Asbury Park, according to Concerts East’s Tony Pallagrosi, is much more than rock n’ roll, but there’s no getting around the fact that rock is the center of the city’s tradition. For that reason, Pallagrosi
has put together the Asbury Music Festival to raise awareness of Asbury’s past, present and future. Billed as "A Celebration of Music, Art and the Rebirth of Asbury Park", the event will take place at the
Convention Hall Entertainment Complex in Asbury Park on May 25th.
According to Pallagrosi, this is the first of what is intended to be an annual event. This year’s bill features many young and elder rock acts, including headliners Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes
and Pete Yorn, as well as Dan Bern, Dave Edmunds, Martin Sexton, Graham Parker, Marah, Sloan and Antigone Rising. The rock-focused lineup was necessitated by deadlines in putting the festival together.
However, Pallagrosi intends to add other musical genres as the event progresses in future years. “My intention is to build this festival as a reflection of all the music that has coursed the veins of the
city,” he said.
Bands will perform both at Convention Hall and the adjacently-lined Paramount Theatre. Convention Hall has been a tremendous provider of big band, rock, doo-wop and gospel acts since the 1930s. The Who
and the Warped Tour have made their ways through the venue, giving it a special significance. “Rock has gotten old gracefully,” said Pallagrosi. “Rock of the past still exists and that’s a good thing.”
This idea is exemplified in the age range of the bands currently coming in and out of the city’s clubs. “Now (rock’s) sharing room on the shelf with the bands that played the Warped Tour.”
As fans walk between the two venues, they can catch a glimpse of Asbury’s heritage. There will be vendors selling memorabilia. Films and videos of Asbury’s past and present will be presented in the former
Asbury movie house, the Paramount Theatre. Pallagrosi said Asbury’s present state is just as important to represent as its past, and that there is more to Asbury’s revitalization than what’s currently represented
in newspapers. He added that during the last five years people have been buying and rebuilding and businesses have successfully made a beginning for themselves. “I think it’s heading into a pretty good
place,” he said. “I think redevelopment is well on the way to happening.”
If investment and interest in the city prove worthwhile, it's important to remember what put the city on the map in the first place. “Part of the reason I am doing the Asbury Music Festival is because
the musical history of Asbury Park on all levels has been neglected,” said Pallagrosi, himself a former member of the Asbury Jukes. Asbury was not only a place for musicians to play, but also their home
and hang-out. “It was kind of a fun, freewheeling place to be,” he said.
For many years, Asbury Park was a thriving resort community, filled with businesses and sources of entertainment for locals and vacationers to enjoy. This festival hopes to bring back that spirit, at
least for a day, and offer a reminder of the past and future potential of the area.