Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

The Touring Musician's Guide to Asbury Park

For immediate release:
November 3rd, 2010
Press Contact: Nina Chiminec
nina [at] bandsonabudget.com
732-701-9045

The Touring Musician's Guide to Asbury Park

This past weekend, I met a band from England that was coming through Asbury Park to start their US tour. After helping them find everything from free food to entertainment, vintage records to guitar gear, it was more evident than ever how much of a hub Asbury is not only for local musicians, but for those passing through as well. We realize that getting a feel for this diverse city can be tricky to new-comers, so we've created a Guide to Asbury Park, for the touring musician.

Places to play.

Your band may be just passing through here to visit some of our historic music landmarks, but you don't have to be Bruce to play here. We have tons of places to play, ranging from 50 capacity rooms to 3,000+. Most local businesses are so musician-friendly, that if a band can physically fit in their space, they'll probably have someone playing in it. Because each venue is so unique, here is a guide to which places would suit your band the best.

Asbury Lanes. This is a favorite spot amongst touring bands. The vintage bowling alley has a stage right in the middle of the lanes. With a capacity of around 300, this is a great stop for a bigger tour package or for jumping on a gig with some locals. The Asbury Lanes has a ton of character, so even if you're not playing here, it's worth stopping in to bowl a few rounds, eat tater tots, and even catch a Burlesque show.

The Saint. There are some people in the world that would look down their noses at a place like this. Dark and small with stickers and posters adorning 98% of the walls; this place is a gem in the world of touring. The layout of the room is great because it doesn't take many people to feel like you're playing to a crowd. The intimate vibe, amazing sound system and touring-friendly owners make this a prime destination for bands who wish they could have played at CBGBs. The Saint is open about 6 days a week, so for touring bands needing a gig on a random weeknight, this is a good bet.

The Wonder Bar. Tuesday nights at the Wonder Bar have put a spotlight on some of the most amazing up-and-coming bands from all over the world. Internet radio station Shore Alternative created these nights to showcase some of the bands that they've stumbled upon and want to introduce to the steady crowd of patrons that know exactly what to expect from this night. With a mere $2 entry fee and equally as cheap beers, this isn't just a great place to play, but it's a prime spot to meet people while you're in town.

Bands on a Budget/Cowerks. Though Bands on a Budget/Cowerks operates a business in this space by day, the office has the capability to transform into a music venue by night. With desks that fold into the walls, this has become a great spot, specifically for acoustic artists, to perform. In addition to being in an ideal downtown location, there is also a rotating art gallery hung in the space to attract additional audience members. Most convenient of all is that touring bands can order merchandise for their tour in advance and pick it up right in the location that they're playing their gig!

Joe Harvard's Long Weekend at Synaxis. If you're looking for gig that's a little unconventional, Monday nights at Synaxis might be right up your alley. Joe Harvard's Long Weekend is a variety show where musicians are both the audience and performers. A stage of equipment is set up and patrons are welcome to pick up any instrument they feel like playing, at any time. This open forum doesn't have sign ups or time restraints like an open mic night; if you feel like playing, just hop on up. Simple as that. Secretly into poetry? Come out to your band at the “poetry corner” segment, which opens the floor to those with talents aside from music. Have another talent? The organizers of this event are so open to their performers that they've welcomed an array of talents from magicians, comedians, and even a ventriloquist! Drink specials, no cover, contests and trivia; you can't really go wrong here.

Places to stay.

Ideally when you're on tour you'll have met someone who opens their floor to you. However, if you have a few bucks in your pocket and want a comfortable place to crash, here are some different options, depending on what you're looking for.

Empress Hotel. I love suggesting this hotel to anyone looking to stay in the area, but there's always a warning that comes with it. This is the place to stay if you're looking to have a fun night, as the hotel is above the area's most lively gay club. With a pool, two dance clubs and several bars, this is the place to be if you want to experience one of the subcultures in Asbury Park that makes it so popular. Aside from the lively atmosphere, it's also in the most ideal location; right at the point where the boardwalk/Ocean Ave and the popular downtown street Cookman Ave meet up. If you're looking to have a good time or just get some sleep after your show, staying at the Empress will be an experience to remember.

Berkeley Carteret. The Berkeley is a stunning, luxurious hotel located right on the north end of the Asbury Park boardwalk. The location is especially ideal for bands, as it's right next to the Convention Hall, a block from the Wonder Bar, and only a few minutes walk from the Asbury Lanes. Though luxurious, the hotel has reasonable prices, and it's always worth it to ask if you can get a discount for being a touring band.

Oceanic Inn. If you're not concerned with much more than sleeping and showering, this two star motel is certainly a budget option for touring bands. While it's not rumored to be the most luxorious of accommodations, the price is as great as the location. Located only a block off of the popular Ocean Ave and boardwalk, it's convenient to most places where you'd be playing in town.

Places to dine.

We know that the most efficient way to eat on the road is by stocking up at grocery stores or hoping you get a pizza at your show, but we have some great tips for getting fed in Asbury Park, on the cheap.

Restaurant.com. Many local Asbury Park restaurants participate in Restaurant.com coupons, where you can get 80% off of a gift certificate (for example, you can pay $3 to get a $25 gift certificate) to eat a hearty meal at a place downtown, such as Brickwall Tavern, or Trinity and the Pope. This is a great way to fill up on delicious food and drinks without spending all of your hard earned gas money!

