Updated: Sep 12
September 5, 2023
EDITOR'S NOTE: Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band weren't the only New Jersey musical legends rocking the Garden State over Labor Day Weekend 2023. Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes headlined a Saturday-night summer blowout that took place both inside and outside Asbury Park's legendary live-music venue, The Stone Pony. Letters To You contributor Mark Krajnak, the JerseyStyle photographer himself, was there to witness it all. Here's Mark's report, accompanied by some of his great photographs, of course. (And remember to click on any of the photos to see them all in full-screen gallery mode.)
Has there ever been a bigger weekend in New Jersey, featuring "The Holy Trinity" of Asbury Park music? Maybe there has, but it certainly hasn’t been in quite a while.
This Labor Day Weekend extravaganza kicked off last Wednesday, for most, when Bruce Springsteen, Little Steven and rest of the E Street Band kicked off a three-night set at Giants Stadium (Sorry…MetLife Stadium. Old habits die hard.)
The Jersey Sound continued up there on Friday with Night 2, but really started to sizzle in Asbury Park on Saturday when Southside Johnny – the third prong of the AP musical triumvirate – and the Asbury Jukes took the stage at the legendary Stone Pony to help roll up the boardwalk for Summer 2023.
Before a packed Stone Pony Summer Stage audience, with ocean tradewinds softly blowing and tousling Johnny's hair - but not blowing hard enough to knock the stiff-brimmed white hat off seersucker-clad bandleader Jeff Kazee’s head – Southside and the Asbury Jukes helped ease us all into these final, waning days of summer. Because we all know summer unofficially ends on Labor Day, no matter what the calendar says, right?
So, it was up to the Jukes to put this summer to bed, and that they did. They came out jamming, as they always do, with "This Time It’s For Real," "Passion Street," and "This Time Baby’s Gone For Good."
Johnny was decked out in his colorful Caribbean-style shirt, which, he said he was wearing to honor Jimmy Buffett, who had just passed way. While reflecting on Jimmy’s musical history, and especially for all of the Parrotheads in the audience, the Jukes delivered a suitably Calypso version of "Margaritaville," but one where Jeff Jersey-fied the lyrics just a little, singing, "…all these Jersey tourists and locals…covered in oil" in the opening verse.
As the night wore on, and the breeze picked up, a definite chill was in the air, a harbinger of the coming autumn months. Johnny looked up at one point and noted the hazy moon overhead, prompting a sweet rendition of "Blue Moon." (The true Blue Moon – the second full moon of August – occurred a couple of nights earlier, but close enough!)
As is often the case, the band closed out their encore with a rousing version of Sam Cooke’s, "Havin’ A Party," which everyone in the band seemed to take part in. In the end, while no one really wanted to go home, they had to. Many were probably headed up the NJ Turnpike the next night to see those other local guys (and gals) finish up the job they started on Wednesday.
While Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes capped a long late-afternoon and evening at The Stone Pony, the music started much earlier in the day. Promised Land Band, featuring high-octane lead singer Kenny Munson, kicked things off inside the Pony with their songs, as well as covers of Springsteen, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Little Steven, U2 and others. They were then followed, also inside, by the duet of Billy Walton and Destinee Monroe, who did their set acoustically.
Before the blazing sun went down, the sounds shifted outside when Illinois native Matthew Curry took the stage with his rock and blues-tinged songs, plus some covers as well. Curry has two local Jersey Shore guys as part of his band, Mark Masefield on keys, and Francis Valentino on drums. At various points, Billy Walton and Destinee Monroe jumped onstage to help out, and Jeff Kazee sidled up to the extra piano at one point, a soft-billed blue fedora on his head.
And as if all of this wasn’t enough, the night closed out, late night, with Jarod Clemons and the Late Nights inside the Pony. Jarod is still nursing his broken leg but even sitting down throughout his set, he was able the deliver the funky blues he’s becoming known for.
An epic Labor Day Weekend of New Jersey music for sure!