Months ago, when the bands were announced for the second year lineup for Sea.Hear.Now in Asbury Park, there were a number of familiar artists listed. Touring favorites that continue to draw large crowds were named. Many of the acts like Dave Matthews Band and the Dropkick Murphys are bands I have seen numerous times and was sure would offer up great sets. Also included were bands like the B-52’s and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts celebrating milestone years in the music business. Other familiar bands were The Lumineers, Bad Religion, Dispatch, Blind Melon, Steel Pulse and Donavon Frankenreiter. As I planned to experience the majority of these bands, tough timing decisions had to be made. With thirty bands to enjoy, there were not enough hours in the two days (Sept. 21st & 22nd) of music to see every band.

The set up for the festival, similar to last year’s event, offered two beachfront facing stages along with a third Park Stage. Based on the near doubling of attendance over last year the distance between the Surf Stage and the Sand Stage needed to be increased.

The inaugural festival drew somewhere between 20,000 to 25,000 attendees last year. Based on the buzz and the announced band lineup, that number grew to an estimated 35,000 people per day attending in 2019. The need to provide space to all attendees needed to take precedence over the convenience of being able to be set up at one stage yet still hear and enjoy the band from the opposite stage. The music festival silver lining is that I had an awesome step count walking between both stages and occasionally heading over to the Park Stage.

Back to the music: The offerings of familiar artists crossing multiple music genres were complemented by a list of lesser-known-to-me bands who further added to the diversity of the musical offering of Sea.Hear.Now over the weekend. The festival kicked off at 12:45 p.m. Saturday with a crowd-pleasing set by the Black Pumas. The band hails from Austin, Texas, and set a perfect musical tone for what was to come. The band has been described as where “Wu-Tang Clan meets James Brown” by Los Angeles radio station KCRW and is now in heavy rotation on my streaming and playlists. The Black Pumas are with ATO Records (According To Our Records), a record label co-founded in 2000 by Dave Matthews. Listen Up! to the Black Pumas.

Another band I was looking forward to seeing live was St. Paul & the Broken Bones. Conveniently, the band played the Sand Stage just prior to Dropkick Murphys, making it not only convenient to see both bands amongst the growing numbers of attendees gearing up for Dave Matthews, who was headlining Sunday night.

Readers along with people who know me will understand my interest in St. Paul, an eight-piece soul band based in Birmingham, Alabama. Eight-piece is a trigger word for me, indicating a horn section is part of the band. For St. Paul the trumpet, sax and trombone are keys to a solid and robust live offering. The band brought energy and enthusiasm to their Sea.Hear.Now set. Listen Up! to St. Paul & the Broken Bones.

Another total “discovery” was the Marcus King Band. Not on my original “must see and hear” radar for the festival, it ended up in my top Listen Up! suggested bands after catching its full set. Upon a deeper dive, I learned the band formed in 2013 and released its debut album in 2015 on Warren Haynes' Evil Teen Records. I should have known Haynes (a longtime Allman Brothers Band guitarist and member of Gov’t Mule) was part of the Marcus King Band influences after hearing the set. Considering also its three blues charted albums, the most recent produced by Dave Cobb, Listen Up! to The Marcus King Band.

Based on a number of conversations and talk throughout the festival, additional bands you may want to check out include Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Jade Bird and Fantastic Negrito.

For the second year in a row Absury Park was ignited with live music as summer officially turned to fall. Other shoreline cities should take inspiration from what Asbury Park and specifically the concert promoters have created for all to enjoy. Like any growing event, there will be suggestions and logistics that need to be looked at and adjusted, just as the Sea.Hear.Now principles did between the first and second year of the festival.

There is no doubt in my mind I will be there in the sand for next year’s Sea.Hear.Now and continue to Listen Up! to a growing number of diverse high quality bands and artists the festival helped me to discover.

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