Johnny Macs. This new bar is a gem for starving artists. Not only is this an awesome place to drink at, but the best kept secret is that they have... free pizza! Between 2-7pm every day, you get an entire delicious pie for free with each beer. What can be better than that? I'll tell you. They also have skee ball and an endless supply of candy. Jackpot!

Bond Street Bar. This dive bar is a local favorite, and it'll be yours too. Aside from the cool vibe and generally fun crowd, this is another hidden gem for touring bands on a food and drink budget. The food here is actually really good and priced to please their patrons. Like grilled cheese? They have a ton of variations of this classic, and they start at only $3. Looking for a cheap liquid lunch? You can get a bucket of nips for $8 (or 2 for $3).

Places to be entertained.

While most of your time off from driving is probably spent catching up on sleep, Asbury Park has a lot to do to stay entertained. Aside from the numerous fun bars , the boardwalk, beach, and bustling downtown, there are some cool storefronts that we think you'd enjoy. Also, don't forget to look into the APBoardwalk.com site; from movies on the beach to fireworks and bonfires, this city puts a lot of work into keeping us entertained.

SilverBall Museum Arcade. This is a form of heaven to many people. Picture an entire room, right on the boardwalk, filled with 200 vintage pinball machines. You pay a flat rate and get to play any machine, as much as you want, with no coins required.

Paranormal Books & Curiosities. If you're into something a little darker, head over to Cookman Ave for a unique boutique, equipped with ghost hunting equipment, zombie survival guides, paranormal books, art, and more. Maybe you'll be lucky and catch up with one of their ghost hunting classes or paranormal investigations. Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

ReVision Theater. Asbury Park isn't just home to music, but there's a spotlight on theater here as well. The ReVision Theater has begun doing seasonal productions in the boardwalk's Casino (the building with the round roof across from the Empress). The selection of plays incorporate the city's love for music, such as The Who's Tommy, The Bikinis, and Rocky Horror Picture Show. With tickets as low as $15, catch a matinee or use an off-night on tour to do something a little different.

Places to visit.

Asbury Park is a city with a ton of history; specifically the kind that bands would be interested in. Having gone through several drastic transformations over the years, you can see a mix of old and new buildings and businesses scattered throughout the boardwalk and downtown area. Here are a few places that we recommend swinging by before you head out to your next destination.

The Stone Pony. While we'd all love to play on the stage where Bruce Springsteen started out, this historic venue is mostly home to national touring bands, with little opportunities for smaller out of town bands. However, if you aren't able to land a gig here, this historic venue is definitely worth checking out. Catch one of the great shows or swing by off-hours to view the gallery of musicians who have played there over the years.

The Boardwalk/Ocean. As a city, Asbury Park has a lot to offer: creative businesses, great restaurants, a strong art and music community, and lots of fun places to play and hang out. On top of all of that, it's at the beach! Known as the “City by the Sea”, Asbury has a beautiful beach and lively boardwalk to accompany this diverse city. Stroll the boardwalk to check out some great shops, enjoy a cocktail, or just watch all of the interesting walks of life pass you by. Passing through Asbury Park in the summer? Spend the afternoon before your show, or an off day, relaxing on the beach. With the cheapest beach around, $5 will get you daily access, or wait until after 4pm to lounge for free.

Convention Hall. This beautiful and historic hall is home to multiple music venues, the most popular being a 3,000+ capacity room that welcomes some of the world's largest acts and events. If you're not in town during an event, we suggest visiting the restaurants and shops inside the corridor; or grabbing a drink on the serene outside balcony Beach Bar.

Yoga Basin. Being stuck in a van, rocking out on a daily basis, and all of the various other forms of abuse you put your body through on tour can take a toll on you. Wouldn't it be nice to have a thorough stretch or even a bit of, dare I say... exercise? Before getting back on the road, swing by Yoga Basin for a complementary yoga class. That's right, if you're playing in Asbury Park, you get to join a yoga class at no charge. Isn't that sweet? You can also indulge in some juice, smoothies and healthy grub while you're there.

Places to shop.

We get it, you're not looking to buy clothes and home décor while you're pinching pennies to get gas to the next show. Therefore, we promise to keep this category very relevant to you. But remember- if you ever come back here with your girlfriend on another trip- there is great clothing and home décor shopping to be done.

Bands on a Budget. Shopping that'll MAKE you money? You know what we're talking about: band merchandise. Perfect for a band on the road with limited finances, Bands on a Budget specializes in low cost products such as t-shirts, posters, stickers, custom guitar picks, digital download cards, and more, that you can sell at a greater price to make some money on the road. If you're going to be passing through Asbury Park, feel free to call in your order in advance and pick it up as you swing through the city. Located right in the downtown, it doesn't get much more convenient than that!

Hold Fast. Enjoy looking through rare records and vintage clothes? This record store is one after every musician's heart. Not only do they have great music, clothes, and accessories to browse through, but they host some of the most exclusive in-store performances in town, including appearances by the Bouncing Souls, Glenn Tilbrook, Kevin Seconds, and more.

Russos Music. Before last summer, you'd have to drive at least 20 minutes to even get a pack of guitar strings. But don't worry bands, when it comes to you, Asbury now has it all. A full-fledged music store, Russos Music can provide with with any gear you need, without having to leave the block. Don't get discouraged if you can't find it at first- it's located in the basement of Hold Fast, with access from Cookman and Mattison Avenue.

Written by Nina Chiminec, director of sales and marketing at bandsonabudget.com. Prior to this position, she worked at SPV Records as project manager for Motorhead, amongst many others.  She also toured and played in a band for 8 years. Nina can be contacted at nina [at] bandsonabudget.com