Tony Amato and JPat

Tony Amato and JPat Discuss The Music Industry in Asbury Park

Has the local scene in Asbury Park been affected by the twists and turns of the music industry over they years? You're damn right it has.

The current state of Asbury now may reshape and it's a wonder if any new bands may surface out of the area.

The company now calling itself Oceanfront Asbury has purchased space on the boardwalk. Oceanfront Asbury, according to its press release, expects to do $1.25 billion in total economic redevelopment. It looks to restore life to the city, which has seen much decay after riots over 30 years ago.

Musicians that used to play Asbury during its heyday still play there to this day. Bruce Springsteen and Southside Johnny have carved successful careers for themselves after beginning their careers off the city's boardwalks; singing and dancing in its clubs.

Musicians from that era, like Tony Amato with his band Boccigalupe and the Bad Boys, have found ways to adapt to the industry. The current state of the music industry, with its boy band and American Idol phenomenon, has created a challenge for veterans like Amato, as well as incoming like-minded newcomers.

Amato and his band mates, including John Luraschi, who also began his career in Asbury years ago, have found ways to adapt to the industry and even the lack of stability now existing in Asbury. Both musicians grew up sharing the stage with Springsteen and still do when the Boss is in town.

Bocciagalupe and the Bad Boys have been more successful building a following by getting out of Asbury. They have maintained a fan base by putting themselves on tours, travelling to places like New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

"We do really, really good out of state," Amato said. "We do good out of the Asbury area. We go, like, south Jersey, north Jersey, New York. Any other place but our own home, we do great, we can sell a house out."

The artist nowadays must be independent, Amato said. Getting signed to a major label is too tough to think otherwise, he said.

"The record industry has this theory that rock n' roll is dead," he said. "That's their theory."

Amato spends much of his time communicating with his band's manager and agent and working on marketing and booking.

"My time is spent from ten in the morning to eight at night [on the band]," he said. "I'm on the phone or computer doing business."

"That's what you gotta do, you gotta push," he said. "If you don't push, don't even do it. Because, the business is the way it is now, you have push hard."

Of course, all that side work can get in the way of the task at hand: making music, he said.

"If I could only play music that would be a dream come true," he said. "But, life isn't like that."

His band, with its knock-you-down-'til-you-can't-get-up rhythm-and-blues sound, has had time to write about two albums worth of material and may put out a live CD created from east coast clubs' sound boards in the future.

Back in Asbury, Oceanfront Asbury plans on building 2,500 new housing units and to rehabilitate or replace 500 additional ones. An entertainment district, beach club and 450,000 square feet of retail operations are also expected to be included, according to the developer's press release.

The company in July purchased the Stone Pony and opened a new club, called the Cadillac Ranch Saloon, as well as the Surf City Oceanfront Bar & Grill on the southern balcony of Convention Hall. All of these promise live entertainment, possibly leading to more opportunities for local bands. Other clubs like the Saint and Harry's Roadhouse continue to house original acts in Asbury.

This still doesn't compare to 30 years ago, when Asbury was filled with clubs and people walking the boardwalk to promote music to. The area, since then, has been a ghost town that shore bands still try to use as a musical starting point.

"I think it's become quite diverse as far as styles of bands and such," said jpat (a/k/a James Dalton), who sits in with whatever band he can to get his music out there, and plays out solo and with local acts like Secret Sound and Josh Zandman. "I think, even five years ago, some of the sounds I hear today would have been just novelties. People are open to support the music that they like and are less into supporting just genres; like nowadays, the different scenes are cross-pollinating and it all seems new and very fresh."

Jpat's vocal and instrumental rawness may bring him into the mainstream, if the industry once again recognizes the product of raw talent blended with musical knowledge. If focus remains in the area, something good may come about, jpat said.

"I'd say since there has been so much focus on this area for the last couple years, where old bands are coming back and new bands are getting noticed," he said. "We'll have a good strong national level peak that hopefully we can hold onto for a while and with that, a lot of great things could really happen and some pretty cool careers could get started."

Years ago, the boardwalk and its clubs offered a big party. If people put egos aside and allow better times to prevail, a taste of the past may be enjoyed.

"What works is plain old quality good times," jpat said. "We don't need egos or rock stars. Clubs just need to find the bands that people enjoy seeing and then get behind them, because that's what the Jersey Shore scene is and has always been about: Havin' a good time."

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.