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A tip of the hat from (and to) Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes

Updated: Feb 22

February 20, 2024



Over this past weekend, to help celebrate The Stone Pony’s 50th Anniversary, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes played two sold-out "Requests From The Hat" shows at the Pony on Friday, February 16 and Saturday, February 17. Here's photographer-writer Mark Krajnak's full report on both performances:

 

The actual hat stayed on Southside’s head for about a minute. Walking on stage at about 8:15 p.m. on Friday night in his Ray Ban sunglasses, custom Converse All Stars, faded blue jeans, an open button-down shirt and a top hat, Southside Johnny cut quite a figure. A cross between Abe Lincoln – hey, it was Presidents' Day Weekend – and a rock ‘n roll magician, perhaps. One ready to emancipate you from the workweek while bringing on the Jersey Sound for which Johnny, the Asbury Jukes, and The Stone Pony are known.



The sold-out weekend - billed as Requests From The Hat (that top hat that John was wearing, apparently) - was even more than that for Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes on Friday night. It was Night One of two shows at The Stone Pony to help the legendary little seaside bar celebrate its 50th Anniversary, a celebration that started in the previous week with proclamations and panels.


But Friday night was also about the music - a rollicking, frolicking, fun night of Jukes jams for the standing-room only crowd, one that extended way into the Pony’s back bar. The band kicked the weekend off with a Tom Waits cover, "Hang Down Your Head," and then immediately worked into "I Played The Fool." For the next two hours, what was old was new again and the Asbury Jukes owned the joint once more.











“I’ve been up here sweating for fifty years,” Southside Johnny said at one point, while up there sweating once again. Later, before launching into "Talk To Me" and "Havin’ A Party," "Uncle South" said, “When we first started playing here, it was just another bar, it was so small.” Gripping the microphone as he’s done thousands of times, he continued, “I want to thank the Stone Pony and Butch (Pielka, original co-owner of The Stone Pony who passed away in 2018), Jack (Roig, Butch’s partner, who was in attendance on Friday) and Caroline (O'Toole, current General Manager), and all the people who kept it going because it's a pretty good goddamned place to play! So thank you, Stone Pony, for being here fifty years!” No one in attendance – including local musicians Brian Kirk, Bobby Mahoney, Billy Walton, and Destinee Monroe - would disagree with that statement.



By Saturday morning, a quick-moving winter storm had dumped a few inches of the white stuff across Central New Jersey. But by Saturday night, down the shore, everything was all right again. There was no significant snow on the roads or sidewalks to impede anyone getting to The Stone Pony for Night 2, though there was a stiff and cold winter wind whippin' down the boardwalk through Little Eden.



When the doors opened to The Stone Pony, the line stretched down the block, under the slideshow that was playing out on the side of the Pony. People were anxious to get inside, not only in anticipation of the night of music to come…but to get out of the cold!


And get in they did. The Pony was packed, it seemed, even more so than the previous night. Southside and the boys took the stage at about the same time as the night before, 8:15, and immediately launched into "All I Want Is Everything," parlaying that into "Angel Eyes" and "Forever."




The music sounded great, as usual, but there did seem to be some technical difficulties. At one point, South tried his harmonicas, but something wasn’t working – the amp, perhaps, - and he put them down. He continued without them.



A bit later is when things got pretty scary. Johnny again tried his harmonicas, which still didn’t work. Seemingly annoyed, he flipped them to the floor and walked offstage and out the side door, leaving the rest of the band to continue on for about four and half minutes. Returning to the stage, Johnny gave it another go. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Shortly after returning, he stumbled a bit, knocking down his mic stand over and putting a hand on his chest, turning to the side stage. It was then that the Jukes' security man, Peter Fox, jumped onstage to help John. They went out offstage and out the side door of the Pony into the chilly night. That was the last the packed house would see of Southside for the evening. (Fortunately, we eventually learned that Johnny just got hit with a sneak attack of dehydration. By Sunday afternoon, band spokesman James Sliman was quoted in The Asbury Park Press, stating that Southside was “now resting at home, but is fine.”)



During this time, Bobby Bandiera, booked to be a special guest on this night anyway, got called into action earlier than expected. While Jeff Kazee held the fort down himself for a song or two, Bobby, his dark jeans and bomber jacket, grabbed his guitar and soon got in the mix.





Sans Johnny, the Jukes still did a great job finishing out the night, the true professionals that they are, with Jeff and Bobby trading vocals on different songs. Mark "Love Man" Pender did a sultry version of "Let’s Get It On," and Richie “LaBamba” Rosenberg kicked it up with "When You Dance." A couple of times during the evening, Fox whispered in Kazee’s ear with updates about Johnny. At one point, Jeff let everyone know that Johnny was doing okay.








The show went on. When the Jukes took their final bow, they sent the gathered faithful back out into the winter night smiling and happy…but also sending good thoughts to Southside Johnny, and no doubt dreaming about those warm summer nights when they’ll celebrate once again with the band.




Setlist for Night One (2/16/2024) - "Hang Down Your Head," "I Played the Fool," "Coming Back," "Got To Get You Off My Mind," "Tell Me (That Our Love's Still Strong)," "Lost," "Little Girl So Fine," "I Can't Dance," "Without Love," "You Mean So Much To Me," "Just A Gigolo," "Walk Away, Renee," "Love On The Wrong Side Of Town," "You Can't Always Get What You Want"/"Loving Cup," "When Rita Leaves," "My Funny Valentine," "I'm Not That Lonely," "Say Goodbye To Hollywood," "Better Days," "The Fever," "She's Still In Love," "Trapped Again," "I Don't Want To Go Home" - Encores: "Talk To Me," "Havin' A Party"

 

Setlist for Night Two (2/17/2024) - "All I Want Is Everything," "Angel Eyes," "Forever," "Next To You," "Passion Street," "Still In Love," "Everyday Will Be Like A Holiday," "Love On The Wrong Side Of Town," "Broke Down Piece Of Man," "When You Dance," "Say Goodbye To Hollywood," "Further On Up The Road," "Hoochie Coochie Man," "I'm A Man," "Let's Get It On," "C'mon Caroline," "Great Balls Of Fire," "Hold On I'm Comin'," "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," "I Don't Want To Go Home" - Encores: "Talk To Me," "Havin' A Party"


Southside Johnny - vocals, harmonica; Jeff Kazee - keyboards, vocals; Glenn Alexander - guitar; Chris Anderson - trumpet; John Conte - bass; Doug DeHays - sax; John Isley - sax; Neal Pawley - trombone; Tom Seguso - drums; with special guests Bobby Bandiera - guitar, vocals (Night Two only;) Mark "Love Man" Pender - trumpet, vocals; Richie "LaBamba" Rosenberg - trombone, vocals


All photos are by Mark Krajnak, JerseyStyle Photography and used with permission.

Want to see more of Mark's photos from these two Asbury Jukes performances at the legendary Stone Pony? Click here to view his full slideshow of photos.

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