to do the Beastie Boys “Sabotage” with bassist Pat Smear–may have had a senior moment on stage saying the band performed many times in the area but not “on this beach.” Foo Fighters had performed in Asbury Park on the beach 11 years before at the Bamboozle Festival, famously taking a helicopter that night for a performance on “Saturday Night Live.”
When fan’s corrected him, he backtracked saying, “Don’t tell me like I don’t know.”
The Beach Boys -with leader Mike Love nearly 30 years older at 82- fully embraced the ocean vibe and had the crowd feeling “Good Vibrations” with honorary Beach Boy and “Full House” star John Stamos on guitar, drums, bongos and percussion. Stamos was all over the stage, even taking a moment to celebrate “America’s Band” with jokes and a speech plugging his new book. Love wasted no time making jokes at Stamos’ expense, even referring to his role as Blackie Parrish on “General Hospital.”
Love and Bruce Johnston had the crowd singing al through the set with classics “Help Me Rhonda.” “Barbara Ann,” amd “Kokomo.” The beach vibes extended from the West Coast with “California Girls” to the East Coast as Love announced a trip to “Rockaway Beach” by covering The Ramones.
“This next song is in the ‘Barbie’ movie so that makes us up to date as to what is happening,” Love said before closing with “Fun, Fun, Fun.”
Sunflower Bean kicked off Sunday on the Surf Stage with overtures of concern for the crowd, with Julia Cummings saying “I hope you all wore sunscreen.” Guitarist Nick Kivlen pointed out that the Brooklyn indie group was “the youngest band on the festival “besides Greta Van Fleet. Over on the Sand Stage, Waiting on Mongo entertained with a horn section and Average White Band vibes, while Alexander Simone & Who Dat? commanded a funky party with lots of audience on the Park Stage.
Daniel Donato’s Cosmic Country offered an eclectic extended jamming experience mixed with bluegrass as the winds blew off the beach. The band threw in a few gems, including the nugget “Ghost Riders in the Sky” by The Outlaws accompanied by a stand up bass.
The Breeders appropriately closed out the festival’s Sand Stage on the South side of the boardwalk with selections celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the release “Last Splash.”
On the Park Stage located on the grass, 20-year-old pop star Stephen Sanchez showed another side of his personality outside of his ’50s inspired hit “Until I Found You” energetically freewheeling around the stage with an acoustic guitar. Scheduled performers Tegan and Sara canceled their appearance due to illness.
The festival kicked off Saturday (Sept. 16) with performances by The Killers, Sheryl Crow, Greta Van Fleet, Nataniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats and more.
“We have been coming here since 2005 and a lot has changed,” Killers front man Brandon Flowers told the crowd. What hadn’t changed, he said, was the town’s desire for music. “One thing that hasn’t changed, if you came here looking for rock and roll, you came to the right place,” he said.
The Vegas band delivered plenty of that, exciting the crowd early on with “Mr. Brightside” and hits “Somebody Told Me,” “Human” and “A Dustland Fairytale,” a song recorded with Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen did not join the band as he is still recovering from peptic ulcer disease, but his presence was felt when Flowers led the band in an acoustic version of “I’m on Fire.
“We had to,” he said.
Another rock and roll highlight came from the audience as a fan named Zack held up a sign requesting to join the band on stage as a drummer on the song, “For Reasons Unknown.” The second the drummer played his first fill, the audience went wild with applause, and a festival star was born.
Greta Van Fleet embraced the spirit of the beach festival with a question.
“How many of you are actually wearing shoes?” he asked. “It’s a rock and roll show. Clothing is optional!”
Greta Van Fleet- brothers Jake, Josh and Sam Kiszka and drummer Danny Wagner – drew a young audience of festival fans, many dressed for the occasion with fabrics found on Etsy. One fan held a sign that said, “Jake, I wrote a poem for you.” Their seven song set was rock ecstasy, with fire, pyrotechnics and a beach screaming along to “Safari Song” and “Highway Tune.” Jake shredded with an elongated guitar solo during “The Archer” that enraptured the crowd, while Josh howled with the sea winds. Sam – barefoot for the set- gave an aura of mystery behind the piano.
Sheryl Crow had some fun soaking up the late afternoon sun with a career spanning set illustrating exactly why she is about to go into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Surveying the crowd of 40,000 on the beach, Crow reminisced about how she had last performed in Asbury Park 25 years ago, and liked the “changes” she saw in the town. She then ripped through a set that included “All I Wanna Do,” “My Favorite Mistake,” an acoustic “Strong Enough” and a sample of The Rolling Stones “Doo Doo Heartbreaker”- segued into “There Goes the Neighborhood.”
Crow poured her soul into a red guitar on stage, which she signed and donated to the Transparent Clinch Gallery pop up tent.
“Where is the after party?” She asked. “At Danny Clinch’s house!”
Other highlights included Living Color honoring 50 Years of Hip Hop covering “White Lines (Don’t Do It), Apache, and The Message,” and honoring Sinead O’ Conner with “Nothing Compares to You,” Royal Blood rocking the Sand Stage despite a miscue and song change to “Shiner in the Dark” (“This song’s better,” quipped singer MIke Kerr) due to equipment issues and Brandon Flowers joining Jake Clemons and Danny Clinch for a cover of Springsteen’s “The Promised Land” at The Stone Pony. Clemons also joined the Ocean Avenue Stompers parade on the boardwalk through the festival grounds.