Asbury Music Awards

Cryptkeeper Five and Downstage Discuss Their Nominations

The Asbury Music Awards not only recognizes some of the best and brightest bands on the local scene, it also provides a great chance to see some of them perform live.

This year's recently-announced nominations include several acts who have recently signed to major labels, including Dragpipe (Interscope), Highway 9 (Epic) and Borialis (Capitol).

Brown, who won for Top Funk 'n' Groove Band, Local Release and the Listener's Choice at last year's awards, returns this year with nods in those categories, as well as Top Male Vocalist, Top Bassist, Top Drummer and Top Live Performance.

Cryptkeeper Five earned three nominations, for Top Punk and Ska Band, Top Avant Garde Act and Top Live Performance. "It feels good to be noticed in general, but getting nominated for the Asbury Music Awards feels great," Johnny, the band's lead singer, said. "We've made big changes in the past year, with a new line up and an addition of saxophone and piano, and we weren't exactly sure if people were gonna dig it. So getting nominated was a pleasant surprise, and for three categories was totally unexpected. I was dumbfounded."

This has been a busy year for the band, Johnny said. "We started recording our newest album, "Trenton Makes the Cryptkeeper Five," in September and just got it last week," he said. "While recording the album, we were training the newest band members, Nick on keys and Blue on sax, all while trying to play out at least once a week. All around, it was a good year."

Downstage topped off their big year with a nomination for Top Hard Act. "If you think about all of the hard rock bands in the state, it's an honor, it makes you feel like you're doing something right," said guitarist/second vocalist James Regan.

Many local bands will play live at the event, including Sprout, Last Perfect Thing, Madjul and eight others.

"I love Madjul," said Regan, who's band shares the Top Hard Act nomination with them, as well as Dragpipe, Mudbox, Black August and seven other groups. "I'm their biggest fan. They're an awesome band. Both [of] us have a mutual respect. We're always getting [to] each other shows and supporting each other."

Several bands have opened their arms and supported Downstage, Regan continued. "[We] kind of owe who we are to Madjul, Slowdrown, High Speed Chase and Slushpuppy."

Madjul and Downstage have bailed each other out when in need of speaker cabinets, Regan said. "By far, Madjul is my favorite band. They are really good guys."

Downstage has kept themselves occupied by playing over fifty shows since January. "It's been a great year," Regan said. "It's been an awesome year for us."

The band also released an EP, "Flirting with Disaster".

"We recorded our album with Chris Gibson [of High Speed Chase]," Regan explained. "He did [albums by] Rival Schools and Quicksand. They've been pumping us on the RAT [WRAT 95.9 radio station in Pt. Pleasant]. They actually took us out of the local rotation and put us in the regular mix. We're in the process of just busting our asses now to get a deal and tour."

Downstage is currently managed by Primed Entertainment and signed to an independent label, Angry Man Records.

"Even though it's an independent label, it's somebody who sees what we can do and how to get us to the next level," Regan said. "I think a lot of it [signing with a major label] has to do with being at the right place at the right time and having a team of good people on your side that are going to push your music."

Downstage doesn't expect to slow down in the future. "We'll definitely be showcasing," Regan said. "We'll be expanding our fan base. Try to branch it out as much as possible throughout the whole tri-state area." They made it to the semi-finals of's Battle of the Bands, held this year at the Saint, losing to Cinema Star by one quarter of a point. "It's gotten pretty intense," Regan continued. "Every show has gotten better and better. Now we're aggressive on stage. It's been a very triumphant year."

For many bands, the nominations represent the accomplishments they've worked hard for. "This is the cherry on our single scoop sundae," said Cryptkeeper Five's Johnny.

According to Johnny, it also shows that people still support the scene. "I think it shows there are people out there who are supporting the bands and musicians in the scene, which is good. Asbury Park is the Jersey Shore's Seattle or Liverpool. There have been a lot of big changes in Asbury Park in the past year and the stronger Asbury gets, the stronger the scene will get. I am hopeful."

The 10th Annual Asbury Music Awards were originally scheduled for Sunday, August 4, 2002 at the Berkeley Carteret Hotel in Asbury Park. This date has been changed, and the ceremony will now be held at the Tradewinds in Sea Bright on Sunday, August 28.

Awards which will be presented this year are:

  • Top Male Vocalist
  • Top Female Vocalist
  • Top Female Solo Performer
  • Top Male Solo or Duo
  • Top Rock Band
  • Top Roots Band
  • Top Jam Band
  • Top Punk and Ska Band
  • Top Pop Band
  • Top Funk 'n' Groove Band
  • Top Hard Act
  • Top Young Band (Under 21)
  • Top Blues Band
  • Top Avant Garde Act
  • Top Indie Band
  • Top Local Release
  • Top Keyboard Player
  • Top Bassist
  • Top Drummer
  • Top Guitarist
  • Top Live Performance
  • Top Radio Station
  • Top Promotional Flyer
  • Song of the Year
  • Top Journalist in Support of Live Music
  • Top News Publication in Support of Live Music
  • The Saint Listeners' Choice Award
  • Best Thing to Happen in 2000/2001

More information, including a history of the awards, and a list of nominees can be found at the Saint's website,

Josh Davidson

Josh Davidson has written music feature articles for Jersey Style and served as the Jersey Shore rock columnist for Steppin' Out Magazine. Other music writing credits include Aquarian Weekly, Jersey Beat, Backstreets and He has written free-lance for the Asbury Park Press' Community Sports section and has written featured articles for its news section, as well as covering campus news and sports weekly for the Signal, the College of New Jersey's (formerly Trenton State College) student newspaper. He has worked as a staff writer for The Independent, and his work for Greater Media Newspapers has also been published in the News Transcript. He is a former beat reporter for the Ocean County Observer who presently is a news writer for Symbolic Systems Inc. supporting the US Army's Knowledge Center. His music writing covers a vast range of topics, from the current cover band craze, highs and lows of the original scene, to the early days of the Jersey Shore rock scene in Asbury Park. He is also a musician, having written hundreds of songs as a singer/songwriter, and playing them out as a solo/acoustic artist. He has also played with cover bands, including It Doesn't Matter, and several original bands, including as the guitarist for the solo project of singer/songwriter Dave Eric. He continues to work on solo material and is presently the guitar player for Jersey Breeze.